Business and convention travel is finally showing signs of recovery, although greater emphasis on travel policies and the increasing use of technology has caused the business travel landscape to shift, according to a new report from the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) and the Institute of Business Travel Management. The 2004 Business and Convention Travelers Report shows that between 1998 and 2003, business and convention travel volume declined more than 14 percent. However, business travel volume grew more than four percent in 2004 and strong growth is expected over the next few years.
” Business travel has been one of the most seriously affected by the events of recent years and the slowest to recover,” said Dr. Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for TIA. “We believe that this reflects some of the changes that American businesses and business travelers themselves have made in recent years to enhance the efficiency of both the time and money they spend - changes that are still evolving.”
The report found that the majority of business travelers work at companies with one or more travel policies in place, including restrictions on airfare class, limits on travel per diem, restrictions on hotel class or requirements that travel be approved by upper management. Improvements in technology have also altered the business travel landscape, creating greater acceptance of online business communication technologies as an alternative to travel. Nearly 40 percent of all business air travelers were substituting technology, increasingly webconferencing, for some travel in 2004, although this is down from 47 percent reporting the same in 2002.
Nearly three-quarters (71%) of all business air travelers in 2004 felt that the use of teleconferencing, webcasting or videoconferencing was somewhat or much more efficient than travel, up from 65 percent in 2002. However, only 37 percent of business air travelers feel that using such technology is more effective than a face-to-face meeting as a way of meeting business goals.
Despite these challenges, business travel remains big business in the U.S. More than 38 million business travelers generated 210.5 million person-trips in 2003. And although business travel comprises 18 percent of total travel volume, these travelers generate 31 percent, or $153 billion, of all domestic traveler spending.
” By showing that nearly one third of all travel dollars are spent on business travel, the 2004 Business and Convention Travelers Report helps quantify the importance of business travel to the travel industry and the American economy,” said NBTA Executive Director and COO, Bill Connors, CTC. “The number of business travelers adding leisure components to business trips and bringing family or friends with them shows the significant links between the leisure and business segments of the travel industry, which are often viewed as separate.”
Additional findings from the report:
* A majority (57%) of business travelers are men; four in ten (43%) are women. Business travelers are an average age of 47 years, with 45 percent being Baby Boomers.
* A small group of business travelers take the majority of trips. Frequent business travelers (10+ trips per year) make up 17 percent of all business travelers, yet they take nearly two-thirds (64%) of all business trips.
* The majority (64%) of U.S. business travelers are infrequent travelers, taking 1 - 4 business trips per year, but they account for only 20 percent of total business trip volume.
* Overall, U.S. adults who travel on business take an average of 7 business trips a year.
* Combined business/pleasure travel has not suffered as much as general business travel or convention, conference or seminar travel. In fact, 62 percent of U.S. business travelers add a leisure component to at least one business trip per year. Two-thirds of them bring family members or friends along.
* Frequent traveler programs are popular with business travelers, with nearly half (47%) participating in one or more frequent flyer programs and over a third (36%) participating in frequent hotel guest programs.
* Some services on business trips are more popular than others. In-room Internet access (45%) and hotel fitness centers (43%) are used at least sometimes by the greatest share of business travelers. Generally, the younger a business traveler is, the more likely they will use various services on business trips. For example, while 27 percent of those under the age of 55 say they always or frequently use in-room Internet access, only 15 percent of those 55 years of age and older do so.
* Distance is increasingly playing a role in deciding whether to fly than in the past. Over 60 percent of all business travelers said they are more likely to drive rather than fly on trips of 300 miles or less.
* But recovery in business travel by air does seem to be underway. One-quarter (24%) of business travelers indicated that during the past 12 months (Sept 2003 to Aug 2004) they took more business trips by air compared to the previous year.
* Most (60%) business travelers say they enjoy traveling on business and this is especially true among frequent business travelers (69%). Still, some of their attitudes reveal potential factors influencing the slowdown in business travel, with a majority (55%) saying they’re concerned about being away from their families and nearly half (49%) remain concerned about the safety and security of business travel.
* In addition, business travelers think, in most cases, that travel conditions have gotten worse in the past 12 months. Nearly half say that wait times in security lines have gotten worse (49%), more than one-third think flight delays (38%) and/or in-flight service (36%) has gotten worse, and one in five (22%) thinks airline ground service has gotten worse. Frequent business travelers were more divided in their opinions. For example, they were more likely to say security lines have improved.