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The Changing Face of Business Travel

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With the business travel industry being worth some £25 billion*, it's an absolutely vital contributor to the UK's economy. Ahead of the Business Travel show at the beginning of next month, we at Amadeus, the global travel technology provider, undertook some research to listen to what travellers actually do when they're travelling, and better understand the behaviours and aspirations of the travellers who are at the heart of the industry.

The research was conducted by ICM on behalf of Amadeus UK, and surveyed over 400 UK and Ireland adults working for large companies who regularly travel for business. It revealed some interesting findings.

Firstly, we can see that technology really is changing the face of business travel. Our data shows that a tipping point has been reached in the travellers' ability to take charge of their own destiny, with two thirds (66%) of travellers now able to book their business travel through an online booking tool. However, only a third of travellers (33%) are able to book travel on a mobile or tablet device, providing a significant area of opportunity for travel managers, TMCs and technology companies to put their knowledge and company policies in the hands of the traveller.

A complex travel landscape means that travel consultants have a real opportunity to prove their value: half (51%) of the survey respondents had to make changes to their travel plans in 2012 with 37% having to amend their flights whilst on the road. These statistics indicate a clear opportunity for the travel department to add value as only 30% of travellers said the department had been 'very effective' at making the necessary amendments to their bookings.

There's also a clear gap to bridge between corporate governance and user awareness of policy as there's a significant minority of travellers who go "off plan" - deviating from the corporate travel policy - during their trips. One third (34%) of travellers surveyed said that they had gone "off plan" during their 2012 business travel. However, this increased to half (51%) for those travellers who made 11 or more trips in 2012, nearly a fifth (18%) of them went "off plan" at least five times during the year.

Our research also found that convenience is prioritised by business travellers above cost and comfort, with 62% of respondents stating this was the most important factor when travelling for business. Just over a fifth (22%) stated cost as their top priority, with only 15% putting comfort first. 32% of the business travellers who took part in our survey would also like to have the opportunity to extend their business trip to include self-funded leisure travel and 14% would like to be provided with information into local sights.

However, the report delivers some mixed reading for travel managers. Whilst half of the travellers surveyed said that they fully understand their company's corporate travel policy (51%), this leaves nearly half who have a more limited or no understanding. Respondents demonstrated an inability to pin point the value added by the corporate travel department: nearly half (47%) said that the department neither helped nor hindered the business, 15% said that the corporate travel department actually hindered their ability to do business.

In a survey conducted on behalf of the Business Travel Show, which will be taking place in London in February, 54% of travel managers thought that their company doesn't invest enough in garnering feedback from corporate travellers and then refining policy/technology to meet their needs. Of those that did think they received adequate feedback, nearly half (43%) consulted travellers on policy just once a year.

These findings clearly identify opportunities for travel departments to introduce new services and technologies that will deliver additional value to travellers. We're now at a tipping point of people booking their own corporate travel. By better connecting travellers with buyers and travel management companies, we'll see the model evolve into one where people partake in a much more seamless, but supported, self-managed travel process. We believe this will be welcomed by many travellers, especially those among 'Gen Y'.

Over the course of this year, a particular priority for Amadeus UK is to help corporate travel departments better understand the emerging needs of the 21st century business traveller. Putting their expertise in the hands of corporate travellers and exploring mobile technology to facilitate the planning, booking and amendment of travel arrangements, will go a long way to help keep travellers on plan, safe and better connected in 2013 and beyond.

*http://www.gbta.org/foundation/pressreleases/Pages/rls_092012.aspx

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