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Oct 23, 2019

Skift State of Business Travel 2020 Report

Sarah Ramos

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What do today’s business travelers really want, and how does that align with the expectations and priorities of their organizations, executives and travel managers? In addition, what can the larger trends in the business travel sector tell us about the decisions travel managers and policy makers should prioritize for their organizations in the year to come?

To help uncover answers to these questions, we partnered with Skift on a research study analyzing the attitudes and opinions of corporate travel managers and business travelers. The results of that study form the basis of Skift’s State of Business Travel 2020 Report now available exclusively through Skift and TripActions. Here are just a few of the insights this new report revealed:

The Role of Business Travel Today

More than 90 percent of respondents surveyed for the report agreed or strongly agreed that business travel is important for driving company growth. Business travelers and travel managers were mostly aligned on the reasons for work trips.

For business travelers, 46 percent cited their number one reason for work trips is to “foster established business relationships” while nearly 39 percent also noted “establishing new business relationships” as a very important reason for travel. More than 50 percent of travel managers noted “closing a deal” as the top reason for business travel, followed by 40 percent agreeing that “establishing new business relationships” is a very important reason for work trips.

These figures make one thing clear: being there in person is powerful. It enables employees to build relationships, close deals, and drive growth.

What’s more, employees are not only willing to travel, but they are doing so to drive business performance. Organizations who deliver a best-in-class corporate travel program can further position employees for success while on the road to fully leverage travel as a strategic lever for business growth.

The Need for Better Tools for Travelers & Travel Managers

The vast majority of corporate travel platforms are antiquated with technology that was built in the last century. The attitudes and opinions revealed in the survey reinforce that there’s opportunity for improvement.

More than one quarter of business travelers were neutral, disagreed, or strongly disagreed that their existing corporate travel management tool is easy to use. This is not surprising given that travelers have become accustomed to the ease-of-use, convenience, and instant gratification delivered by their favorite consumer apps and services like Lyft, Venmo, and Instagram.

This sentiment was echoed by corporate travel managers. While one quarter of them rated their satisfaction with their corporate travel tool as a 10 out of 10, the balance of the respondents were spread across the scale, all the way down to nearly five percent rating their tool a 1 out of 10.

The bright spot? On the question of whether or not they felt their “company’s business travel solution was easy to use,” 73 percent of business travelers using TripActions either agreed or strongly agreed. This was in comparison to just 49 percent of business travelers using other business travel solutions, a massive 24 percentage point gap.

“We tried out several other agencies and tools before landing on TripActions, and it was honestly such a breath of fresh air,” noted Melissa Cantrell, Manager of Travel and Logistics for restaurant chain Raising Cane’s. “It was one of the first tools that actually looked like it was created in this century, and that's something that’s super important to us.”

Resolving Problems While On The Road

From being away from home, to frustrating booking tools, to being left stranded while on the road, business travel can be tough. The Skift State of Business Travel 2020 report dove into the biggest frustrations individuals face while traveling for work. The survey data revealed that two issues are consistent for travelers and travel managers.

Flight delays were the most mentioned source of frustration: more than 56 percent of travel managers and more than 65 percent of travelers noted flight delays at the top of their list. Flight cancellations came next, with 40 percent of travel managers and one third of travelers listing it as the second biggest issue they face.

While disruptions to business travel are unlikely to be eliminated, they can be mitigated. These reported frustrations signal a need for proactive support to take care of travelers when disruptions do occur so travelers can focus on what they need to accomplish when they get there rather than the process of getting there.

Another bright spot: 60 percent of business travelers from companies using TripActions either strongly agreed or agreed that their corporate travel solution “does a good job taking care of them while on a trip,” versus just 36 percent of those who organizations don’t use TripActions — a gap of 24 percentage points.

Airfare and Lodging Booking Preferences

Like everyone else in business, travel managers and business travelers are consumers in their personal lives. So it’s no surprise that when corporate booking tools don’t prioritize a great experience with all the needed inventory at the right place, travelers will go rogue, booking through the least path of resistance.

Through technologies like New Distribution Capability (NDC) and ATPCO’s Next Generation Storefront (NGS), the online shopping experience for business travel is evolving to better present supplier content to business travelers, creating a win-win-win. It’s a win for travelers who enjoy a far superior booking experience. It’s a win for travel managers who gain spend visibility, insights and the ability to drive savings when all of their employees are booking through the same tool. And it’s a win for suppliers who appreciate their inventory presented in a B2B context.

With this in mind, what’s important to business travelers and travel managers when booking flights and lodging? Flight departure schedule was the most important factor mentioned for both business travelers (80 percent) and corporate travel managers (63 percent). For lodging, both listed location as the number one selection criteria when picking a place to stay.

And even though apartment-style accommodations are seeing growing interest by the industry, many survey respondents said they preferred staying in hotels. More than 90 percent of business travelers selected hotels as the “best” option when it came to lodging. Meanwhile, only four percent picked a DIY apartment (Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO, etc.) as the “best” option.

Regardless of what the actual preferences might be, it’s becoming increasingly critical that travel platforms surface options that keep both travelers and their travel managers happy.

Loyalty, Perks, and Points

Corporate travel managers showed near-universal agreement that travelers should be able to earn and retain their loyalty points as a perk (which as you’d expect is inline with traveler preferences). The top three perks that organizations allow as noted by travel managers, include:

  • Travelers are able to earn loyalty points when booking travel, cited by 80 percent of travel managers
  • Travelers have their choice of various hotel chains, the second-most cited benefit at 62 percent
  • Travelers can earn rewards-like gift cards for saving money on lodging, cited by 42 percent of travel managers

Among the business travelers that spoke with Skift in one on one interviews, many said their company’s gift card reward program had significant influence on their travel spending decisions.

These are just a few of the insights in the just released Skift State of Business Travel 2020 Report available exclusively from Skift and TripActions. Download your copy of the report now for more insights and to see how an exceptional business travel experience leads to happy travelers who use your corporate travel platform. That of course delivers high adoption giving travel managers improved spend visibility, deeper insights to drive savings, and the ability to fulfill their duty of care commitments. And that’s a great state for corporate travel going into 2020!

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