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Posted January 18, 2017

corporate travel trends

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If asked to describe today’s corporate traveler, most people would probably say something along the lines of, “a professional-looking man or woman holding a mobile device, briefcase in tow, stepping out of a taxi (or ride-sharing vehicle) on route to a business meeting.” That’s a fair enough generalization, regardless of whether said professional is in New York City, London, or Warsaw. But when a corporate travel manager considers their base of traveling employees—and their organization’s particular travel program goals—they’re wise to not take anything for granted. Most global travelers may look similar, but their travel programs may be focused on meeting different objectives.

In partnership with Egencia, Phocuswright examined current managed travel practices across two major markets and shared their findings in the white paper, Corporate Travel Trends: U.S. vs. Europe. Let’s take a look at their research highlights and consider the various areas of overlap—and those of divergence—to help global industry suppliers approach each market more effectively.

Common Trends Contain Differences

On a high level, the research found that in both the US and Europe, cost savings and compliance are the two primary drivers of travel program design. And in both regions, consumer-like flexibility of the “right” travel management technology platform marks program success because they enable seamless and cost-effective travel policy compliance.

Yet in digging into the 5 common trends, it becomes clear that US and European corporate travel managers face variances related to traveler behavior, which is, in turn, influenced by differing regional norms (e.g. European companies are more likely to provide employees with mobile devices, whereas US employees are more likely to follow BYOD policies). Here’s a closer look:

  1. Embracing online booking

The research conforms that online booking tools are now the “norm” in the US and Europe. Online adoption rates can be above 85% in both regions as, the study indicates, corporations use these tools to drive productivity and compliance. Yet business travel in Europe can be more complex—and therefore challenging for online booking channels—because of the incidence of more cross-border trips, the relative popularity of rail travel options and low cost carriers (LCCs), and the larger proportion of independent hoteliers.

As for mobile booking, according to the study, this is far from ubiquitous. In the US, mobile devices are used primarily to search for travel components, while bookings for air (20%) and hotels (35%) remain fairly low. In Europe, booking on mobile devices is still very low (below 10%), but is expected to grow.

Explore this topic further in What’s New in Corporate Business Traveler Booking? and Around the World in Travel Trends: International Booking Preferences.

  1. The mobile traveler

In the US and with most markets in Europe, over 90% of business travelers carry smartphones on their trips. But, the US, where there is a stronger use of BYOD, has been a little quicker than Europe to adopt mobile policies. That’s not to say that the US has “mature” mobile policies; the research showed that overall, corporate mobile policies/strategies lag for corporate travel.

The study also showed that US companies are tending to dictate mobile app usage by implementing a single preferred company travel app, while European companies are focusing on rolling out mobile itinerary management, something that’s currently mainstream stateside.

More mobile insights can be found in US Corporate Travel Outlook.

  1. Greater focus on duty of care

Generally, Europe has greater focus on duty of care while the US focuses as much on employee comfort as they do on formally protecting them from harm. One reason for the discrepancy, even among European nations, is that duty of care is a legal necessity in some countries and not in others (e.g. the US). Yet the prevailing message shared by study authors is that “with global terrorism on the rise over the last few years, companies in the US and Europe have increased their focus on technology to support duty of care.” GPS technology, according to the study, is used in the US to locate travelers more so than in Europe, where travelers typically have to “manually” report their whereabouts to their companies.

The study also notes that how companies regard the sharing economy as it relates to duty of care issues: European companies tend to not allow alternative lodging and car sharing whereas US companies are closer to formalizing policies allowing them. Study authors note that in just two years, corporate travel managers’ willingness on both sides of the Atlantic to consider including sharing economy services in their travel policies has been positive, thanks in part to traveler preferences as well as sharing economy companies’ formal extension into the business market.

Are Business Travelers Entrenched in the Sharing Economy? and Ride-Sharing in Corporate Travel Slowly Accelerates provide additional commentary about growth in the sharing economy.

For more, see 3 Duty of Care Best Practices for Today’s Corporate Travel Managers.

  1. Capturing out-of-channel bookings

One of the reasons corporate travel managers around the world are leveraging consumer-friendly web-based booking tools for business traveler use is because the success of travel programs depend on travelers using the services (and the negotiated rates) of travel partners. Travel professionals want to keep their employees booking with preferred suppliers and using the channels that result in both savings and safety—and travel management platforms are the go-to solution. An interesting finding related to the generational shifts in the workplace is that Millennials are more likely to book out of channel in the US than in Europe. Take a look at Booking Patterns of UK Travellers: Where, When, What, Why, to view results from a WEX survey of UK consumers.

The study also revealed that open booking, as a practice, has not been largely adopted in either market except for some high tech companies in the US. Learn more in Travel 2.0: The Basics of Open Booking.

  1. Travelers’ perceptions of getting a “better fare/rate” on their own

This trend aligns with the previous trend—it points to business traveler preferences and behaviors that challenge travel managers to find ways to “keep” employees booking in-channel and according to policy. The study concludes that companies in US and Europe need to continue educating employees on the value (and ease of use) of their travel programs and to seek innovative ways to capture out-of-channel bookings.

Get some useful Tips for Effectively Communicating Your Corporate Travel Policy.

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