Putting executives back at the heart of business travel

Friday, November 30, 2012

Putting executives back at the heart of business travel

Lingering uncertainties in the financial sector have many executives and corporate travel managers worried. While few people dispute the potential gains on business travel, especially when it comes to securing new clients and expanding into emerging markets, the need to reduce costs and improve return on investment has never been greater. While savvy executives have been using serviced apartments and corporate housing for some time, others have yet to catch on. However, according to Business Travel News, this could change.

'Rogue' behavior puzzles analysts
The news source reports that the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) recently conducted a study of trends in the executive travel sector, including the cost benefits of using managed travel services. Approximately 1,788 frequent business travelers were polled, and contrary to researchers' expectations, managed travelers actually ended up spending more money for trips of shorter duration than non-managed travelers.

On average, managed business travelers in the U.S. spent around $2,740 per trip and stayed at their destination for approximately 3.6 nights. On the other hand, individuals who made their own travel arrangements spent an average of $2,457 per trip and stayed for 3.9 nights. While the potential savings of staying in corporate apartments could be a factor, officials at the GBTA plan to conduct a more rigorous study to determine why managed travelers fared worse than individuals who handled their own travel plans.

"Why bother, if unmanaged travelers achieve better business trips, are more satisfied with their business travel - and here’s the kicker - don’t spend any more than their managed traveler counterparts?" said Scott Gillespie, a business travel consultant, as quoted by the news source.

Nobody can say for certain why unmanaged travelers secured better deals and took longer trips than managed executives. However, in today's intensely competitive financial climate, the need to evaluate ways to save money on business travel, such as staying in serviced apartments, will likely become more urgent.

Agents of change
While it will be some time before the GBTA can revise its position on managed versus non-managed travel, other experts in the business travel sector believe that technology will play a substantial role in revolutionizing the executive sector of the travel market.

According to ICTM, analysts at Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) say that consumer technology will transform the way that executives manage their corporate travel plans, in a manner similar to that of the recreational tourism market. The emergence of travel websites and smartphone applications targeted at executives is having a significant impact on how business travelers find and book corporate travel arrangements.

"For travelers, 2013 will be about developing instant, relevant and bookable services. For companies, it will be about gaining access to large amounts of data from multiple sources via real-time dashboards." said Patrice Simon, head of innovation at CWT, as quoted by the news source. "Access to multichannel booking, whether it is through web, smartphone, tablet or other channels, will bring the traveler back to the heart of managed travel."

As demand for business travel services intensifies, executives will likely come to expect the same ease and convenience as recreational tourists. Some analysts have expressed surprise in recent years that the corporate travel market has been slow to adopt the kind of services available to individuals booking vacations. However, in light of continued economic uncertainties, it would seem that the playing field is beginning to level out, and that executive travel is likely to undergo substantial changes in the coming years.