Major business traveler study across key global markets finds disconnect between companies and employees on range of factors, from security to ‘rogue’ bookings
NEW YORK – May 8, 2018 – While a large majority of business travelers acknowledge the value of traveling for work, a varying percentage across markets are reluctant to comply with company travel policies, citing issues including lack of clarity and understanding, desire for privacy and doubts around employers’ duty-of-care obligations. In many cases, travelers believe they know better when it comes to health, safety and saving company money.
Traveler 360⁰, a new study from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), surveyed 2,000 business travelers from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Singapore and India, to gain insights into travelers’ perceptions and attitudes regarding their companies’ travel programs. Across markets, respondents were generally favorable about both their jobs and the value and benefits of traveling for business. Despite such positive sentiment, however, the survey revealed clear areas of opportunity for employers to show greater support of employees, especially in regard to safety, flexibility and wellbeing.
American Express GBT continues to study the evolution of the modern business traveler, and recognizes the need for the corporate travel industry to evolve with customers. The Traveler 360⁰ study has helped to identify key points of improvement, including the need for more education about travel policies and the benefits of compliance, and better engagement and communications with travelers.
A majority of the travelers surveyed were aware of their company’s travel and expense policies, but more than half of them outside of the U.S. believe the policies are unclear, leading to failure to comply with them. Traveler satisfaction has become a key pillar of a successful travel program because of its link to employee productivity, morale and retention. As the travel landscape continues to evolve, American Express GBT is committed to investing in further understanding the changing preferences and behaviors of modern business travelers, and sharing that knowledge with travel managers.
U.S. Highlights: Business travelers deviate from the global norm
In the United States, business travelers have distinctive attitudes towards business travel that largely stray from other surveyed countries. In general, U.S. travelers are less concerned about the impact business travel has on their personal lives, with less than half believing that it hurts healthy living, makes meeting other work obligations difficult, or can be stressful. Only one in five business travelers believe their company travel policies are unclear, while three out of five respondents follow policy all of the time. The starkest difference in attitudes between the U.S. and the other countries is travelers’ concerns about security. Despite the current geopolitical climate, only a third of U.S. travelers expressed security concerns, either domestic or international – compared to 51-77% in the other countries surveyed.
The study found that nine out of ten business travelers outside of the U.S. and eight out of ten in the U.S. understand the value of business travel, noting its importance in both business and individual success. Despite the positive sentiment, the majority of employees (52-79%) outside the U.S don’t adhere to travel policy all the time – whereas U.S. travelers are considerably more compliant with just 40% sometimes going outside policy. When it comes to traveler location technology, U.S. travelers are the least keen on employers knowing their whereabouts at all times: just 40% see the need for this, compared to 62-84% in the other countries.
U.K. Highlights: Cost-conscious with a focus on well-being
The majority of business travelers in the United Kingdom are aware (74%) that their company has a travel policy and are very or extremely familiar with it (78%). At the same time, 61% of U.K. travelers report not following policy all of the time. An overwhelming 94% say they would book out of policy if it meant minimizing any negative impact to their health and well-being. Particularly concerning to note is that only one third of respondents believe their employer always has their safety in mind when they travel for business, suggesting a need for better communications. While holding an aversion to policy if it encroaches on their wellbeing, travelers in the U.K. are cost-conscious on the company’s behalf and nearly 90% agree it is important they save their company money when booking business travel. This behavior is largely encouraged by the person approving their expense reports, and 8 in 10 travelers require approval prior to booking travel and/or submitting an expense report.
France Highlights: Concerned about security
Similar to the U.K., a majority (76%) of business travelers from France are very familiar with their business travel policy, though 59% say their company does not have a clear policy, and 64% report not following policy all the time − key reasons are as cited as safety and security, as well as health and wellbeing. In fact, France’s top two challenges are centered around security concerns, with the third being not able to adjust travel arrangements if something unexpected happens. Despite concerns, travelers from France are even more cost-conscious than the UK, and 94% of respondents say it is important to save their company money when booking business travel. Acting on this sentiment may be easier in this market, as the majority of travelers know about upcoming trips at least a month in advance.
Germany Highlights: Unclear and minimal policy
While travelers from India and France are more likely to return from business travel feeling motivated (50% and 42% respectively), nearly half of respondents from Germany (the second highest percentage after the U.S. at 67%) say they return feeling relieved to be home. At the same time, these respondents are unanimously satisfied with their jobs (100%). While 84% are very familiar with their company’s travel policy (the second-highest result after India), these respondents are of the just 67% who are certain their company actually has a policy − Germany trails all other markets in this regard. A further 58% of German business travelers don’t believe the policy they do have is clear when it comes to business travel and expense reporting.
Australia Highlights: Middle of the road with personal flexibility
Nearly half of business travelers from Australia report being relieved to be home after a trip, just 21% of respondents report always being allowed to be flexible with amount of time spent traveling to reflect their personal lives, and 51% saying ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’. This is the second lowest result in terms of flexibility after Singapore. In line with the sentiment among their international peers, the majority of business travelers from Australia are familiar with their business travel policy, though nearly half of respondents believe their company does not have a clear policy when it comes to business travel and expense reporting. More than half report not following policy all the time, and more than 30% say they are not aware of/don’t have a company travel policy.
Singapore Highlights: App-based preferences scrutinized
In the other countries, at least 7 in 10 travelers believe that their employers have their safety in mind most of the time when they travel for business, but just 59% of travelers from Singapore feel this way. Just 49% believe their company has a clear policy when it comes to business travel and expense reporting. Furthermore, only 45% find apps to book travel easy to use; significant as three quarters of Singaporean business travelers use an app to book their trip. For this group of travelers, convenient locations are a key reason to book out of policy and their behavior is most affected by incentives.
India Highlights: Complicated expense reports deter compliance
In India, 90% of business travel respondents report their company has a business travel policy, and of those, 90% are extremely or very familiar with it. Yet, not unlike their international peers, more than half (53%) believe the company does not have clear travel and expense policies. Business travelers from India in particular believe that expense reports are overly complicated. Only 47% said their company has a strictly enforced policy – the second lowest country result after France – and 66% report not following policy all of the time. Convenient locations are the key reasoning for booking out of policy, and similar to business travelers from Singapore, those from India are most likely to be influenced by incentives to comply with policy.
Traveler 360⁰: methodology
American Express Global Business Travel partnered with market research firm GfK to conduct this research of business travelers. GfK conducted an online survey of adult business travelers using a blend of KnowledgePanel™ and opt-in sample. The survey was conducted among business travelers living in the United States (N=750), United Kingdom (N=201), France (N=206), Germany (N=200), Australia (N=200), Singapore (N=205), and India (N=201) from November 17 – December 6, 2017. For the purposes of this study, business travelers are defined as those who have spent at least the equivalent of 5 days in the past 12 months traveling for business that included an overnight stay.
To view and download the Traveler 360⁰ study from American Express Global Business Travel, please visit: https://www.amexglobalbusinesstravel.com/the-atlas/traveler-360-report
About American Express Global Business Travel
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) equips companies of all sizes with the insights, tools, services and expertise they need to keep their travelers informed, focused and productive while on the road. With approximately 12,000 employees and operations in nearly 120 countries worldwide, GBT empowers customers to take control of their travel programs, optimizing the return on their travel and meetings investments, while, more importantly, providing extraordinary traveler care.
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) is a joint venture that is not wholly owned by American Express Company or any of its subsidiaries (American Express). “American Express Global Business Travel,” “American Express,” and the American Express logo are trademarks of American Express and are used under limited license.