As we start the new year, we have been thinking about what trends will turn out to be the next big things. Normality slowly crept back in many ways throughout 2022, with travel demand booming in many areas, and with industry events making a comeback – more than 1,200 people traveled to Arizona for the annual Phocuswright Conference, for example. The travel trade press are full of stories about booking volumes increasing, with many industry experts predicting that 2023 will be the year travel fully returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Travel is back. But it’s different. Businesses and travelers are hit with tighter budgets, and are looking for ways to make their travel more sustainable. As a result, domestic travel is also booming – possibly because companies are choosing to host events and meetings in places with shorter, cheaper journeys, and with less of a carbon footprint. Ground travel is likely to benefit from this trend, meaning that the sector could be in for an exciting 2023.
Here we look at some of the big trends that could impact ground travel in 2023, and how businesses should react.
1. Greater expectations
The pandemic highlighted just how inflexible many elements of travel were. Travelers became increasingly frustrated with airlines and their often lengthy, rigid and complex cancelation policies. This has led to travelers demanding greater flexibility and transparency over their travel. Ground transportation is not exempt from this growing expectation; regardless of how they choose to travel, consumers want their experience to be simple and hassle-free, and expect the same level of service whether they are traveling for business or leisure.
Unbundling of fares is already a common concept in the airline world – and is increasingly popular as the desire for transparency and choice grows. This type of expectation – to pay only for the elements of service that matter to them – is likely to trickle into other forms of transport. Businesses in the travel industry might therefore be thinking about how they can offer their customers tailored experiences and increased control over what they buy. In ground transport, this could mean greater choice over the vehicles offered, reduced fares for off-peak travel or non-refundable but cheaper fares.
2. A shift in value
Price has always been a driving factor in travel – for both businesses and travelers. However, the past few years have caused shifts in behavior and thinking, relating to life, work and travel. Value is still important, but it is likely to now mean different things than it did pre-pandemic – and this doesn’t necessarily center around cost.
While ground travelers are likely to remain cost-conscious in 2023, they will be looking for good value in other ways too. They are placing more value on experiences – and some people may be prepared to spend more on their travel to ensure a more special experience. Recent Skyscanner data showed that travelers have become increasingly willing to pay to upgrade – equaling a 250% growth in seat selection (2022 vs 2019). This is likely to be a recurring theme throughout 2023 that the ground travel industry can capitalize on by thinking about how they can enhance the experience for their travelers, for example by offering extras, promoting luxury vehicles, or even experiences like a door-to-door airport service or personal chauffeurs.
Travelers are also valuing anything that can save them time on chores, admin and commuting. Travel companies can use technology to take away time drains like expense claiming, and they can turn to automation to make booking travel quick and easy, for example by remembering popular journeys, frequently visited places and vehicle types.
3. An increase in sustainable travel demand
Another prominent trend is the growing demand for sustainable travel options. A recent survey by Booking.com found that 78 percent of travelers intended to book sustainable accommodation at least once in the following 12 months.
In 2023, travel demand may be on its way back to 2019 levels, but consumers are more eco-conscious. As many people now look to switch flying to a more sustainable option, there is vast opportunity for the ground travel sector. Ground travel has made a significant amount of progress with offering greener options in recent years, with electric vehicles increasingly growing in popularity. Ground travel companies that can make a head start with this in 2023 are likely to enjoy long-term success.
Those are some of our top trends for the year ahead. No doubt we’ll be hearing more about these in the coming months – stay tuned for further updates here.