by By Susan Steinbrink | October 01, 2009

Business travel is becoming more strategic to a company's bottom line. To be successful, suppliers, travel management companies and travel buyers have to think of travel spend and processes in terms of the total enterprise. Corporate travel is no longer just about managing the transaction (and related services) but also knowing the impact of travel on the company's bottom line, global initiatives, liquidity/cash flow and contribution to costs, as outlined in PhoCusWright's Corporate Travel Distribu­tion, Fourth Edition (2009).

This holistic approach is the underlying theme of the seven trends reshaping the corporate travel landscape, and is spurring the market to rebound. Understanding these trends can help travel buyers harness the future of business travel today.

1. Profit, People And Our Planet
Heightened concern for sustainable energy, "duty of care" obligations and the recession are forcing companies to redefine what drives the corporate balance sheet. This trend is about measuring the cause and effect of travel decisions and performance. As a result, conventional financial reporting practices are being replaced by triple bottom-line accounting that looks at the economic (profit),  social (people) and environmental (planet) impact on spend.

2. Focus On Expense Management
The integration of travel data has always been the focus of managed travel. But attention has shifted to the expense side of T&E, as companies embrace strategic-spend management practices. A managed program's performance needs to be measured not only on spend, but process efficiencies, cost containment and cash flow management.
3. Eye On The Supply Chain
The Internet has transformed the business travel supply chain to resemble a retail marketplace. Web-based automation has driven down costs and created a new level of transparency. Supply-chain members (TMCs, technology providers) must now work more closely together to improve efficiency, quality, speed to market and ROI.

4. Traveler Priority

Travel policy and preferred suppliers will always trump personal preferences. But, as witnessed by the rapid adoption of corporate booking tools, the traveler is a very important stakeholder to the success of every travel program. This means delivering the right content (preferred parking or directions) at the right time (pre/postbooking, day of departure or en route) through the right channel (agent, booking tool or mobile device) to the right traveler (frequent business) in the right context (at the airport) to increase satisfaction and preferred supplier usage.

5. Mobile Access
The next generation of mobile technology promises to simplify the business travel workflow with increased speed and relevance. We'll see timely alerts that abate traveler risk and rein in spend, fuel self-service, and allow for electronic payments and data capture for streamlined expense reimbursement.

6. Meeting Virtually
Videoconferencing, webcasting and telepresence technology aid collaboration among multiple locations, so "travel" might no longer require a trip. These alternatives, already in use, will be expanded to save costs and support green and ROI initiatives.

7. Small Is Big

Small business employers, as a group, wield huge buying power and a proclivity to using new technology. With many of the largest firms cutting back on travel, the business travel market's rebound is dependent on these small and midsize enterprises.