The global travel research agency Phocuswright set out to examine the forces and dynamics at work in the business travel market, in a recent study. Using information from interviews with travel providers and data from their Travel Manager Survey 2015, Phocuswright was able to quantify these important business travel trends. Their findings have important duty of care and traveler safety implications for your corporate travel policy. Here are a few of the most important findings from the recent study.
Up and to the right
The first thing you need to know is that the business travel market is huge and growing. Spending on business travel has been surging for the past five years. Managed travel, the type in which your employees follow a company travel policy for making and booking travel, “represents about a third of the total U.S. travel market and is projected to have reached $112 billion in 2015, a 4 percent increase over the previous year,” according to Phocuswright, and that trend is expected to continue. “Growth will moderate slightly to 3 percent annually through 2017, when the market will reach $119 billion.”
Spending on airlines and hotels is expected to see the most increase. Phocuswright projects a growth of 3-5 percent per year through 2017 in these areas, with ultimately more than 90 percent of spending on business travel going to lodging and flights. Ground transportation is also expected to see some major gains, moving to an estimated $1.8 billion in 2017 from just $1.4 billion in 2014. Most of this increase is due to ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Currently, 39 percent of travel managers have included ride-hailing in their corporate travel policies or plan to add it soon.
Out of policy travel
It’s big, but the part you need to watch is how employee behavior is changing with regard to business travel. According to Phocuswright, “While the managed travel market is forecasted to grow 3% annually through 2017, its share of the total travel market will drop from 33% in 2015 to 31% in 2017 due to the faster 6% annual growth in leisure and unmanaged business travel.” Ultimately, business travelers are circumnavigating their company’s travel policies and making their travel arrangements and taking the responsibilities into their own hands. While some companies – around 7 percent – offer open booking for employees, around three out of four travel managers surveyed said that they would not allow off-policy booking, citing the inability to leverage volume discounts as a primary reason.
Roughly half of the people Phocuswright surveyed said that they prefer to book off-policy and do from time to time, even though they know it may go against company travel policy. And age is playing a role. Younger generations are more likely to go off-policy with their business travel arrangements. In the case of millennials, as many as 64 percent understand their company’s policies, but still book travel outside of those policies. While there are many reasons for doing so, be it the ease of grabbing an Uber instead of taking an approved taxi or a desire to stay at a more convenient hotel, this tendency presents a real issue for the companies that employ those workers.
Policy and traveler behavior
While cost is a consideration – in the Phocuswright study, almost 60 percent of travel managers said increased cost savings was a primary concern – policy complain and duty of care are almost just as important. Phocuswright found that 47 percent of travel managers identified policy compliance as a top priority and some 39 percent were concerned with managing traveler safety and upholding duty of care.
There is also a notable tendency for travelers to prefer mobile solutions. User experience plays a major role – it is more convenient – but many companies are seeing duty of care implications as well. For instance, location-enabled services can make keeping an eye on traveler safety easier. Mobile solutions also make contactless payment a possibility, removing the need for separate corporate credit cards and streamlining cost management.
You might allow travelers to plan their own business travel or you may have a corporate travel policy in place, but it can be hard to know how your company should set its policies. Managing costs and negotiating discounts will play a role, especially if you work for a large corporation. However, traveler safety, duty of care, and the simple practicalities of travel can weigh just as heavily.
Understanding these trends and forces will help your company create a travel policy that preserves your duty of care while managing costs. You can learn what forces are shaping the modern business travel policy and make adjustments to your company’s parameters so that you stay on top of your game, providing duty of care while keeping costs at a minimum.