Hear what travel industry expert Marco Aguilar has to say about the current state and future of business travel.
As technology continues to progress, so does the expansion of domestic and global business travel. According to the Global Business Travel Association, U.S. spending on work-related travel is projected to reach an all time high in 2015, with an estimated $310.2 billion being spent by companies on business-affiliated trips. When it comes to predicting what the latest innovations and trends are for work-related treks, understanding the roles that everything from social media to smartphone apps play in regard to making business travel more efficient can provide multiple advantages to a company. No one knows this better than travel industry expert Marco Aguilar.
Aguilar has spent 25 years working within the travel industry, doing everything from being a tour guide and travel agent to his current title, owner of Travel Pie, a travel industry marketing and public relations agency. Aguilar sat down to chat with us on a wide range of business travel-related subjects, from where he sees the future of the industry going to knowing the secrets that can make your employees succeed while out on the road or flying through the air.
Airport Hotel Guide: Thanks for chatting with us Marco, let's get started by telling everyone a little about yourself.
Marco Aguilar: For the past 17 years, I've owned Travel Pie, a travel industry marketing and public relations agency. It's a role I was born to play, having grown up in Mexico City as a member of the third-generation of a leading family in the travel industry. I learned at an early age that travel could be much more than merely visiting a destination—it could bring fulfillment and richness to people's lives. I've kept that concept in mind during my 25 years in the industry.
The recent evolution of business travel
AHG: In your opinion, how have companies' approaches to business travel evolved in recent years?
MA: Since the 2008-09 economic crisis, companies are really careful about how they spend money when it comes to everything, but especially travel. And technology has also come to play a very important role, so the combination of these two things has enabled companies to keep a tight control of their costs, and to know exactly when and where they are spending their money.
"There is nothing more important than being face-to-face."
The economic hardships of past years have also caused companies to cut down tremendously on travel, and now they resort to more videoconferencing, which in the past was very expensive because of the equipment and the dedicated lines needed. But now you can use Skype or Google Hangouts and in many cases companies are choosing that. However, there is nothing more important than being face-to-face, shaking hands, or sharing a lunch or dinner to close a business deal.
Cutting down on costs
AHG: What are the best ways that businesses can cut down on travel costs if they decide to send their employees off-site?
MA: It really depends a lot on the size of the company. For large firms, my main suggestion would be to turn to a travel agency that specializes in corporate travel. They have operations in almost every country in the world, which has the additional advantage of providing assistance to travelers when they run into trouble – lose their passport or a credit card – or need to change their itinerary in a remote part of the world.
For smaller companies, I would suggest looking at the amount of money they are spending on tickets, rooms or car rentals, and use that in negotiations with airlines, hotels and car rental companies. Most offer some type of program for small businesses. It usually does not mean discounts right away, but rather additional miles or points from their frequent travel programs that companies can later redeem for free travel, hotel rooms, etc. A lot of people and companies do not take advantage of these programs, but hotels and car rental places offer perks like free Wi-Fi or upgrades if you are a member of their programs.
There are other tricks, too. For example, many people think that online portals like Expedia or Kayak offer the best rates or fares, but as a matter of fact, there are airlines and hotels that stay away from these sites because they have signed agreements with other online travel agencies that don't allow for Kayak or Expedia to show their content. So you really need to shop around and compare different airlines, hotels chains or car rental websites, and often the best prices will come directly from these suppliers because they don't have to pay a commission and there is no third party involved.
"Stick with the same airline, hotel or car rental company for all your business travels."
AHG: What are some of the most essential smartphone apps that every business traveler should be using?
MA: I would say apps from each of the airlines, depending on where you travel and live. A key point is that – and this also goes back to the mileage and point programs we discussed above – it is beneficial to stick with the same airline or hotel or car rental company for all your business travels, even if someone else's rate happens to be $50 lower on a given day. Otherwise, you will never get enough miles or points to redeem for free tickets or hotel stays. So, the apps I would suggest would be of those airlines, hotel chains and car rental companies you are using. And some of them are coming up with really cool stuff, for instance the Hilton hotels app lets you see the layout floor-by-floor and pick and choose from the rooms that are available.
The future of business travel
AHG: How do you feel the industry of business travel will change in the next decade?
MA: Technology is going to play a very important role, though it's hard to predict what else we will see in terms of websites and apps. But a lot is going to depend on the economy as well because one of the first industries that get effected by an economic crisis is business and leisure travel. Commercial flights are a very good indicator – during the recession of 2008-2010 flights were half empty, but since then they are packed even though airfares are through the roof. Overall, I think travel is going to grow and become more available to more people in the coming years.