After another difficult year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, SAP Concur leaders are optimistic that 2022 will be one of innovation, recovery, and renewal.

In 2022, the global community will continue to see significant changes in nearly every sector. Here, our EMEA team of experts will share their predictions for the new year ahead.

While it still seems like there may be some challenging times ahead, often this helps us to create new ideas and set up new processes that can help improve and benefit the world well into the future.

Here are the predictions from our team for 2022:

Götz Reinhardt, Managing Director at SAP Concur MEE (Middle & Eastern Europe): Employees will have more choice and flexibility over their travel movements

“Many employees have become accustomed to flexible, remote working hours over the past year. When we can meet and talk with clients via Zoom and other virtual platforms, employees would arguably now be more reluctant to travel across the world to do so, as they can perform a conference call from the comfort of their own home or office space.

Post-pandemic travel is demanding that greater employee flexibility is afforded, to encourage them to take more sensible trips. Additionally, the growing number of SDBs (Supplier Direct Bookings) we are seeing highlights travellers’ desires for more freedom of choice and the flexibility to choose the travel supplier they feel most comfortable with from a health & safety standpoint.

As a result, we predict that in 2022, businesses will allow employees greater flexibility when it comes to asking them to travel. Travel communities have become emboldened for their greater good and not just that of the company. So, travel will need to be done on the employee’s schedule and they need to be allowed to decide which hotels or flights they would like to purchase. Additionally, businesses will also need to evaluate in more detail whether travelling so much is worth the cost and sustainability risks — especially if alternative arrangements can be made to help reduce this.

Overall, travellers’ personalisation will now need to be considered first and foremost over cost— as this will help improve compliance and the well-being and productivity of happier employees.”

Pierre-Emmanuel Tetaz, EMEA SVP and General Manager: Businesses will need to become more honest and transparent about their carbon footprint

“Last year the Covid-related travel drop resulted in a significant reduction of CO2 emissions which the world environment has benefitted from — and this helped businesses with improving their sustainability movements. In recent years, sustainability has taken a lead position in the hiring and retention of employees. Many job seekers are evaluating a potential company’s commitment to environmental and social sustainability as well as the benefits the company offers. Companies that can adapt quickly to this new trend are more likely to attract and retain top talents.

However, with governments across the globe also setting new CO2 emission goals and criteria to meet, sustainable movements are not only critical for an organisation’s success, but also a top board priority.

Therefore, with business travel expected to start increasing next year, businesses in 2022 will need to provide their employees with greater visibility and informed choices about their sustainability movements and inform them re: how much of an impact their travel will have before booking any trips.

Business travellers will need to be more aware than ever of the carbon footprint they are creating, and if they are not aware, then they are simply not informed enough to make proper and responsible travel decisions. Employee movements need to be justified with travel options being chosen that are the most eco-friendly. To do this, we expect many companies to turn to technology tools which can help them manage their budgets and carbon footprints accordingly and plan the most eco-friendly and efficient routes to travel by.”

Mark Cullen, Managing Director, EMEA South: Businesses will need to adapt technological processes to help solve regulation issues

 “I expect we will see companies embrace new corporate policies to help facilitate business travel while avoiding issues that could arise due to the complexity of today’s travel landscape. Unfortunately, there is no global standardisation when it comes to international travel –  rules and regulations vary immensely by country. The policies will range from outright travel restrictions to ensuring employees have done their due diligence on what is required to travel to their destination before making arrangement and incurring expenses.

While corporate travel will continue to pick up in 2022 the landscape will remain complex, uneven, and confusing for both business and individual travellers; both will be in need of support and guidance to ensure they are aware and adhering to the various regulations to ensure smooth travel.  We expect to see more organisations turn to technology providers to help address these complications.

Luckily, there are tools, resources, and vendors available today to provide the needed support. We are already seeing corporate leaders re-evaluate what they are doing today and considering how to re-engineer their organisations not only for the immediate future but for what may be waiting around the corner. To complement new policies and ways of managing business processes, we are seeing more interest from organisations in the broader eco-system and how new partnerships can add value and support  – providers that are best of breed in niche areas such as ‘Duty of Care’. The beauty of the cloud is that it affords interoperability between providers, bringing unique sets of data together in new ways for companies and/or individuals to make better informed decisions.

In summary, COVID is not going away but we will continue to learn how to live with it and companies will continue to learn for themselves in 2022”

 Ryan Demaray, Managing Director SMB EMEA at SAP Concur: Virtual card payments will be used more to empower and manage employee spending

“Ever since the development of cashless payments accelerated, particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors, finance teams across the board are looking for new ways to manage individual and company budgets on the go.

With this in mind, we expect to see virtual cards used as a key solution in 2022 to help empower and manage employee spending. For B2B companies, where few payments are made face-to-face, this could potentially be game-changing.

Virtual cards offer significant benefits for travel managers and finance departments. They can be configured for spending limits, department codes, merchant category controls, and date specifications. They deliver this information to an organisation’s back-end accounting system in real time, making it easier to spot unusual activity, and because the numbers are unique for each transaction, it’s a more secure way to pay. Businesses can control how much is spent and what it’s spent on, so it’s easier to ensure compliance with the company travel and expense policy. It’s also ideal for employees who don’t travel often, and for vendors who will be incurring expenses over a limited period for the company in question.

This solution will also help smaller businesses who don’t want to invest too much and would prefer a simple solution instead. With virtual cards, multiple employees can use different card details, without any extra costs – and they can easily access the card through a mobile app, where they can also upload receipts for claims. We expect to see this technology take off for businesses in the next year ahead.

 Rob Harrison, MD EMEA North at SAP Concur: Additional challenges will arise around data privacy

With the world slowing opening for business, and more people feeling confident about travelling, we can expect to see an increase around duty of care regulations for 2022 and the future. With individuals now expected to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or confirmation of their vaccine status, businesses will want to make sure that everyone is compliant and travelling with caution and care.

Having said this, while these regulations are still being adopted by many businesses and governments, there are still some concerns around the data privacy of these new procedures — which we expect to see as a key talking point in 2022.

For instance, the ‘vaccine passport’ will hold sensitive information on health data – which is crucial to keep secure. There are several challenges and additional obligations that will apply under GDPR and UK GDPR – including obtaining the correct consent to any transfer and providing the right privacy notice. Any privacy notice must be specific to the processing in question.

Therefore, for vaccine passports and other data and regulation requirements, businesses will need to be responsible for keeping on top of this with travelling employees. Therefore, we would advise that they work with trusted travel providers, who can take on the heavy workload of making sure their travel actions and documentations are compliant, so they can be confident they are travelling securely.”