Flexibility, life quality critical to business traveller satisfaction: research

Study from ACTE Global and American Express Global Business Travel demonstrates the importance of choice in corporate travel programs

May 7, 2018
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Toronto, ON—In an increasingly fragmented travel marketplace, and amid the proliferation of technologies that offer more choice than ever, corporate travel buyers must walk a tightrope between flexibility and sensible travel policy. According to new research from ACTE Global (Association of Corporate Travel Executives), in conjunction with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), travellers are demanding to control their travel experiences—and travel executives must adapt as they continue to align travel programs with organizational objectives and resource constraints.

The study, Balancing Business Travel Tools & Policy for the Traveller Experience, reveals how managers are addressing travellers’ growing demands for quality of life and autonomy on the road. Thirty-seven percent of travel managers surveyed report an increase in enquiries about work-life balance, a slight increase from the October 2017 research, when the figure was 31 percent. The options sought by travellers appear to present real cost-saving opportunities: Thirty-two percent of managers saw growth in requests to use chain hotels, while 22 percent saw more employees asking about sharing lodgings with colleagues. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) say more travellers are asking for improved technology to manage travel.

Travel managers want choice, too—but fear the impact on their programs. Travellers are not alone in feeling that outdated travel policies and limited options inhibit them and have a negative impact on the success of business trip. Travel managers feel constrained, as well: 38 percent say programs suffer from limited content while one-fifth believe access to multiple booking channels can help improve them. However, a much larger proportion—nearly half—worry that increasing options will erode their control of the program. Ultimately, managers must strike a balance between offering a retail-like experience to travellers while maintaining a robust program that deters off-channel bookings and rewarding conscientious budgeting.

Safety and security remain top priorities
Further driving the need for dialogue and collaboration is ongoing traveller concern about safety and security. The global travel landscape remains volatile and uncertain amid shifting geopolitical tensions, devastating natural disasters and an increasingly complex web of travel security policies worldwide. Nearly half (46 percent) of travel managers say they’ve seen an increase in enquiries about personal safety—down from the 51 percent who reported an increase in October 2017 and the 65 percent who did so in 2016. While the rate of growth may be slowing, it remains significant, demanding that travel managers grapple with an ever-evolving threat environment.

Finding a better balance
While increasing innovation and technological change may be creating instability in the corporate travel arena, it’s also driving the evolution of travel program development, ensuring travel policies continue to meet the needs and requirements of modern business travellers. A little more than a third (36 percent) of travel managers say they are planning to upgrade their technology. However, this may be a major missed opportunity: It is among the most effective ways to address travellers’ desire for choice, ease and flexibility.

Travel managers may also want to take a cue from their peers at companies with a younger workforce (where the average traveller age is under 40)—these “younger” organizations are often leading the charge when it comes to updating their programs to address modern expectations. For example, 83 percent of younger organizations provide or plan to provide trip information apps.