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Business Travel by the Numbers

Business Travel by the Numbers

Have you stopped to think about what goes into corporate travel?  How large it is?  Who is traveling most?  What travelers do and don’t like about it?  We trolled the internet to round up the latest and greatest statistics about corporate travel.   Let’s take a good look inside the corporate travel industry by the numbers!

How Big is Corporate Travel?

Corporate Travel is a trillion-dollar industry!   The U.S. and China are the world’s biggest business travel spenders.

Americans make more than 405 million long-distance business trips per year.  This means about 1.1 million people are traveling for business every day in the U.S.  The Big Apple – New York City – is the most common business travel destination, though the fastest growing business travel destination is Shanghai.

Business passengers represent 75 percent of an airline’s profits despite only being 12% of their total passengers.  But the money is well spent:  every $1.00 spent on business travel creates $15 of profit for increased sales.

Business Traveler Preferences

How are business travelers booking their travel?  We know that 79% of corporate travelers used their mobile phones to complete bookings through on online booking tool last year.

Whoever thought that one day we’d be booking flights from the palms of our hands? But, from 2016-2017, the number of people who booked travel plans solely from their mobile devices rose a whopping 70%.  Superhero Corporate TravelerPlus, over 23% of all business flights are booked outside of standard business hours these days.   That tells us that not only are business men and women using their phones to book travel, they’re doing so outside the office.

Sadly, 23% of business travelers wait until the week before departure to book domestic trips, which decreases policy compliance especially because rates increase dramatically the closer you get to your travel date.   Flights wind up costing more than policy allows and exceeds company budgets!

Alas, technology cannot replace connecting in person.  Nearly 70% of business travelers agree it is difficult to build business relationships over video and 91% agree they’d rather close a deal in person.   Thus, the infamous “business trip” shall go on.

For most business travelers, their frustration begins with booking the trip.  83% of business people said it takes more than an hour to book a business trip.  But, booking travel is not their biggest pain point.

When they travel, what is the biggest concern for business people?  The #1 corporate travel concern by airplane passengers is flight delays. The second concern? A middle seat!

Where is the money going?

Hand holding bag of moneyWould you believe it if I told you that the majority of companies’ travel budgets is spent on meals? Corporate Travelers expense up to 3 billion dollars in fast food every year!

The next 17% of a corporate travel budget is spent on flights, 13% on hotels, and the remaining 49% is spent on everything from tolls to gas and miscellaneous expenses.

What do you think is the #1 most important factor for business people booking hotel accommodations?   Nope, not price! It’s proximity.  The location of a hotel close to the meeting destination is the most important factor for corporate travelers when deciding where they want to lodge.  This can also cost the company more money since paying for location tends to be higher.

What’s the Deal with Travel Policy?

Despite the massive amount of employees who travel for business, only 60% of companies have a corporate travel policy in place for employees to follow. Of corporations that do have a policy, most employees report that they do comply with it.  In fact, a Travelport study reported that 69% of business travelers say they “always comply with policy”.

We think that number is a bit optimistic, otherwise travel managers would not struggle so much to meet their budgets.    In a separate study by Amadeus, only 50% of travelers said they followed company policy. What’s more troubling is that in this same study, 60% of business travelers admitted they don’t even understand their company’s travel policy.

Speaking of travel managers, when asked if they feel confident that they could locate traveling employees in a crisis within two hours, only half agreed that they could. Moreover, only 8% of travelers reported that their travel agent proactively reaches out when plans unexpectedly change.

Millennials

Even though the average age of a corporate traveler is 45 years, millennials are impacting corporate travel in significant ways.  First, they’re spending more time on the road when they do travel.  The average business traveler takes around 6.8 trips a year, but millennials average 7.4 trips per year.

Apparently, the younger members of the workforce aren’t complaining about having to travel for work. Most of them consider business travel to be a perk of the job, and 65% of them see it as a status symbol.

Millennials have boujee preferences too.  They are 60% more likely to upgrade for more legroom on flights than non-millennials.  Further, 21% of millennials do not belong to any loyalty program and are less interested in loyalty programs in general.  Too much commitment.   Though they are game to ride-share with services like Uber so in some small way they’re saving the company cents.

The most significant impact by millennials on corporate travel has been the increase in “Bleisure” trips that have increased over 20% in recent years and continues to rise.

The Future of Business Travel

The outlook for global travel spending is expected to reach $1.7 trillion dollars by 2022.  While current global trade tensions are suspected to slow international business travel slightly, it will continue to rise overall.

Business travelers are changing, and business travel tools are evolving with them.   Today’s business traveler wants a seamless experience with flexible choices and dynamic business policies.  Trondent can help your corporation achieve this experience and save time and money for both traveler and the company.

More Corporations Allow Bliesure

More Corporations Allow Bliesure

Business travel trends come and go, but few generate as much buzz as “bleisure.”  Would you believe me if I told you that bleisure is actually a very conventional practice, just under a fresh marketing term? In fact, there has always been a decent segment of the business travel population with the means and professional flexibility to add leisure days onto business trips.

While vacationing before, during or after a business trip is not new, the fact that corporations are re-writing their travel policies to accommodate it is the real trend unfolding here.

Bliesure is NOT New

If anything, bleisure is old news.  The main difference is that today’s corporations are looking for creative ways to attract top talent, boost employee benefits, and retain key players. As such, they seek to rectify travel policies so that they include perks like Bliesure.

Executive travelers have always enjoyed the privilege to extend their business trips here and there, but it just wasn’t discussed as an option for all employees.   Now that the corporate culture has shifted to emphasize employee’s overall well-being, we are seeing that luxury opening up to all.

A lack of generational workforce research makes it hard to compare today’s business travelers to their predecessors of the 1980s and 1990s. As more companies offer travel policies that accommodate sightseeing, tourism and similar diversions, however, bleisure is steadily growing as an employment benefit. Therein lies the real trend.

Even though most modern companies value employee wellness, some may have a hard time getting behind lenient travel policies.

The Marketing Angle

Travel advertising is the principal motivation behind the meteoric rise of the so-called bleisure trend. Tour agents and companies love outreach gimmicks, so latching on to the concept of rewarding business travel seemed like a natural fit.  Bleisure gives them the opportunity to sell more sightseeing packages.

Still, leading enterprises recognize the value of employee satisfaction and work-life balance.   They’ve learned that offering superior benefits like Bliesure helps them

  • Retain more qualified employees
  • Stay competitive in the hiring arena
  • Build camaraderie and establish rewarding corporate cultures around shared experiences
  • Reduce workplace stress
  • Increase productivity

Paving the Way with Policy

Thinkific, a Vancouver software firm, extended its bleisure travel program beyond the norm. Instead of only permitting top executives to stretch corporate trips for leisure purposes, the firm gave all of its employees the leeway to explore, enjoy mini-vacations and visit family members en route.

According to HR specialists, such policies go beyond helping employees trade stress for productivity. They also attract top talent, which makes sense in an employment landscape where many workers view business travel employment as a desirable status symbol.

Travel experts note that permitting bleisure travel doesn’t necessarily mean sanctioning free-for-all risk-taking. As always, it’s wise to help your travelers steer clear of situations that might place them or your reputation in harm’s way. For instance, you might restrict the number of days that employees can spend vacationing in certain places or prohibit them from participating in controversial or life-threatening activities.

Incorporating Bleisure Into Travel Program

Young couple travelingThe most effective way to manage trip-extension requests is to craft an agile travel policy that anticipates such demands. Your company travel policy needs to educate employees about the legal responsibilities and personal liabilities they take on when they decide to vacation following a business trip. Corporations can clearly define which expenses they’ll subsidize and which employees will have to cover out of pocket.

Greasing the gears of progress with a better travel system can make bleisure far more manageable for everyone involved. If your booking tool helps your employees find cost-saving fares, then they might be more apt to make budget-friendly requests.

Try to make your pre-trip authorization process straightforward so that it doesn’t represent an excessive burden.  Trondent’s pre-trip authorization platform allows you set the tone with as many rules as you need to accommodate the way your employees travel.

Letting your employees integrate bleisure into their normal trip planning activities could be the simplest way to keep them happy. By utilizing more robust travel management solutions that can easily manage bliesure trip requests, you can streamline business travel programme.  To get started, talk to a Trondent expert today.

Things to do in Chicago during GBTA 2019

We are delighted that GBTA 2019 is hosted in our home city, Chicago IL.  For the 7,000+ attendees expected, we thought we’d compile a quick reference guide to our fabulous city in case you have time to check it out during your visit!

As one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world, Chicago is an ideal place to mix business with pleasure. The Windy City boasts an abundance of art and cultural offerings, amazing dining options, world-class shopping opportunities, quaint neighborhoods, and stunning architecture. Whatever your travel fancy, you will be able to satisfy your thirst for wanderlust in this energetic yet friendly city. Chicago is particularly pleasant during the summer months when the locals and tourists come out to soak up the atmosphere of this urban oasis. Before you set off on your Chicago business trip, be sure to keep these tips in mind

The “Mag Mile”

Shopping enthusiasts will delight in all of the retail offerings found in this famed district. Located along Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, this stretch of stores features a variety of famous landmarks, including the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, the Chicago Water Tower, and the Drake Hotel.

Grant Park

The heart and soul of Chicago is in this popular urban park. Conveniently located in downtown Chicago, Grant Park is home to the Buckingham Fountain, Millenium Park, the famous Bean sculpture, and much more. During the summer months, Grant Park is host to a myriad of events, free concerts, and festivals.  This year’s Lollapalooza will be at Grant Park on August 1 – 4, so the park grounds might be closed for clean-up afterwards, but you can still snap a selfie at the bean.

Take in a Game

As one of America’s best sports town, catching a game is a must when visiting this city. If you are lucky enough to visit during the summer, a great way to immerse yourself in the local vibe is to attend either a Chicago Cubs or Chicago White Sox baseball game.

Museums Galore

Chicago lays claim to some of the world’s best museums. Whatever your interests, Chicago has a museum for you. The Field Museum is the nation’s premier national history museum while the Adler Planetarium will thrill astronomy lovers. Marine life enthusiasts will appreciate the over 32,000 animals on display at the Shedd Aquarium. The Art Institute of Chicago rivals any of the globe’s best museums with its vast collection of works that spans centuries.

Eat Your Way Through the City

Chicago is a foodie’s dream. From high-end establishments to iconic street food to some of the country’s best ethnic offerings, Chicago has something to satiate any appetite. No trip to Chicago is complete without sampling its deep dish pizza. While everyone has a favorite, Lou Malnati’s or Gino’s East are always good bets.

Because Chicago is such a multi-cultural city, you can nosh on food from nearly any country. Hop on the public transportation system and travel to any of the many diverse Chicago neighborhoods to see what awaits your taste buds.

Transportation Ins and Outs

The city of Chicago boasts an amazing public transportation system ran by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). Affectionately known to the locals as the El, the extensive subway system services the city and its environs, stretching deep into the suburbs. The CTA also operates a vast bus system. Maps for either system can be picked up at any train station or you can download the app for fast access right at your fingertips.

It is also easy and convenient to use rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft. With so many public transportation options, it is simple to move about the entire metro area without having to rent a vehicle.   You can also rent bikes parked at various ports throughout the city if you are willing to risk riding alongside Chicago drivers!

Chicago is serviced by two major airports. Chicago O’Hare International is generally the preferred airport for international flights. Midway is a smaller airport with a focus on domestic flights. Because it is located closer to downtown Chicago, it is often the preferred airport for business travelers wanting quick and easy access in and out of the city.

Do not let the chance to explore this vibrant city pass you by while in the area on business. You will be glad that you took the time to experience all of the sights, culture, and tastes of the Windy City.  We hope you will stop by and visit us while you explore the McCormick Place Exhibit hall at GBTA 2019!

Business Travel Safety for Women

woman on plane

Business travelers face a range of unique uncertainties. Female travelers face risks that are well beyond common travel threats. While the number of women who actively travel for business has risen in recent years, the latest research shows that corporations have been slow to modify their corporate travel policies for this increase.  Women account for nearly 40 percent of business travelers based in the U.S., according to new research from the Global Business Travel Association and WWStay polling travel managers and buyers.

Dangers like transportation accidents, natural disasters and terrorism are well-known threats for all travelers.  Female travelers, however, face more prevalent threats of sexual assault, theft and harassment than their male counterparts.

The gender-specific travel hazards that women face have complex cultural and societal underpinnings — many of which are difficult to unravel. This status quo doesn’t mean, however, that enterprises are off the hook when it comes to making positive changes.

Women’s Travel Safety by The Numbers

An online survey by AIG Travel and GBTA found that 83 percent of women had experienced travel safety challenges in the previous year, and the overwhelming majority noted that these issues hampered their professional productivity. Corporate travel purchasers also agreed — 70 percent said that the gender-specific dangers of travel were worse than they were just three to five years earlier.

Unfortunately, recognition doesn’t always translate to action. Less than one-fifth of corporate travel policies actually devote specific attention to women’s safety issues.  Further compounding their safety, more than one-third of travel managers said that they did not know how long it would take to locate them in the event of an emergency.

How Can Companies Improve the Outlook?

Businesses can do a lot to reshape their travel practices and keep vulnerable staff members safer wherever they happen to be. For instance, 84 percent of U.S. women reported that their companies did not provide female-oriented travel safety resources or tips.  Clearly, there’s room for improvement.  How should they address this through their travel policy and pre-trip authorization process?

Companies don’t have to overhaul their operating standards completely to make travel safer for their female travelers. Good ways to get started include

  • Briefing women on the kinds of cultural, behavioral, apparel and religious differences and restrictions they might face in certain countries,
  • Providing apps and other tools for connecting with travel resources, such as the U.S. Department of State, local embassies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and telemedicine providers
  • Finding lodgings that include extra safety features, such as 24-hour security, double door locks, well-lit public spaces and limited ground-floor access,
  • Providing better transportation services than standard taxis and airport transfers, which are known to present women with high-risk circumstances, and
  • Maintaining 24-hour traveler’s assistance hotlines.
  • Employing technologies which allow travel managers to know where their travelers are in the world and how to easily reach them
  • Receive alerts on dangerous political developments/events and terror threats, extreme weather, etc.

Better Travel Program for Better Employee Safety

Companies have the legal and moral responsibility to ensure that their traveling employees remain safe. Creating a travel risk management program that specifically addresses the needs of diverse employees is a critical step in fulfilling your corporate obligations.

What happens when enterprises fail to get with the program by supporting their forward-thinking workforces with better travel programs and protections? In addition to potentially finding themselves embroiled in tragedies, these businesses may earn reputations as employers who don’t care about their female workers. Such an outcome could make it extremely difficult to access talented labor pools and retain key players.

Although this situation may seem dire, there’s good news — Women aren’t letting hazards stop them from seeking high-flying careers in domains traditionally left to males, and the number who travel for business is on the rise. As this trend becomes the norm, companies that institute superior travel risk management programs are more likely to thrive.

Trondent cares about traveler safety. Contact us to find out how our pre-trip authorization solution can help facilitate the corporation’s travel initiatives.

How to Increase Travel Policy Compliance

If noncompliance with your travel policy is an unfortunate reality, you’re not alone. A survey conducted by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives revealed that 72 percent of travel managers are dissatisfied with the level of compliance.

Unnecessarily high travel costs undermine a company’s financial health, business goals and productivity.  Here are five strategies for improving compliance.

#1 Find Out Why Compliance Is Low

A travel policy should be clear and dynamic. It should reflect the company culture, align with company objectives, and take into account employees’ needs and lifestyles. Maybe your existing policy needs a little tweaking.

Ask both longtime and new employees to read the policy and provide feedback. There will always be people who deliberately overstep the rules, but many do so unwittingly.

Complex per diems for foreign countries may be unclear. People may be unaware of cost-saving negotiations with certain vendors. Someone may book with a more expensive hotel because its location eliminates the need for cabs or a rental car.

Be willing to make changes.  There are both well-intentioned mistakes and lame excuses. In either case, if you know why people are violating your policy, you can customize it to ensure that they comply going forward.

#2  Evaluate the Policy for User-friendliness

Is the policy clear and easy to digest in one sitting?  Take a look at the document itself with fresh eyes; how it’s presented.   Is it a long, overly wordy wall of text? Does it speak the employees’ language? Is it warm and supportive in tone, or could it come across as threatening?  Maybe it could be more concise, more efficiently laid out or reader-friendly.

Next, review the content of the policy.  Both travel and technology are changing all the time. The policy may need an update to address things like mobile apps, digital receipts or ride-sharing.

Airlines offer more options than ever, so travel tiers like economy, coach and business class may need redefining. Irrelevant, outdated information needs to go.

Does the policy address secondary expenditures like room service charges, entertainment and alcohol? Does it clearly explain the expense reporting process and let employees know when they can expect reimbursement?

Add a comprehensive FAQ section to clear up confusion. The policy should specify which rules are mandatory and which are somewhat flexible.  Again, the policy should be compatible with company culture.

#3 Continually Communicate

The importance of ongoing communication cannot be overstated. It’s not enough to just circulate the policy once it’s approved.  Get the word out.

Post it on as many channels as possible. If your expense management is automated, include the travel policy on that platform.  If your pre-trip authorization process is automated, post link to the policy there too.  Employees can easily access it every time they request a trip or do an expense report.

In addition to generously promoting the policy, ask for time to explain it at company-wide meetings. Schedule brief workshops to actively engage employees. See that the policy is thoroughly covered during the onboarding process for new hires. Explain changes as they occur.

This may create more work for you, but think of it as job security. A travel policy has to stay fluid and up to date.

You’ll probably encounter resistance to some changes, but transparency and positivity go a long way.

Justify new policies by drawing the big picture. When cost savings improve the bottom line, for example, there’s more to work with at bonus time. Further, travel policy changes may limit legal liability or make travel safer for employees.

In short, employees are more likely to cooperate if they understand the rationale behind a rule.  Offer a grace period for complying with big changes that take some getting used to.

#4 Provide Incentives and Impose Consequences

People never outgrow their desire to be recognized for good behavior, so dangle a few rewards.

Consider staging a quarterly contest. The most compliant and frugal employee might receive a gift card, an occasional upgrade to first class or a share of the savings.

As for noncompliers, give them fair warning. If they continue to buck the system,
it may come down to imposing consequences for insubordination as outlined by company policy.

#5 Track Results

Intentionally tracking travel behavior and expenses — especially when employees know that you’re doing so — is a surefire way to improve compliance.

If your corporation uses automated software for its pre-trip approvals or expense management, leverage the data from these software systems to pinpoint which rules are being sidestepped. Look for both individuals and whole departments that need a firm reminder.

Patterns will start to emerge. The data will expose employees who are always making last-minute reservations or which supervisors have vague notions about what counts as a qualifying expense.   Remember, out-of-policy bookings undermine the company’s overall health and success.  This affects all employees. So, track whatever you can to identify where breakdowns are occurring.

How Do You Handle Pre-Trip Approvals?

Travelers at AirportBest way to save money on travel?  Don’t travel.

Obviously that’s not an option in today’s modern world.   Many corporations still find significant value in face-to-face meetings and many road warriors are out there completing the mission, for others – sending employyes to various locations in the world is simply essencial to doing business.  That’s why, For these companies, it is important to implement an effective, cost-…., and traveler friendly process around the approval of trips.  So, how is your corporation handling pre-trip approvals?

A request & approval process that uses spreadsheets and emails is difficult to manage at scale, and not transparent.  Corporations generally prefer to automate trip approvals based on pre-defined criteria. Currently, some OBTs can provide a way of accomplishing this??  In this scenario, an employee would select the flights and hotels they’d like to book.  Once they complete theirreservation, the employee adds a trip purpose, then submits it for manager approval.Managers can see the exact cost of the options that the employee has chosen, and evaluate the price of the trip versus the value of its business purpose.

While this method technically does work, it creates headaches for travelers and managers

Pre-Trip Approval Headaches

In the scenario described above, travel requests have to be approved by the ticketing deadline for the airlines, which is often 11 pm on the same day.  It takes managers time –hours, if not days, before they can review travel requests.  If the approval manager does not make a decision same day, the employee is forced to go through the whole submission process again because the system automatically cancels their booking at the ticketing deadline.

This increases the traveler’s frustration.  Equally, the manager is interrupted from their day to stop working, evaluate a request and approve or reject it.

It’s no secret that travel approvals cause more frustration than any other obstacle for employees.  Booking business travel is time-consuming and stressful, especially when you factor in the countless policy guidelines that must be followed in order to book compliant reservations.

The following is a pain point for the corporation’s travel management team and shareholders. – What’s more painstaking is that most trip approval platforms are limited to how much pre-defined criteria you can even build into the workflow, and who is allowed to approve trips

Variables in Approving Travel Requests

You can reduce traveler frustration by improving any part of the business travel process that slows them down.   One way to do that is to implement a pre-trip approval solution that automates most of the process, especially for standard business trips at volume which follow travel policy. This will eliminate the need for travelers to wait to acquire an approval since, as long as the trip is within policy, it is automatically approved by the software.

Automating the policy rules also eliminates the need for the approval manager to waste time on reviewing trips.  Most often, companies prefer for the manager to be simply notified of the trip without action needed.  The only trips requiring active manager involvement are the out of policy bookings.

Another outcome of implementing such process is the low number of timed out bookings.  Based on client feedback, on average timeouts result in 15 percent increase in airfare cost.  Authorizer PRO helps minimize timeouts by

  • 1) making it easy for managers to figure out why a trip was sent for manual approval in the first place by highlighting the rules that were violated
  • 2) by limiting the number of hours allotted to any one approver to generate a decision
  • 3) by the ability to forward a trip to a second approver in the event that the first approver does not generate a timely response
  • 4) the ability for the approver to set a proxy
  • 5) travel managers and TMC agents can easily intervene if necessary and drive the process along

Before implementing a pre-trip approval solution, you must first know exactly WHAT you want to approve?  And, WHY?

Instead of building a workflow that embodies your travel policy, you could consider setting a comprehensive, per-trip budget, say $1,000 to cover flights, hotels, etc.  Then the manager does not need to be involved as long as the traveler stays within the approved budget.   Ideal, right?  Wrong.

Travel Market Fluctuations

Remember, you do not have much say on certain price variables in the travel industry. Oftentimes you are forced to accept whatever price the travel industry is offering you at the time of booking. The cost of flights is dictated by what the market says and prices change dynamically each day, each hour.

For example, an employee may ask their boss to fly to Hong Kong. The request may be reasonable, and typical from the employee – so the manager agrees. However, perhaps there is a big trade event taking place and the cost of all flights is well above the normal expected cost. The idea of setting a per-trip budget isn’t flexible enough to accept these market fluctuations.

Additionally, flight prices get more expensive the closer a departure gets. Lowest logical fare, which travel managers love so much, is useless as the base is on time of booking. Let’s say pre-booking approval takes one day on average, and you have 10,000 flights per year. Booking one day later WILL cause higher prices.

Traveler Intent

Then, there’s the question of purpose. If your VIPs and C-suite executives need to travel, the price will “always” be within policy.

Who decides if a lesser-tier employee needs to travel or not? As long as no reliable methodology for calculating the benefit of a business trip exists, you can only approve the business need, not the cost.
It is critical to inform the approving managers what the purpose is and give them the tools they need to approve or reject a trip immediately. Trondent’s Authorizer PRO gives managers the option to Approve or Reject a travel request directly from the emailed notification.

Travel Utopia

In an ideal world, it’d be great to trust employees to use their own common sense and follow policy rules when they need to book travel.  If your goal is to make your employees feel valued and trusted, and create less work for admins and managers, you could remove all or most of your travel approvals!

But companies have a fundamental need to track every penny spent, especially after the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

With pre-trip approval, it is best to develop a system to automatically handle compliant travel volume, and accommodate the exceptions.   Most pre-trip solutions on the market today stifle the complexity of corporate travel policy by stuffing them into basic platforms that allow for only a handful of workflow rules and low number of approval levels

Trondent’s rule-chaining technology offers an unlimited number of rules available for an unlimited number of trip approvers of all levels within the organization.   The capacity for implementing even the most intricate workflows sets Authorizer PRO apart from any other trip authorization solution today.

If you are ready to flip the switch on how your company handles pre-trip approvals, check out this Sample Workflow from Authorizer PRO.  It’s an example of moderately complex set of rules built into an automated workflow that saves the traveler and manager time, efforts and eliminates excess spending.

For more information about how Trondent can improve your company’s pre-trip approval process, contact us today.