Why Business Travel and Expense will Look Different in 2024

by Michael Sindicich, EVP, GM of Navan Expense, Special Edition Newsletter contributor

After a tumultuous few years, 2023 brought business travel — and its corresponding expenses — fully back to life. But while the volume of traveling employees has returned to pre-pandemic levels, much has changed.

And before we get too familiar with the new travel patterns, generative AI is set to upend the world of T&E and beyond. The way we book travel, pay for business expenses, and manage the spectrum of T&E will look quite different 12 months from now.

So what lies ahead and what does it mean for business’ T&E programs? At Navan,our varied customer base gives us a front-row seat to how employees are traveling and spending. Those insights are key for envisioning the future of expense management for both on- and off-trip spend.

Here’s what to expect.

Travel Is Getting Personal
Personalization has long been a goal of the travel industry. It’s especially important for time-pressed business travelers, who could streamline the booking process if their travel solution knew them better.

Now it can, thanks to generative AI. The capabilities of this groundbreaking technology can analyze a traveler’s preferences — such as hotel brand and room type — and combine them with factors like company policy and distance from the office to serve up the best possible options and eliminate endless scrolling.

And that’s not all generative AI can do. It’s helping chatbots break free of their silos and become more integrated into websites — a process that will transform the way we search for flights, hotels, and more. Companies out in front of this integration will offer experiences to their customers that are even faster and even more personal.

The development will be increasingly necessary for companies to effectively manage their travel programs — including their travel payments.

Expense Management Goes Deep
Technology is also playing a role in the way employees spend company money and the way companies process those expenses. The automation of forward-thinking expense management solutions has already streamlined the process significantly, through developments like eliminating traditional expense reports and shaving the reconciliation process from days or weeks to hours.

But thanks to generative AI, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As with travel, this technology will change the game for finance managers.

That process is well underway. Earlier this year, Navan introduced Ava, our automated virtual assistant, which came with unique data-analyzing powers. Using recursive prompts, which use the results of one prompt to create another, Ava can instantly perform the kind of deep dive into a company’s figures that would take a human data analyst weeks.

The result is insights that can change a company’s trajectory. Users can ask Ava, for example, how to save 10% on a travel program. Ava immediately returns suggestions on the steps necessary to achieve that goal.

Real-World Changes Matter, Too
But the future of expense isn’t just a technology tale. One thing that must change in the coming year, he says, is that card-based fintechs will need to diversify their revenue streams. They’ve become overly reliant on interchange fees, even to the point of risking collapse, due to focusing too narrowly on products or offering customer incentives that they can’t sustain. Assessments will be required for whether to cut customer incentives or expand product offerings.

Another key strategy for fintechs in 2024 will involve forging partnerships with major banks, which are looking to evolve into “one-stop shops” for their customers. Partnership deals may be standard business practice, but this collaboration between fintechs and banks is an innovation that will spark further changes in how banks and fintechs operate — and customers will reap the rewards.

Bring on 2024
In 2024, Technology will continue to improve lives by handling an ever-greater number of rote tasks, while new business models will prove just as transformative for the companies behind T&E solutions.

These changes are happening at light speed, due to the hyper-accelerated development of generative AI and the need for businesses to adapt just as quickly. Navan is leading the charge, by creating the next evolution of the T&E landscape. And we can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will bring.

About Navan

Navan is the all-in-one super app that makes travel and expense easy so you can focus on being there, not getting there. Say goodbye to spending hours on the phone trying to change your flight or saving stacks of receipts to manually input expenses. From EAs and finance teams to travel managers and employees, Navan empowers people to focus on the things that matter most to them—all while providing companies with real-time visibility, savings, and control.

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