Despite a geopolitical climate that potentially could have had a negative impact on business travel (i.e., Brexit and travel restrictions initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump), European companies saw their travel spend grow by 3.1 percent in 2017, — which is stronger than the 2.5 percent that was forecast — according to the 2018 edition of the American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) European Business Travel Barometer. The results of the Barometer, which were unveiled in March at the Espace Voyages Professionnels (EVP) business travel trade show in Paris, also indicate that the outlook remains optimistic for 2018, with growth in travel spend estimated at 3.4 percent.

The study, which involved nearly 1,000 travel buyers in companies of all sizes from 11 European countries, offers a detailed overview of business travel trends and practices in Europe. Here are several key findings:

  • Security is an essential component of most travel policies. For the third consecutive year, security was chosen as the most important criterion when creating a travel policy, with more firms focusing on preventive measures, including enhanced risk assessment and traveler awareness. However, while 84 percent of larger organizations have duty of care solutions in place, only 71 percent of medium-sized companies and 52 percent of small companies have implemented such measures.
  • Mobile devices are seen as a preferred channel for improving the traveller experience. Not only are these devices seen as a way to boost productivity, but they also are essential when travellers need support on the road, whether it’s to rebook their trip when a problem occurs or request assistance during an emergency. Travellers also rely on mobile phones to receive travel alerts, make payments, make trip modifications and handle check-ins. Eighty-three percent of companies (and 90 percent of large companies) see mobile devices as an additional booking method, but not as a replacement to offline or online booking.
  • Companies are seeking new cost and optimisation strategies. While cost monitoring remains a core element of corporate travel policies, more than half of companies (55 percent vs. 48 percent last year) believe they have reached a limit in terms of travel expenditure optimization. Historically, direct costs were the main targets for reducing travel spend, but companies now are shifting to new strategies, including substantial optimisation of indirect costs as well as improving travel conditions and employee efficiency.
  • A more streamlined, efficient travel programme is key for travel buyers. This finding is reflected in the top priorities for cost optimisation measures: increasing online booking is in first place (fifth place in the 2017 edition), followed by advance assessment of the relevance of the trip and its cost (+2 places), increasing advance bookings (-1 place) and increasing the use of corporate rates (-1 place). While 40 percent of companies questioned agree that using ‘sharing economy’ suppliers could be an important cost-savings strategy, it remains in last place (20th) in the rankings.
  • Traveller satisfaction may (or may not) influence policy. Even though improving the traveller experience is an important consideration for companies, this year, measuring satisfaction as an element of travel policy seems to have reached a plateau: 56 percent of businesses indicate they measure traveller satisfaction and 32 percent (-1 percentage point vs. last year’s results) indicate they change their policy accordingly. Still, companies say listening to their employees is important: 57 percent of respondents said employees’ opinions do have an impact on the travel policy (+11 percentage points).
  • Travel management companies are experiencing some challenges but still provide tremendous value. Although they face competition from online travel agencies and are being pressured to adapt their models to align with companies’ changing needs, TMCs still generate the most savings compared to any other channel and offer more efficient tools and hotel distribution systems (content aggregators). TMCs’ end-to-end support solutions also allow for optimal management and an increase in the adoption of online booking as well as a precise evaluation of the relevance and cost of travel — the top two strategies for streamlining costs in 2017, according to the report.

To discover what other trends will be impacting business travel this year, download the entire European Business Travel Barometer by filling out the form below and clicking “submit.”

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