Digital maps will make business travel easier

For business travelers, 2019 is looking more and more like a high point.

We may all be looking forward to coming face to face with the era of vaccinations, as the number of COVID-19 cases is well below peaks. Businesses want to keep relationships with suppliers intact and expand into new markets. It’s fair to say that we all suffer from Zoom fatigue, and nothing sounds better than a face-to-face, business-to-business meeting, even if masks are part of the deal.

But getting there, well, that’s another story.

Airlines and hotels no longer have the staff they once had (labour shortages hit everyone). Demand is exploding and so are prices. COVID-19 flare-ups are still looming, employees are getting sick, and travel plans need to be, above all, flexible.

Rebooking and rebooking is the norm.

Gonca Latif-Schmitt, head of TTS business cards at Citi, told Karen Webster that we’re a long way from 2019 and a lot has changed, irrevocably, in business travel, while a lot of change is in the works. Classes. Especially when paying for all that.

In the great re-engagement, for business travel, commercial cards, digital and flexible, will be a key element in the management of expenses.

“Everyone’s routines are broken,” she said. But budgets are growing and employees are increasingly willing to hit the road. Re-engagement can be made a little easier by better and more transparent issuance and use of corporate cards.

“The payment experience is very closely tied to the travel experience,” she observed.

The conversation took place against a backdrop where, before the pandemic, data predicted global business travel costs to reach $1.7 trillion by 2022.

“These observers weren’t pandemic experts, of course,” Latif-Schmitt said, “but they understood that it would take time for travelers to rebuild trust.”

Fast forward to today, and it looks like 2022 will show a marked rebound – and we’ll get to $1.5 trillion by 2025, not all that a far cry from pre-pandemic predictions.

We lost a few years, in other words. But as we strive to reach that (possible) 2025 spending tally, business travel itself will be different.

And just as the trips will be different, so will the expenses – paying for it all. Before the pandemic, businesses used online apps or portals after travel. When employees returned home, that’s when they logged in to submit expense reports and upload documents.

What will change

Latif-Schmitt said that instead of individual trips undertaken by employees going to the field to meet clients face-to-face, there will be more conferences, panels and showcases.

“We will see less travel activity but at higher prices,” which will help reach that $1.5 trillion over the next few years.

We are facing a shift away from the days when employees were given a company card because they were just frequent travelers. Amid the great digital shift, however, the ability to take advantage of truly global mobile capabilities can be a game-changer. Using apps can facilitate requests for single-use virtual cards that can then be used for travel.

“You are prompted to log into an app and retrieve a virtual card to be provisioned in a mobile wallet, and use the corporate card, rather than recording expenses on a personal card, then request (and ‘hope) for a refund.”

Today, with all the fluidity required as travel suddenly changes and prices suddenly change, more and more travelers want to have everything at their fingertips, digitally, at their fingertips (and via mobile devices) . It’s critical that travel cards and travel card programs are easy to navigate, Latif-Schmitt noted, because for many of these employees, this may be the first time they’ve traveled on behalf of a company. a specific organization.

There are pain points that can be resolved with virtual business cards, she said — and she pointed out that in recent years Citi has increased its spending on digital capabilities. Easier-to-use digital cards make remembering and accessing PINs more intuitive to ensure transactions run smoothly. It is also possible to set transaction limits.

Plus, technology-enabled travel cards make it easy to report lost or stolen cards and reissue new cards. Citi, she said, has a single app that can be used across all of its 66 local money markets, providing a foundation for additional layers of functionality. The redesign was informed by conversations with the bank’s consumer arm and with a wide range of UX designers. It’s an anomaly, she says, that a commercial issuer relies so much on UX experience for B2B initiatives.

“With this new architecture, when you’re looking up your PIN, checking your statement, paying for things…the experience is the same no matter where you are in the world, and it’s a consumer-like experience.”

The emergence and adoption of digitally issued travel cards will help increase commercial bookings.

“The ability to open your app, find your PIN and be able to transact at that time just helps to reduce the stress when you re-engage in business travel,” she said. declared.

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Michael J. Chiaramonte