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What business travellers want

Whether you are a business traveller from London, New York, Rio de Janeiro or Beijing, you have more in common than not with your flying brethren across the globe.  Security queues and flight delays top the list as the events that most negatively affect travel.  Also, the majority of business travellers do not want mobile phone use allowed in-flight.  As for travel managers, they say expectations from top management are cost savings and globalisation of the travel programme.

These are among the findings of the Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) global business travel survey, the “CWT Business Travel Indicator.” The survey was commissioned by the travel management leader to gauge attitudes and perceptions of business travellers and corporate travel managers about the current and future state of business travel.  The survey randomly sampled opinions of 2,100 business travellers and 650 travel managers, both CWT and non-CWT customers, in 12 countries.

Regions are defined as follows: Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom); Asia Pacific (Australia, China, India, and Japan); Latin America (Brazil, which represents 50 percent of the business travel market for the region); and North America (Canada and the United States).

Business Travel Strong Again in 2006

The majority of business travellers and corporate travel managers believe business travel will stay the same or increase in 2006, with travel managers even more optimistic than their travellers. Nearly 60 per cent of travel managers say travel expenditures will increase this year. Slightly more than 30 per cent of business travellers say they anticipate travelling more, while most (48 per cent) believe they will travel the same amount as last year.

“Business travel is increasing,” said Hubert Joly, president and chief executive officer of CWT. “This is a reflection of strong economic growth around the world and the globalisation of the economy and corporations.”


The survey found Latin American travellers (represented by Brazil) are the most optimistic about business travel with nearly 50 per cent saying it will increase this year, followed by travellers in Asia Pacific (44 per cent), Europe (32 per cent), and North America (27 percent). Within the Asia Pacific region, 74 per cent of travellers in India and 45 percent of travellers in China say their business travel will increase in 2006.

Top Priorities for Corporations

When asked about the most common expectation from company leadership, the majority (54 percent) of travel managers answer cost savings, the number-one response across every region.

A global travel programme also proves to be a priority for many companies. Sixty-two per cent of travel managers report their companies are uniting travel at some level, whether by undertaking a comprehensive global consolidation (26 percent), consolidating over a period of time by region (16 percent), or consolidating piece by piece as the need arises (20 percent).

Business Travellers Weigh In

Airport security queues top the list as having the most negative impact on business travel (25 per cent of business travellers), with flight delays coming in a close second (24 per cent), followed by work-life balance and customer service tying for third (21 per cent).

If airlines are listening to their most frequent travellers, they may want to shelve any thought of allowing mobile phone use during flight.  Whether they are hesitant to give up their “alone time” or they simply don’t want to put up with noisy flights, 61 per cent of business travellers surveyed said they are not in favour of allowing people to talk on mobile phones in-flight. Europeans are most adamant about not allowing mobile phone use with 70 per cent responding unfavourably, while North Americans appear more tolerant with just 57 per cent opposing their use. 
Of all the annoyances business travellers face, the biggest pet upset on a global basis is fellow travellers not checking in luggage when they should (18 per cent), followed closely by crying babies (17 per cent), and those travellers who stow luggage far forward from their seat (14 per cent).

Regionally, pet gripes vary.  Europeans are bothered by travellers not checking in bags they should; Business travellers in Asia Pacific are most annoyed by crying babies; Latin Americans dislike passengers who disturb them; and North Americans are irritated by people stowing luggage far forward from their seat.  All agreed holidaying travellers are the least of their annoyances.

The survey also finds business travellers are more hesitant than their company’s travel managers realise to travel to various regions of the world. The Middle East is the region most travellers say they are hesitant to travel to (74 per cent of travellers versus 67 per cent of travel managers), followed by Africa (53 per cent versus 38 per cent), Latin America (46 per cent versus 26 per cent), Asia Pacific (38 per cent versus 18 per cent), Europe (22 per cent versus seven per cent), and North America (11 per cent versus seven per cent).

Peering into the Crystal Ball

Travel managers most often believe technologically advanced security check-in procedures, such as fingerprint or iris scans, will be a part of business travel in five years. An interesting second choice indicates 83 per cent foresee virtually all bookings online in that time frame.

“This enthusiasm for online booking is what we are experiencing with our own clients around the world,” said Joly. “There is intense growth in Australia, where CWT’s online bookings are up 160 per cent over last year, in Europe where they are up 71 per cent, and in the United States, where there’s an increase of 43 per cent. Online booking is a key factor for those companies looking to save money in their travel programme.”

In North America, however, where online booking is more prevalent than in other regions, travel managers are less aggressive in predicting mass online use, compared to their global counterparts. 
Eighty-one per cent of North American travel managers say it is very or somewhat likely all bookings will be online in five years, versus a higher prediction in Latin America (90 per cent), Europe (87 per cent), and Asia Pacific (83 per cent).

Travellers Undaunted by Current State of Airlines

The Indicator clearly shows frequent travellers are relatively unaffected by the state of some air carriers today, including those experiencing financial instability and labour issues and offering fewer services and amenities. For example, when business travellers were asked what impacts their travel negatively, only seven per cent selected frequently for airline management issues, such as strikes and bankruptcies.

At the same time, they’ve resigned themselves to the fact that airline food and beverage service will continue to be limited five years down the road. Additionally, nearly 70 per cent of travellers say it is very or somewhat likely there will be fewer major airlines and more discount carriers in five years, while 61 per cent predict flight crew-size reductions.

Low-Cost Carriers Carrying Business Travellers: but hardly in Europe

Sixty-six per cent of business travellers report having used a low-cost carrier at one time or another and 14 per cent of them do so 61-100 per cent of the time.  Business travellers in Latin America are the most frequent users with 28 per cent of them saying they use a low-cost carrier for more than 60 per cent of their business travel. In North America, 16 per cent of travellers say the same, and in Europe just nine per cent. In Asia Pacific, China and Japan do not have low-cost carriers, but in Australia and India combined, 16 per cent of travellers use them for more than 60 per cent of their business travel. Conversely, nearly 50 per cent of European business travellers say they have never used a low-cost carrier.

Business and Pleasure

Fifty-eight per cent of business travellers extend their business trip to include leisure or holiday time, at least one time a year, either at the beginning or end of their trip. Of those, 47 per cent said they occasionally or frequently have family or friends join them for the leisure portion of the trip.