The year business travel will never forget: a 2020 review

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Kate Fletcher

December 29 ∙ 10 minutes read

In a year that has flown by, yet dragged in equal measure, 2020 is a year for the history books. News has been dominated by the disruption caused by Covid-19, families have lost loved ones, businesses have suffered and those that have survived the tumult will surely be looking forward to 2021, hopeful for a more positive outlook. 

Business travel was severely impacted. By March, business flights came to a complete standstill. There were occasional glimpses that things might be returning to normal, but they proved short-lived. 

You might not think it’s worth looking back on 2020 but we’ve decided to do it anyway. So as we fast approach Christmas and the New Year, here’s our top 12 blog insights from the year. 

1. Predicting the unpredictable: the business travel trends set to define 2020

We started out 2020 with a look at what the year might bring across the industry. Covering all angles, our whitepaper explored the technological, political and people aspects of business travel. 

We also looked at how global economic uncertainty and mounting civil unrest would force companies to carefully consider whether travel is actually necessary, especially in the context of employee safety. 

Travel bans anyone? Little did we know that 2020 would force possibly the biggest ever travel ban since 9/11, with massive changes to flight schedules and quarantines impacting travellers’ willingness or ability to travel. 

Read: The business travel trends set to define 2020

2. Expense management through economic uncertainty

At the end of January 2020, the UK left the EU as a result of Brexit. In November, we saw a US election like no other. 

When faced with such uncertainty, it’s common for companies to rein in spending especially when it comes to employee expenses. It may seem logical but is the very worst thing you could do as it ends up stifling your revenue-generating teams who, after all, are there to bring in and maintain business income.

Forecasting employee spend, preventing fraud and overspend, eliminating the admin time drain, and ensuring compliance are all benefits of using an advanced expense management system. 

Read: How expenses management can help your business thrive during economic uncertainty

3. How a paper-based expenses system could be costing you

Imagine the scenario. It’s March 2020. Your commercial and project teams have been out and about during January, February and most of March, meeting prospects, implementing customer projects, then your country locks down. As is typical of many employees, what if there are months of receipts gathered and needing to be claimed on expenses?

Now, imagine you’re using a paper-based expenses system. Receipts have to be stapled to a printed out expense claim form, passed to a manager to physically sign, and then passed on again to finance for reimbursement. But you’re in lockdown. 

Paper-based expense management systems are so cumbersome and, in this digital age, totally unnecessary. If you’re still paper-based and your employees need to claim for items they need to effectively work at home, what then? Without being able to work well remotely, businesses would suffer even worse effects than those caused by the pandemic alone. 

Read: How expenses management can help your business thrive during economic uncertainty

4. Less virtual meetings, more virtual trips, please

In April, we made a free trial of our expense management and travel booking system available. You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive so why should software be any different?

Accessed via our website or Salesforce’s AppExchange, it ended up as the perfect virtual escape whilst we were all grounded due to the pandemic. It allows you to go through the whole process of booking a flight and accommodation – sadly it’s not a real booking, but we can dream of things to come, can’t we? I think I went to Fiji, Hawaii and Japan on the same day. 

Best of all, you can get a real look at how SalesTrip aligns your expenses to other Salesforce objects. Book a flight against an opportunity, book a train against a customer account and more. Set budgets for expense spend against these business objects and look at how easy it is to see your spend against that budget.

Read: 4 ways to make the most of your SalesTrip free trial

5. Working in business travel – in the midst of a global travel ban

Also in the Spring, I shared my feelings about working in business travel in the midst of a global travel ban. Business leaders and their people poured their heart and souls into ensuring business continuity whilst there was a very real fear about what the future might hold. 

But, after the initial shock and anxiety, the team came together to make the best use of our time to better prepare for the future, to plan, to improve processes, and serve our customers even better. Eoin Landers, VP of Product at SalesTrip, similarly described what he was going to do whilst waiting for life to resume as normal in his blog, “The next four hours”, using the time to encourage innovation and brew new ideas.

Wes Nolte, another of SalesTrip’s business leaders, offered some tips from a lockdown CTO, including making sure your now remote team feels supported, communicating clearly and often and, perhaps most important given the environment we find ourselves in, taking care of our mental health.

6. Managing costs effectively using Salesforce

During 2020, we found increasing numbers of new customers were choosing to centralise all their apps on the world’s leading enterprise platform, Salesforce. 

Whether this is purely driven by cost-saving measures, or perhaps a drive to put everything in the cloud, finance, services, HR, expense management and more can all be run on the same platform. The benefits are endless. The more your business and expenses systems are connected, the easier it is to calculate and evaluate the value to your business.

So in May, we looked at the typical large expenses businesses would normally incur (salaries, premises, travel and so on) and how other application providers across the Salesforce ecosystem provide great ways of managing these. 

Read: 6 large business expenses and the Salesforce apps to manage them

7. The impact of Covid-19 on the future of travel

As the world of business travel unravelled around us, we wanted to offer support to our customers in helping them keep track of the constant changes. We looked at the overall business travel industry along with what the future of travel might hold in a post-Covid world. 

There were some common themes among industry experts about what was likely to happen when travel resumed:

  1. the one meeting trip will disappear: business travellers will need to demonstrate the value of taking a business trip
  2. when air travel does resume in greater demand, the likelihood is it will be for shorter journeys rather than long-haul 
  3. air travel will significantly change where we’ve already had the likes of Qantas predicting that vaccinations will be compulsory before being allowed on aircraft
  4. interestingly, traveller safety wasn’t the top trigger for companies to resume business travel but the easing or lifting of border restrictions was top of the list instead 

8. The return of domestic travel

Given international travel became very difficult during 2020, the beginnings of a recovery for the industry centred around domestic travel whether by road or rail. In recognition of this we expedited enhancements to train booking and mileage tracking. 

Whether your employees are travelling on the road or in the air, all they want are options and to find them quickly. So the availability of train travel in SalesTrip meant users could start to easily book train tickets, reserve seats and download tickets instantly or arrange collection. 

We also wanted to support those who felt more comfortable travelling in their own cars as opposed to public transport which inevitably meant lift-sharing with colleagues. Particularly in the UK where you can claim additional expense reimbursement for carrying passengers. Well this became possible in SalesTrip.

Read: The return of domestic business travel: tips to simplify expenses.

9. Shifting business travel from cost to value

As we touched on earlier in this blog, as a result of the pandemic, business leaders started to increasingly want – and need – their teams to demonstrate the value of a business trip, not simply just the cost. This has always been the focus of SalesTrip – our business was founded for this very reason. 

SalesTrip’s vision to make business travel and expense management outcome driven has been achieved by building directly on the world’s biggest cloud platform, Salesforce. All your prospect, customer and revenue data is there so booking travel and claiming expenses against that very same data allows you to see the true cost of acquiring and retaining customers.

Read: Shifting your business travel analysis from cost to value

10. What CFOs think your expenses say about you

Why do some employees save all their expenses to claim once a quarter or even less often? Why do some employees not bother claiming expenses for things they are entitled to? Why do some employees push the boundaries of acceptable claims? 

Expenses are often regarded as a drag. The thing to put off doing until absolutely necessary. They’re dull, they’re tedious, they take up precious time that could be spent doing more important activities. 

But avoiding expense admin doesn’t just hinder the person claiming them. Finance teams waste valuable time chasing expenses that should have been submitted months ago. Without visibility of expenses, finance doesn’t have a real view of ongoing costs. We’ve heard of instances where sales people have gathered all their expenses for an entire year and claimed them at once, amounting to tens of thousands of pounds in one hit to finance. Right at year end.

What does your expense report reveal about you?

11. Why remote working means more travel not less

In November, Bill Gates was interviewed during a New York Times’ conference. His prediction? That “over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away,” suggesting that it’s no longer the “gold standard” to need to travel somewhere to physically sit in front of someone.

But there are plenty of other reports that suggest commercial teams think it’s essential to do business face-to-face and let’s face it, we’re all suffering a bit from Zoom fatigue. Other CEOs have said that the first time someone loses a sale to a competitor who showed up in person is the last time they make a sales call on Zoom.

So our VP, Eoin Landers, explored why remote working may actually mean more travel not less. Though teams might work remotely in the main, teams will want to get together to strategise and plan projects to develop and maintain trust and ensure greater coherence when working apart. 

Read: Why remote working means more business travel not less

12. The year you didn’t have to queue for Dreamforce

How can we round up the year without a mention of Dreamforce? It’s the highlight of the Salesforce calendar and this year it’s totally virtual, but it’s also totally free. So if you’ve never had the chance to attend the largest tech conference in the world, you can experience a small part of it from the comfort of your own home (and without the queues). The keynote is available to watch.

The biggest news at Dreamforce was of course Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack. We’re really excited about this and the implications for our app. Something to focus on heading into 2021.

And that brings us to the end of our review of 2020. A year to be remembered. Keep an eye out for news from us in 2021, we’ve got some exciting announcements. Just head to, you guessed it, our blog.

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Kate Fletcher