Cape Town - Visa improvements play an important role in growing business travel to a destination. This is highlighted in the latest report by Travelport and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
It shows that eight of the top 20 fastest-growing business travel destinations have introduced visa improvements which help sector growth and economic growth.
According to David Scowsill, president and CEO of the WTTC, travel and tourism generates $7.6trn in gross domestic product (GDP) and supports over 292 million jobs.
"Business travel is a vital part of the sector, and it is a key catalyst for global growth. It drives the relationships, investments, supply chains and logistics that support international trade flows,” he said.
According to the report, the global business travel sector is expected to grow by 3.7% per year over the next decade. The largest business travel markets are the USA, China, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.
Released at the WTTC Global Summit in Bangkok, the report shows that the fastest growth for the business travel sector is expected in emerging markets, with Asia-Pacific leading the way at a predicted rate of 6.2% each year to 2027.
Top of the list for business travel growth in Africa are Rwanda and Gabon (both 8.5%), followed by Tanzania at 7.9%. In Asia, China is expected to lead the way with 9.5% annual growth to 2027, followed by Myanmar (8.7%), Hong Kong (8%), Cambodia (7.4%) and India (7.2%).
Over the past five years business travel spending has advanced rapidly in many emerging markets with the Democratic Republic of Congo rising by 32% between 2011 and 2016, according to the report. Over the same period Qatar showed an increase of 25%, Azerbaijan 21% and Mozambique 19%.
Countries emerging from conflict such as Sudan, Sri Lanka, Angola and Rwanda also feature highly on this list, highlighting the link between peace and economic development.
Business travel has been found often to be the driving force in the overall growth in contribution of travel and tourism to national GDP as companies continue to find ways to develop new markets and maximise their revenues.
"As the nature of work changes with more contract or flexible labour, advances in automation and robotics moving people out of jobs, increases in geopolitical volatility and strengthening protectionist and localisation policies bring a slowdown to global trade, the future landscape for business travel while growing, is faced with flat-lining of its relative importance as leisure travel gains ground," according to the report.
"For companies, business travel yields benefits in terms of sales, customer retention, partnerships, innovation and human capital. But business travel doesn’t just happen by itself. Fostering growth and prosperity for companies and destinations needs to be encouraged and developed with benefits for all."
Both public and private travel and tourism investment is essential in supporting the ongoing growth and development of the sector.
Five ways to boost business travel
The research identified five ways in which companies that facilitate and provide services for business travel need to work together with destinations and governments and with their travelling customers to fully maximise the value and opportunity of the industry for wider economic and social development.
These are investing in technology; reducing visa burdens; investing in infrastructure; taking cyber security seriously; and meeting the needs of business travellers.
"Connecting experiences throughout an entire business trip, filtering choices based on personal preferences, facilitating quick and easy access to itineraries and other travel information, allowing the functionality to make changes where necessary, making suggestions based on itinerary and current location and contacting agents speedily, round-the-clock, within one single app is the 'experience-first' strategy that will be the future of travel management companies," states the report.
It also explored the increasing use of technology supporting travellers and travel companies. Travelport research highlights how business travellers want mobile phone alerts and information about disruptions, flight updates and upgrades.
It also draws attention to the need to serve digitally-connected millennials and for the industry to deploy data-driven insights to engage customers more effectively.
The report incorporates white paper proposals underlining the need for investment in technology and infrastructure, the removal of visa burdens, tackling cyber security and personalising services for travellers.
There are also some widespread concerns about data security issues. Both cyber criminals and workforce complacency need to be addressed to deal with complex data challenges, according to the report.
"Travel and tourism has been seen by some as dragging its feet on the issue of cyber security. With costs of cybercrime the global economy reaching half a trillion dollars in 2015, addressing cybercrime needs much stronger and focused attention on communication, co-ordination, and on planning and response," states the report.