Security and safety concerns have overtaken cost control as the number one priority of corporate executives when considering business travel growth, according to new research from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT). The agency’s Barometer report also claimed business travel budgets in Europe were growing at double the expected rate heading into 2015.
The 2015 EVP Barometer by American Express Global Business Travel (the ‘Barometer’) highlighted that companies’ international development plans stand out as a major growth driver.
The Barometer released during the GBT’s 25th annual EVP, held in Paris, showed business travel spending increased by 1.42% in 2015, more than twice the rise anticipated in the 2014 Barometer (0.7%).
When it comes to cost control, efforts appear to be more focused now on improving processes than on the direct costs themselves, the report concluded. Process improvements include: online and expense management tools, and more consideration to the nature and purpose of travel before booking trips.
Elyes Mrad, managing director of EMEA at American Express GBT, said the Barometer revealed that respondents were optimistic when it came to business travel spending, however they continued to perceive business travel as a cost, rather than an investment. “This demonstrates that calculating the return-on-investment of business travel is still a challenge for companies,” he said.
“Companies should work closely with travel management companies to address their evolving business travel priorities of security, cost control and traveller satisfaction, while introducing technology and innovation to help their overall programme efficiency,” Mrad added.
Key findings from the Barometer included half of the companies’ surveyed saying they aimed to grow their businesses by expanding abroad over the next year, compared to 38% in 2014.
Furthermore, the study showed that one third of respondents planned to increase their business travel budgets within the next three years, compared to 18% in 2014.
However, 76% of respondents still view business travel as a necessary cost, compared with 24% who see it as an investment.
The Barometer pointed to a considerable boost in the importance of traveller satisfaction, which leapt up to third place among companies’ priorities from sixth place last year.
Half of respondents now measure the satisfaction of their business travellers, compared to 45% last year; and 22% use this feedback to improve their travel policies. Travel managers appear to be mindful that the adoption of tools and processes which positively affect the travel experience, such as itinerary management, incorporation of mobile technologies and new means of payment or expense reconciliation, has a direct impact on travellers’ satisfaction and productivity.
According to the Barometer, the upswing in business travel spending witnessed this year is likely to continue in 2016, with respondents expecting a 1-3% rise in total travel spending over the coming year.
When asked about the aspects which will grow in importance over the coming year, the top four elements cited by respondents were: Price optimisation (50%), Security solutions (41%), Reliability of data (41%) and Quality of overall travel programme management (40).
The Barometer was prepared by Concomitance from interviews with 580 persons in charge of corporate travel budgets and possessing an aggregated expenditure of €1.3bn. The interviewees were spread over companies based in 10 major European countries.