We wanted to share some highlights from an excellent white paper report that provides a revealing, and largely encouraging, look at how business travel is evolving. “Meet the Modern Business Traveler: Insights Into the Lives of Today’s Corporate Travelers,” is based on a survey of 254 travel managers conducted by The Association of Corporate Travel Executives and American Express Global Business Travel.
Think of the white paper’s title as having a double meaning. The “modern business traveler” is distinct from the stereotypical business traveler of only a few years ago, and so it’s necessary to corporate travel managers to put aside old assumptions and “meet” today’s traveler in the sense of getting acquainted. “Meeting” travelers also means adapting to their changing booking habits, brand preferences, and overall expectations for their business trip experience.
In his introduction to the report, Phillip Haxne of American Express GBT says that “business travelers can no longer be treated as one homogenous group … Each person has a unique profile, and should be engaged on a personal and emotional level.” This is the central thesis of employee-centric travel management, that “a contemporary managed travel policy and program can only really be effective if traveler emotions, desires and habits are understood and appreciated.”
Reasons for Business Travel
The report identified the three most common reasons for business travel as: maintaining customer relationships (42% of trips), internal meetings (22%), and developing new business (20%). Though it narrowly missed out on the podium, “other” had a respectable showing, coming in fourth and accounting for 18% of trips. All that to say that, there’s no predominant reason for business travel. Travel policies can’t be designed around only one type of trip, or one type of traveler.
More broadly speaking, the report concludes that the modern employee has two basic motivations for business travel: to meet their corporate objectives and to support their life’s objectives. Additionally, “for a growing number of travelers, the first is meaningless if it doesn’t contribute to the second.” Travel managers have taken notice. 48% interviewed for the survey cited an increase in travelers’ work-life balance inquiries, and 25% of said they were developing new key performance indicators based on the traveler experience.Shifts in Traveler Behaviors
This survey data adds to the growing body of evidence that business travelers are using an expanded range of travel suppliers.
- Over a third (40%) of travel managers saw increased use of sharing economy accommodations such as Airbnb.
- Nearly half (49%) of travel managers reported growth in the use of low-cost carriers.
For frequent business travelers, work-life balance can seem like an impossible dream. Mobile technology has made it easier to stay in touch on the road, and harder to resist the pressure to remain permanently on the clock. The ACTE report shows that travelers are increasingly concerned with integrating their business trips into the rest of their lives, saying:
- “Travel managers report a growing volume of enquiries about work-life balance,” such as “adding leisure to business travel (sometimes referred to as ‘bleisure’) or the possibility of bringing a family member on a trip.”
- “There also appears to be greater interest in flexible working: almost a quarter (23%) of travel managers are receiving more enquiries about extra vacation time as compensation for time spent away from home.”
New Generation of Business Travelers
Evolving attitudes about business travel cuts across age groups, but the pace of change is faster at organizations with primarily young travelers. At organizations where the majority of travelers are aged 20-30, there’s more pronounced concern about work-life balance, and greater enthusiasm about services such as Uber and Airbnb.
71% of organizations with primarily young employees reported enthusiasm for ride sharing service; 61% reported enthusiasm for sharing economy accommodation. More than half (57%) also reported enthusiasm for low-cost carriers. These options are all cost-effective alternatives to traditional vendors, but rarely are included in the content that employees can shop using conventional managed travel systems. This suggests a huge opportunity to reduce expenses and improve employee experience.
Implications for Travel Policies
The report discusses new opportunities for travel management to add value:
“There’s a gap between practice and policy when it comes to the sharing economy and corporate travel. Most travel managers (79%) have seen an increase in the use of sharing economy ground transportation – but only a quarter (25%) of corporations provide for this in policy today. The disparity is even more visible on accommodation: more than a third (40%) of travel managers saw an increase in the use of sharing economy lodging options but fewer than one in ten (9%) include them in policy. More than half (59%) say they won’t include them …[and] a minority of travel managers (20%) say their TMC today supports bookings for non-traditional travel, such as sharing economy options or combining leisure with business travel."
The concluding section of the report perfectly summarizes what the Rocketrip team hears everyday in our conversations with travel managers:
“For several years the big debate in managed travel pitched service against savings, and asked whether one came at the expense of the other. Increasingly, it has become accepted that service and savings are two sides of the same coin. In 2015, three quarters of corporate travel managers confirmed that a traveler-centric approach, with improved traveler service, could lead to savings.”