Study throws light on business travel trends in the US

A study has highlighted some new facts regarding business travel trends in the US.

While previous figures had indicated that following the slump in the financial markets, spending on business travel in the US had increased in 2010 and 2011, recent trends show that business travel spending is slowing down, and analysts feel that this could be due to apprehensions about the economy and its future prospects.

The Global Business Travel Association compiled the report, and the study was sponsored by Visa Inc (NYSE: V). Michael W McCormick, executive director of the group, said, ‘Corporations are in a wait-and-see mode and holding back on investment decisions that would help boost the economy.’

The study said that US businesses would spend a total of $257bn on travel in 2012, a 2.6 percent increase over the previous year. However, when factoring in the increase in spending, which has gone from 5.1 percent in 2010, to 7.2 percent in 2011, the true picture that emerges shows that funding will drop for business travel. The report also said that 438 million business trips would be undertaken in the US this year, a drop of 1.6 percent from the 445 million trips in 2011.

On a broader theme, the survey said that women become more stressed than men while travelling. While women were concerned about the safety of their luggage and the perils of eating food from untried locations, men were concerned about having to spend long haul journeys in economy seats.

The authors of the report said that the findings could be used to help businesses make changes in the way they plan travel for their executives.

Business Travellers Report Increase in Budgets

Business travel is set to increase in the autumn, according to research conducted by the Best Western group of hotels.

The survey, conducted in a collaboration with Wakefield Research, reported that 39 percent of business travellers surveyed had indicated a rise in their travel budgets in 2012 compared to 2011, while around 10 percent reported a cut in their business travel budget.

Although business travellers are not comfortable about spending time away from the family, around 77 percent said that they still felt good about their business trips.

Dorothy Dowling, the senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western International, said, ‘The combination of strong corporate travel, along with an emerging number of small business road warriors, has helped push advanced booking numbers for Sunday through Thursday travel at Best Western hotels significantly higher this fall compared to last.

Business travellers have learned lessons from the past, and are more value conscious than ever. Offering complimentary high-speed internet access, a strong breakfast option and free parking is the price of entry to attract these travellers, and something we pride ourselves on providing all our guests at each Best Western hotel.’

The research also indicated that around 70 percent of business travellers are booking their own travel components, rather than going through corporate travel department or travel agents. Around 82 percent of the travellers often use review websites to book their hotel stays.

Around 43 percent of the respondents revealed that they would be travelling more during this autumn period than they travelled at the same time last year. Business travellers are also becoming younger, with 51 percent of them belonging to age group of 21 to 44 years, against 28 percent of business travellers belonging to the age group of 45 years and above.

Survey Suggests UK Business Travellers Do Not Mix Business with Pleasure

UK travellers rarely take their families along with them on business trips, unlike their counterparts in other parts of the world, according to a recent study.

The study, which was conducted with business travellers by the Wyndham Hotel Group, a hotel brand with around 7,170 hotel properties, suggested that only 33 percent of UK travellers take their families on a business trip, compared to around 52 percent of US business travellers, and 67 percent of Chinese business travellers.

Nor do UK business travellers believe in extending their business travel to include a pleasure trip, with 68 percent claiming to be against such an extension. In comparison, 59 percent of Chinese business travellers, and 48 percent of US business travellers are keen to extend their business trips to include a vacation.

Not surprisingly, UK business travellers were the least enthusiastic about business trips, with 38 percent seeing them as an intrusion on their personal or family time.

The study has also shown that amongst all business travellers, around 46 percent have extended a trip to add a leisure vacation, and around 25 percent always try to include some personal time while on a business travel.

Around 33 percent of business travellers explore the hotel and use its amenities while travelling, and 70 percent prefer to spend their free time in the hotel bar and restaurant. Around 60 percent like to visit the fitness centre, while 50 percent prefer to relax in the hotel spa during their business trips.

IFOP Asia, conducted the survey for the hotel brand in April 2012, interviewing around 5,617 respondents from Brazil, Canada, China, UK and the United States.

UK Business Travellers Unhappy with Travel Problems

Business travel problems may affect employee productivity, according to a recent report published by Concur, a company that provides on-demand Employee Spend Management services.

The report suggests that for employees who travel extensively on business, problems related to that travel often leave them with a negative outlook regarding their job, which results in a negative impact on productivity. The inability to quickly and easily book accommodation and flights due to change of travel plans, especially during busy periods, is a major point of contention for business travellers.

Around one in five business travellers reported that the filing of receipts and expense reports on their return is one of the most niggling aspects of travel, 26 percent of UK business travellers have cited travel as having a negative effect on their job satisfaction, and around 6 percent of business travellers interviewed have even considered resigning over their travel woes.

Isabel Montesdeoca, the senior vice president and general manager, EMEA, at Concur said, ‘We see these issues all the time. In today’s always on, always connected environment, companies can do more to improve the productivity and job satisfaction of their staff by equipping them with technology and tools that make them more effective while travelling.

It’s important that business leaders take ownership of the travel experience for their staff in order to improve overall employee satisfaction levels and reduce churn.’

According to the study, around one in five, or 23 percent of the interviewees, have reported that their business travel experiences have prompted them to turn down a new job offer that requires extensive travel.

Business Travellers Prefer Tablets to Laptops while on the Move

Business travellers from the UK are opting to travel with more than one type of device to keep them connected with their work environment.

A recent survey of UK business travellers by Four Points by Sheraton hotel brand, revealed an increased use of tablet devices such as iPads on business trips, instead of laptops.

The hotel brand surveyed 1,000 business travellers in six markets, the UK, Germany, US, China, India and Brazil, and has reported that 67 percent of UK travellers prefer to carry tablets rather than laptops when taking a business trip.

The research also suggested that around 73 percent of British travellers believe that technology definitely makes their travelling on business much simpler and more convenient, as was the case with 60 percent of business travellers surveyed worldwide.

British travellers also use their devices more for web browsing and social networking than those in other countries. 89 percent of UK respondents said this was their primary use of mobile technology, compared to an overall average of 75 percent.

Almost 67 percent of business travellers use video chat or conferencing to converse with family and friends, while around 47 percent of the respondents only use a telephone to make a call, and 37 percent use text messaging.

Brian McGuinness, the senior vice president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, the parent company of Four Points by Sheraton, said, ‘The Four Points study contains compelling results, including evidence that trends such as staying in touch with family via video chat – preferred even over email, text and phone – are accelerating.

While hotel business centres remain important, the study affirms that the Four Points brand is meeting a continued need by offering complimentary Wi-Fi or in-room internet access, and by continuing to expand bandwidth throughout the portfolio.’

UK Residents Travel More for Business To Vacations Abroad

UK residents are travelling more for business than for leisure, according to a recent report released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an independent producer of official statistics for the UK.

The report suggests that the number of international business trips made by UK residents has increased by 5 percent in the last year, compared to those made in the previous year. UK residents made around 6.98 million overseas business trips in the year ending June 30, 2012, compared to 6.62 million business trips made in the same period, ending June 2011. Meanwhile, leisure trips have declined by 2 percent in the past year, when compared to the previous year.

The three months leading to June 30, 2012, have seen a 5 percent rise in overseas business trips, compared to the same period in 2011.

A smaller number of UK residents staying abroad have decided to return to the UK in the year ended June 30, 2012, from 2.9 million reported in June 2011, to 2.6 million reported in June 2012, which resulted in reduced earnings from these visits, from £1.7 billion in 2012, to £1.6 billion in 2011.

Europe remains a favourite with UK residents that travel overseas, with around 44 million visits recorded in the year to June 2012, compared to 3.6 million visits made to the US, and 9.2 million made to rest of the world. These visits have resulted in expenditure of £31.9 billion by UK residents in the year ended June 30, 2012, an increase of 1 percent from the previous year.

New York Rated Best Corporate Meeting Destination

New York is the ultimate meetings destination for corporates, says a recent report submitted by Air and Business Travel News.

NYC & Company, the official marketing, tourism and partnership organisation for the city, rated it on availability of contemporary venues, and better valuation of the venues, irrespective of the fluctuation in exchanges rates.

NYC & Co vice-president, Jerry Cito, said, ‘Planners have great opportunities to secure competitive rates and find added value in leaner months, particularly in the first quarter of every year. These lower rates can be teamed with events such as Restaurant Week, which offers fixed-priced menus, and Broadway Week or Off-Broadway Week, which offer two-for-one tickets to popular shows.

An event here guarantees record attendance. Importantly, we are home to some key associations across various sectors, so there’s a lot of synergy in placing congresses or meetings in the city.’

The city, which is home around 40 Fortune 500 companies, is also host to a plethora of corporate events, often held in the Manhattan venues, which earn maximum in terms of hosting corporate events, attended by a higher number annually than any other city in the world.

For corporates, ‘It is possible to snatch a bargain, although you need to think outside of the box’, said Pauline Houston, a director at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a US-based company specialising in business travel management. ‘You need to explore beyond Park Avenue and 42nd Street, pinpoint your location and its suitability for clients, know what’s what and juggle with what’s happening and where within your time frame.’

Business Travel Expenses on Rise

As business travel expenses have continued to show an increase in the first three months of 2012, companies need to consider offering support to their employees to help them make better-informed decisions, says American Express Global Business Travel, a venture of US-based financial services company, American Express Company.

The company has launched its Business Travel Monitor for the 2012 First Quarter, which highlights that prices across all travel categories of services, including airfares, and hotel room rates, both domestic and international, for trips from North America to domestic and international destinations, have increased compared to those for the first quarter of 2011.

Christa Degnan Manning, the director for Expert Insights Research, American Express Global Business Travel, said, ‘Prices rose in the first quarter as companies put travellers on the road to jumpstart 2012 business goals while supply remained relatively tight.

To optimize travel budgets in this environment, companies should look at how they are encouraging compliance with corporate travel policies with positive motivators, instead of punishments for non-compliance.

Travellers should be rewarded for booking with preferred suppliers and taking cost-saving measures such as advance purchasing in ways that they appreciate. Strategies like these can demonstrate support to travellers throughout their journeys.’

Corporations need to revise their travel policies according to current market scenarios and plan travel routes, whilst also keeping in mind the requirements of their employees. Employees are likely to make smarter travel decisions if their companies help them to understand how they can support the organisation through their decisions, said the report.

GTMC Announces Increase in Business Travel Spending

The Guild of Travel Management Companies, a UK-based professional association for travel companies, has announced an increase in business travel transactions in the first quarter of 2012, compared to the first quarter of 2011.

Business travel transactions have registered a growth of 6 percent during the first three months of the year, according to the Association’s report.

Total transactions made by GTMC members were 4.93 million for the quarter ending on March 31, 2012, from 4.66 million transactions for the same period in 2011.

Flight and hotel reservations have increased by 1 percent and 3 percent respectively, in the 2012 first quarter compared to 2011 first quarter. Rail has reported a growth of 14 percent, while car rentals have increased by 10 percent in the 2012 first quarter, compared to the same period in 2011. The other categories of consultancy services, ferries, visas, currency exchange, and meet & greet services, have also registered a growth of 10 percent in the 2012 first quarter.

Transactions through the association members are up by 4 percent to 16.4 million for the year ending in March 2012, compared with 15.7 million for the earlier year.

The association chief executive officer, Anne Godfrey, said, ‘This is the strongest performance for 12 months. Air transactions – in line with BSP (Billing and Settlement Plan) figures – remain flat although sales and average transactions values are both up. These first quarter figures are solid if unspectacular. However they contrast with trends in leisure travel and recent GDP data, which hints at a double dip recession. Is business travel bucking the trend?’