Going away on a business trip does not necessarily mean glamourous hotels, expensive suites, and champagne when boarding a flight. For frequent business travellers, the reality is taxis to airports, airport check-ins, immigration, lounges, boarding, flight time, transits, followed by even more taxis. It’s an arduous routine for frequent flyers – and one that adds up to a US$ 1.2 trillion business travel market[1].

In order to curb the tediousness associated with business travel, airlines, airports and other institutions are seeing value in offering better airport lounges. Filled with more space, exceptional services, top notch technology and so much more, they are luring the business traveller in and offering a second to none experience before even take off.

According to a YouGov survey on behalf of Priority Pass, the trend for experiences over material goods is global, with 46 per cent of 10,000 respondents affirming that they enjoy the experience of a holiday in the own country. Institutes are therefore battling for travellers business dollar and with this in mind here’s what to expect from airport lounges in the future.

Providing a facility which is aesthetically pleasing to the eye

Airport lounges are no longer a neutral space to pass the time and enjoy some simple food, they are becoming more of a destination in their own right offering a varied range of refreshments in a modern and sophisticated setting.

For instance, Qantas passengers at Heathrow airport, in the UK, can sip gin in the modern-minimalist settings of the lounge cocktail bar, or guests of Japan Airlines’ First-Class Lounge at Tokyo can withdraw to the library with a sake or a Japanese craft beer.

Evolving from an identical design theme featured across lounges world-wide, an important key trend we are beginning to see is lounge design having the capacity to embody local flavours, enhancing the overall experience for the traveller. Last year’s winner of the Priority Pass Annual Lounge Awards was Club Kingston at Jamaica’s Kingston Norman Manley International Airport. Its Jamaican flair included artwork and décor sourced from across the island, as well as traditional Jamaican food and drink.

Exclusivity for high end travellers

The introduction of high end facilities also brings a higher level of exclusivity, with an increasing number of airport lounges offering premium services for first class passengers only. Lufthansa, for example, one of the many airlines setting a higher standard. Travellers must have a first class ticket or be a member of the airline’s HON Circle (a status that requires clocking up 600,000 air miles in two years) to access private facilities.

In addition, a new wave of institutions are emerging, targeting cost-conscious business travellers who are flying economy but want the same exclusive treatment. Those who join such institutions ultimately want to escape the busy terminals and are granted access to premium areas in order to enhance their travel experience. The increased popularity of lounges will no doubt lead to more tailored spaces which will meet the specific demands of different types of travellers.

An age of digital transformation

In today’s digital age many industries and organisations are adjusting how they do things — this is no different with airports. They have become some of the most technologically advanced buildings in the world with biometric enabled self-service check-in facilities and bespoke mobile phone applications designed to help navigate airport processes. From check-in to boarding, bag drop to shopping, the digital transformation is changing our experience of airport travel.

A recent global report by Collinson, a leader in customer benefits and loyalty, found 24 per cent of people would use technology to guide them through an airport, demonstrating the developing trends digital process are having within airports.

To enhance the experience, Etihad, Emirates and Aviapartner have all tapped into virtual reality (VR) technology, introducing VR entertainment technology. More than a form of entertainment, the airlines hope that the development of this type of technology could also allow them to provide more personalised end-to-end entertainment solutions across all customer demographics.

The digital transformation is the driving change for business travellers in airports and will enhance the overall experience for business travellers regularly travelling through airports.

Final remarks

The business travel industry is becoming increasingly dynamic and competitive as international travel for work becomes more common than ever before too. Amidst this drive we’ll continue to see innovation not only up in the air, but on the ground too.

[1] https://www.statista.com/topics/2439/global-business-travel-industry/