After two particularly challenging years, the world is finally returning to a level of normalcy. What began as the Great Resignation is now being called the Great Return, as more people resume their pre-pandemic travel routines and a return to in-office work. It’s been a long, difficult road but leisure travel finally returned to pre-pandemic numbers in late Spring, a report from the Mastercard Economics Institute found. While business travel is taking a little longer to bounce back, it is expected to hit 81% of pre-pandemic levels this year and could reach 96% by 2023, according to recent estimates from the U.S. Travel Association.
For-hire vehicle (FHV) drivers have faced severe obstacles – like inflation and work from home trends – making it all the more important to partner with the right company. There are a number of pros and cons to consider, but they all boil down to one question: Will the available fares be worth it, after commissions and other operating costs?
Jason Gross, VP of Mobility at Curb, says taking the rider’s perspective is into consideration is key: “During a time when many people are struggling financially, Curb prides itself on not charging surge pricing,” he says. “We’ve launched flat fare trips to JFK airport from Manhattan to keep our prices predictable for our customers; and all of this works to the benefit of our drivers.”
The sticker shock of having a $20 ride turn into a $100 ride enrages riders – and over time, can result in losing them as a customer for good, Gross explains. Instead of surge pricing, Curb – widely considered the first universal app for both licensed black car drivers and taxis – is continually seeking out new and innovative ways to ensure its drivers earn more, while keeping customers happy. This includes tapping into special city, state, and federal programs, and building advantageous partnerships with other businesses and networks. The company has also created a business partner ecosystem that includes fleets and demand aggregators like HQ corporate mobility, Gett, Transit app, and even Uber.
“These programs are all working in the background,” says Gross. “But at the end of the day they all mean increased, high-value fares for drivers.”
The Return of Business Travel
Business travel has historically been a huge source of rides in New York City for FHV drivers, and as it continues to bounce back, it will provide a much-needed boost for those struggling to regain financial ground lost during the pandemic. The following are some highlights from the 2022 GBTA Business Travel Index Outlook–Annual Global Report and Forecast, published by the Global Business Travel Association.
- Global business travel spending in 2022 is expected to advance 34% to $933 billion over 2021 levels.
- 84% of senior global corporate finance professionals voiced confidence that their travel spending would somewhat or significantly increase in 2023 compared to 2022.
- 85% of business travelers said they need to travel to accomplish their business goals. More than three-fourths said they expect to travel for work more or much more in 2023 than they did in 2022, often citing the importance of face-to-face meetings over Zoom calls.
- While corporate travelers make up about 12% of passengers, they can account for as much as 75% of profits on certain flights because they tend to book more expensive seats and last-minute tickets.
- The top four factors leading to global business travel recovery are: global vaccination efforts, national travel policies, business traveler sentiment, and travel management policy.
- The biggest obstacles to a more accelerated recovery are persistent inflation, high energy prices, supply chain challenges, labor shortages, an economic slowdown, lockdowns in China, the war in Ukraine, and emerging sustainability considerations.
Growth in Trade Shows, Business Meetings Accelerates
Zoom meetings and hybrid workplaces are a continuing reality, but road warriors know that actual face time is often far better for business. According to media outlet CoStar, the pandemic has changed the size of groups and how they meet once they are on property, but it has not changed their over-arching objective: To network. Groups also meet to introduce new products, distribute company information and present or redeem awards.
Smaller meetings – of 50 people or fewer – have actually increased at a greater pace than prior to the pandemic. Healthcare, consulting, transportation and government agencies are all helping move the needle, increasingly bringing groups together for in-person gatherings.
The Driver’s Perspective
Preparing for busier days ahead, Curb’s Jason Gross says his company has been seeking out new and different ways to attract, retain and reward FHV drivers. He notes that NYC’s FHV drivers enjoy the independence of being their own boss and making their own hours, but they are also unsurprisingly motivated by money – which is why the company has a “refer and earn program” that offers bonuses to drivers who refer friends, as well any new driver who partners with Curb.
“But an independent contractor status doesn’t mean that drivers shouldn’t be eligible for additional perks and benefits to show their work is valued,” explains Gross. “Curb is focused on finding the best rides for our drivers through a committed network of partners. By partnering with major professional sports teams and financial institutions, we’ve been able to provide perks like tickets to games, gas discounts, and much more.”
Through their connections and partnerships, Curb is able to book rides across multiple channels at scale and offers other features like streamlined employee expensing and data dashboards for intuitive travel management. The company also connects drivers to an underserved pool of riders through relationships with some of the largest public and private healthcare systems in NYC, as well as non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers.
Widely considered the first universal app for both licensed black car drivers and taxis, Curb isreimagining urban mobility with a driver-first approach to ride-hailing. For more information on driving with Curb, please email email@example.com.