Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The future of business travel in East Africa: 7 predictions for 2023


The business travel landscape in East Africa is changing. After a global pandemic brought massive disruption to business trips, we’re going through a period of economic uncertainty.

It’s now time to bring some stability to your team’s travel — and that means arranging cost-effective, sustainable, and safe transport. To help prepare your team’s future travel plans, here are seven trends the Bolt Business experts in East Africa expect to see in 2023:

1. Business travel will increase

Since the pandemic, video calls have become an everyday occurrence for many workers. However, they simply don’t hold as much value as face-to-face meetings. While video calls have proven essential over the past few years, they’ve also helped businesses appreciate the value of face-to-face meetings — and this is increasing business travel needs.

“The pandemic has changed the entire narrative around business travel. Business travel has started coming back. As workers did more video calls, they missed the interaction of meeting with stakeholders face-to-face.” 

Milu Kipimo, Bolt Business Country Manager, Tanzania and Uganda

2. There’ll be more control over spending

Businesses will be looking to balance a rise in business travel while keeping costs down as the economic slowdown takes hold. To achieve this, companies will look to have more control over spending by building travel policies and having approval processes in place.

Peris Wantendo, Bolt Business Country Manager in Kenya, has already noticed this: “There are more controls being placed on travel costs than before. Most businesses are now paying more attention to the cost of travel than they did before, leading to higher approvals — even on an executive level.”

Travel policies help you to control spending

Travel policies help control spending, give your team a clear understanding of how much they can spend, and ensure there are no unexpected expenses.

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to travel policies, you should have several policies that suit the travel needs of different teams and individuals. That way, each traveller clearly understands when they can travel, where they can travel to, and the transport they can use.

“Around 90% of the companies using Bolt Business in Africa have well-planned travel policies. Companies who are concerned about how employees are using expenses can limit spending and geo-fence trips to and from specific locations and certain times and days. Having that level of control is proving to be a game changer for companies.”

Nick Powell, Vice President of Bolt Business

3. Carpools and ride-hailing will thrive

As fuel costs rise across East Africa, employers will look for ways to reduce the costs of fuel for company cars. There are two simple solutions to this: carpools and ride-hailing services.

As well as cutting fuel costs, carpools and ride-hailing help to address infrastructural challenges, such as a lack of parking spaces in central business districts, and fewer cars on the road helps ease congestion.

“Imagine you’re going to a meeting and you need to think about navigating across the city and parking your car before jumping straight into work — that’s hectic. Instead, you’re better off getting someone to drive you, so you can collect your thoughts before you arrive. When you get to your meeting, you’re fresh and ready to go.”

Milu Kipimo, Bolt Business Country Manager, Tanzania and Uganda

4. Travel will become an important employee benefit

Hybrid working is here to stay, but many employers want to see their team in the office at least some of the time. So, how can you make coming back to the office desirable?

It’s long been accepted that commuting costs are the employee’s responsibility, but offering travel perks can boost retention and engagement.

“Giving employees an incentive to travel to the office is a smart way to boost employee retention and engagement,” explains Nick Powell, VP of Bolt Business. “Smart businesses have recognised this and are adopting travel perks to get their employees back to the office.”

Rewarding your team with travel perks can see you win on two levels: employees have healthy, environmentally-friendly ways to travel and are back in the office.

“Employees will be offered travel as part of work benefits which will help to increase productivity and improve employee safety.” 

Peris Wandeto, Bolt Business Country Manager, Kenya

5. Sustainable travel will be a priority

Business travel is making a massive shift towards sustainability. Companies have been setting climate goals in recent years, and from 2023 there will be a genuine drive to act as target deadlines creep closer.

The first goal is to offset current carbon emissions from travel — one reason why companies are keen to see reports on their carbon emissions. The next step is changing employee travel behaviour, and as an employer, this means making it easier for them to travel sustainably, using electric and hybrid cars.

“Companies in Africa are already starting to act on sustainability, and in 2023 we’ll see a higher spike on the sustainability angle.”

Milu Kipimo, Bolt Business Country Manager, Tanzania and Uganda

6. Businesses will aim to eliminate fleets

Company cars have been a popular perk for many years. But a need to reduce costs has spotlighted these depreciating assets. And companies are beginning to realise that a simple way to remove those outgoing is through ride-hailing.

“Going green is a big plan in East Africa, with major corporations incorporating these needs as part of their operational reports. Fleet reduction will assist in addressing how organisations play a role in ensuring environmental responsibility.”

Peris Wandeto, Bolt Business Country Manager, Kenya

7. Managers will take a safety-first approach to travel

The seventh and final prediction from the team in East Africa is that companies will focus more on health and safety in 2023.

As an employer, the health and safety of your employees should always be a top priority. And when employees are out on the road, you should do all you can to ensure they feel safe from start to finish — physically and mentally.

Managing travel amid global uncertainties

There’s been a steady increase in business travel across East Africa in 2022, and 2023 is set to be an even bigger year. But for anyone responsible for managing business travel, there’s never been more to consider when booking trips — costs, sustainability, and employee safety must all be prioritised.

To prepare your company’s future travel plans, Peris suggests to “incorporate travel management companies as key partners to provide solutions that will guide you to control costs and reduce your environmental impact.”

If you’re looking to manage your team’s ground travel from a single location, find out how Bolt Business can help by reading Everything you need to know about Bolt Business.

Milu Kipimo, Peris Wandeto, and Nick Powell from the Bolt contributed to this story.

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