London, UK – 12 March 2018 – Organised by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) with the support of American Express Meetings & Events, the 27th edition of EVP (the business travel trade show Espace Voyages Professionnels) was held on March 7, 2018, at the Pavillon Cambon in Paris.  The annual event was the setting for American Express GBT to present the results of the 2018 edition of its European Business Travel Barometer
The results of the 2018 European Business Travel Barometer reflect the economic recovery that began two years ago. Forecasts made in late 2016 (estimated growth of 2.5%) were exceeded, with the marketplace experiencing growth of 3.1% in 2017, mainly driven by medium-sized companies (+5%) and small companies (+3%). The outlook remains optimistic for 2018, with growth in travel spend estimated at 3.4%. Just as in 2017, the geopolitical situation − particularly Brexit and travel restrictions initiated by U.S. President Donald Trump − has not had a significant impact on travel spend, according to the majority of respondents (65% and 60% respectively).

From this year’s data, three main elements characterise the evolution of business travel for European companies:

1.     A greater focus on client and prospect-facing travel to drive sales

2.     The search for a balance between travel policy and traveller support

3.     The evolution of the role of the travel agency

The prioritisation of client/prospect-facing travel is closely related to the importance placed on face-to-face meetings, which have been repositioned by companies as the preferred method of interaction for business development. This trend is illustrated by refocusing expenditure on conferences, conventions and corporate events (+5 percentage points) to the detriment of internal business travel.  The increased presence of employees in the field was also noted, with 42.1% travelling in 2017 compared to 39.7% in 2016.

This year, four factors characterise companies’ focus on travel policy and traveller support, continuing the trends of previous barometers:

·         Security, an essential feature of a travel policy

·         Improvement of the traveller experience and the role of mobile devices

·         Costs and optimisation strategies

·         Consideration of traveller satisfaction

While maintaining their central role in the management of travel policies and the decrease in open booking, TMCs are increasingly challenged by buyers, and they are losing out to competition from online operators and local agencies. However, in this competitive environment, the report finds TMCs’ value is confirmed by their service offering, which always has more options, end-to-end solutions and tools to make savings while maximising the traveller experience.

“The results of the Barometer emphasise the growing importance given to business meetings. In an increasingly connected world, business travel and face-to-face meetings play an ever more central role in the development of companies and their client assets,” said Elyes Mrad, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, International, at American Express GBT.

Mrad added: “Aware of what is at stake regarding business travel, companies want more and more support, with solutions to better control travel management and balance the needs of their travellers with company priorities. This is where the travel agency must demonstrate all its expertise and added value by positioning itself as a true business partner and anticipating future needs.”

Security, an essential feature of a travel polic

For the third consecutive year, security was chosen as the most important criterion when creating a travel policy. The results remain stable in 2017, with 65% of the surveyed companies having implemented a duty-of-care policy (compared to 64% in 2016).

In parallel, preventive trends observed in 2017 are set to continue in 2018. We see a notable advancement in framework policies that focus on preventive measures, improving risk assessment, training and information policies for employees ahead of the trip.

The concept of risk assessment is accompanied by traveller awareness; the number of travellers who are now more proactively adopting duty-of-care solutions is at 29% (+6 percentage points), and those who are open to them is at 49% (+14 percentage points).

Nevertheless, there is a disparity in the implementation of this type of solution according to the size of the company. This evidenced by 84% of large companies implementing duty-of-care solutions, whereas 71% of medium-sized companies and 52% of small companies have done so.

Improvement of the traveller experience and the role of mobile devices

The Barometer shows that companies place increasing importance on improving traveller experience.

Companies primarily want to improve traveller productivity and comfort by providing them with more assistance and support. More specifically, it is essential to be able to offer a new booking in the event of a problem, to provide safety and security solutions, to improve customer service and the expense reporting process.

Mobile devices are now at the heart of traveller support.

Mobile devices are seen by 83% of companies (and 90% of large companies) as an additional booking method, and not as a replacement to offline or online booking.

Mobile devices are an essential part of daily life for companies and travellers. Their scope of use extends past the booking stage, to receiving alerts, making trip modifications, facilitating check-in, making payments and more. Mobile devices are the preferred channel for improving the traveller experience.

In 2018, the use of non-business-related services will increase, with a more B2B2C-based approach characterised by services such as concierge services (30% expect to use them) or even leisure services (31%).

Costs and optimisation strategies

Spend optimisation, analysis and monitoring remain at the core of company travel policies in 2017. While it was a dominant feature a few years ago, it is now joined by other priorities that have emerged and been established over the last few years.

While cost monitoring remains central, more than half of companies (55% vs. 48% last year) seem to think they have reached a limit in terms of travel expenditure optimisation. This is particularly true of smaller businesses (62%). This is explained by the fact that these companies do not have sufficient tools or resources to deploy cost optimisation strategies. It could even be down to the low competition among agencies for this category of company (which uses a higher proportion of online or local agencies).

In addition to the substantial optimisation of indirect costs (41%, +1 percentage point vs. 2017), improving travel conditions and employee efficiency (24%, +7 percentage points) emerges as a new strategy for reducing expenditure. This is a new development in a context where historically, most actions were taken on direct costs (35%, -7 percentage points). Optimising costs is therefore no longer simply a synonym for reducing them.

A more streamlined, efficient travel programme is the key theme for travel buyers

Efficiency is reflected in the top priorities for cost optimisation measures: increasing online booking is in first place (fifth place in 2017), 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).

Replacing internal trips with audio, video, web conferences and remote work slips to fifth place this year (first place in 2017). It remains an important strategy, but it is no longer considered as a direct substitute for all types of travel: today, external trips are considered as an investment, and one that companies are willing to make.

While 40% of those questioned agree that using ‘sharing economy’ suppliers could be an important strategy for making savings, turning to this method remains in 20th and last place in the rankings. While 52% of respondents say they intend to use these suppliers in the next two years, 20% remain reluctant to use them. The reasons given for this mainly revolve around a lack of guarantees regarding the safety of travellers and data security. The ‘sharing economy’ still lacks support from company buyers, despite the willingness of some travellers to access it

Consideration of traveller satisfaction

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% of businesses indicate that they measure traveller satisfaction, and 32% (-1 percentage point vs. 2016) indicate that they change their policy accordingly.

 

Nevertheless, companies say that listening to their employees is important: 57% of respondents said employees’ opinions will have an impact on the travel policy (+11 percentage points). Key areas in which employees’ opinions are seen as significant include: choice of new booking tools (tablets, mobile devices, etc.) at 72%; preferred booking options (direct, via a travel agency, etc.) at 67%; and duty-of-care solutions at 62%. 

Justifying TMC use: an increasing challenge

Overall, 79% of companies say they work with at least one agency, a similar figure to last year. This year, the tendency to resort to multiple agencies has increased by 7 points. It is also reflected by an increase in the phenomenon of mixed agencies, including online agencies and B2B booking platforms.

Although TMCs see online operators as their main competitors, they comfortably affirm their added value by ensuring better expenditure control and offering more efficient tools and hotel distribution systems (content aggregators). The question of hotel content is crucial, since it is the parameter that is most closely measured by companies.

Using a TMC also allows companies to limit open booking. Although travel agencies process more than 51% of bookings overall, the TMC model, when it’s the company’s main agency, remains by far the most effective in limiting open booking, covering 76% of bookings (directly or indirectly). Specifically, it allows companies to increase compliance with the travel policy, thus ensuring better expenditure optimisation and better traveller security management.

In terms of results, the TMC model generates the most savings compared to other channels. TMCs end-to-end support solutions 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.

Companies choosing to work with a TMC confirm their interest in all the management and advice elements that they are provided with, and they reveal the travel agency is an important part of business travel management.

TMCs are faced with the global issue of adapting their models to align with company developments and changing needs. This is reflected in the research: 25% of companies challenged TMC business models, an increase of 6 percentage points compared to last year. This requires significant review, particularly concerning the choice of technology provider integration and flexibility in their service offers.

So, while companies’ priorities are well defined and relatively similar across European markets and size of business, the variable maturity of their travel management programmes does cause some fragmentation in the market. In this context, travel agencies must adapt to each one, refocusing on the customer and travellers, to become the driver of change that companies want them to be.

The study involved around 1,000 travel buyers in companies of all sizes, from 11 European countries, providing a clear and detailed overview of business travel trends and practices.

This year’s EVP brought together more than 350 buyers and partners from the sector. With keynote speakers and special guests, participants enjoyed GBT’s expertise and perspective on the major business travel trends and developments.

The 2018 European Business Travel Barometer is available to download here.

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About American Express Global Business Travel

American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) provides all types of companies with the advice, tools and expertise necessary to ensure that their employees are well-informed and have productive business trips. GBT employs nearly 12,000 people in 120 countries. It allows its customers to manage their travel programmes, while maximising their return on investment on travel and meetings, and offering a premium service to its customers.

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American Express Global Business Travel (“GBT”) is a joint venture company, partly owned by American Express Company and its subsidiaries (“American Express”). “American Express Global Business Travel”, “American Express” and the American Express logo are registered trademarks of American Express and are used under limited licence.

About American Express Meetings & Events

American Express Meetings & Events is a division of American Express Global Business Travel. It is an events design and production agency that conceives and stages interactions the company and the people in its sector.

As part of the American Express Global Business Travel network, the agency benefits from strategic international partnerships and a procurement and implementation force deployed in 50 countries. It combines the operational means and security of a multinational company with the flexibility of business on a human scale, while bringing meaning and value that stay with participants and optimise their experience.

With more than 40 years of experience in the industry, American Express Meetings & Events also offers its customers leading expertise and capabilities for the implementation of consolidated budget optimisation programmes at a local, regional and international level.

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