Enter the Chief Travel Officer

Skift Take

A chief travel officer role could streamline current business travel processes, but will this role be taken by a human or AI?

The latest white paper from Mastercard, Navigating Global Business Travel, highlights the fragmentation of decision-making in business travel. The solution put forward is a new chief travel officer role. The company suggests that it would streamline current processes taking the burden away from HR, finance, security, and technology departments. Travel decision makers are aligned, with 85% agreeing that this role will become common in the next ten years.

Business Travel on the Rise

The same study also suggests that hybrid/remote workforces will significantly increase business travel over the next ten years. Skift’s State of Travel 2023 report supports this prediction. Both reports found that business travel is becoming more flexible to cater to new employee expectations.

But flexibility comes at a cost and multiple ramifications for anyone taking on the chief travel officer role. A flexible and personalized approach makes it harder for travel decision-makers to forecast and budget for travel expenses. In the white paper, two-thirds of those surveyed reported new and different types of expenses. Mastercard puts forward virtual credit cards as the ideal solution, highlighting their advantages in terms of flexibility and optimizing payment ecosystems. According to the study, travel decision makers seem keen on this option, with 92% looking to implement it.

Will AI Take Over?

Artificial intelligence (AI) may take over the chief travel officer role in the long term. At least, it seems to be the desired solution, but what this looks like is still unclear. An overwhelming 91% of the 541 travel decision makers surveyed say they plan on investing in AI and machine learning over the next five years.

Lastly, sustainability has seemingly become a part of the consideration when making business travel decisions. ESG tracking is now part of the job for 90% of respondents. Understanding the impact of carbon emissions on travel choices has also become a top priority, although quantifying this is not part of the research.

Photo credit: Midjourney / Prompt: female airline pilot standing in front of a plane