• Nearly three-fourths — 71 percent — of business travelers say they’ve traveled more or about the same in 2008 as they did a year ago.
• An overwhelming majority — 79 percent — of travelers say they’ve felt pressure to curb their travel expenses during the course of 2008, with an additional 55 percent having to make further cuts in the past three months.
These are among the key findings of the Orbitz for Business/Business Traveller Magazine Quarterly Trend Report, which examines the most prevalent issues affecting the corporate travel industry today. Orbitz for Business, the corporate travel brand of Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE:OWW) , surveyed the corporate travel landscape to identify the most newsworthy trends that shaped this past year, while also collecting insights into what some business travellers expect in 2009.
“In 2008, our survey revealed an emerging trend of business travellers changing their behaviors in light of the recession, traveling differently by becoming more cost conscious,” said Dean Sivley, senior vice president and COO, Orbitz for Business. “We can expect corporate travel managers to exert continued pressure on employees with travel policies focused on cost savings, like booking flights farther in advance, staying in lower class hotels and renting fuel efficient vehicles.”
Looking Back at 2008
Throughout 2008, the Orbitz for Business/Business Traveler Magazine Quarterly Trend Report indicated a large majority of businesses were approaching travel more creatively in order to trim associated costs. Key findings throughout the year pointed to growing numbers of travellers flying in and out of a business destination the same day, staying at a less expensive/lower star-rated hotel or sending fewer employees to trade shows and conferences.
• In the fourth quarter 2008, as the U.S. economy experienced ongoing challenges, a majority (51 percent) of those surveyed say they have scaled back but are still traveling, while 39 percent say they are keeping up the pace. Only 6 percent of respondents’ companies have implemented a freeze on travel while 4 percent are traveling more.
• When asked if their company had experimented with alternatives to travel in 2008, 50% of respondents said they had tried videoconferencing. However, an overwhelming majority, 85 percent of business travelers surveyed say they don’t feel videoconferencing is or would be as productive as an in-person meeting, with just 1% responding that it is or would be more productive.
• A 2007 Orbitz for Business study found that 24 percent of business travellers said they have had to share a hotel room, either as a practice or on occasion, when traveling on business. One year later, just 14 percent say they now share hotel rooms with co-workers or colleagues.
• Location, location, location — 56 percent of travelers say the most important criteria when selecting a hotel for business travel is location, with 25 percent responding that price is the main driver and 15 percent rating brand as the deciding factor.
In response to airline capacity cuts, many of which have been implemented in the latter half of 2008, the report revealed the following changes in traveler behavior:
• 47 percent now book further in advance whenever possible
• 43 percent are now more price conscious and concerned about having to pay higher airfares
• 17 percent say their companies have taken measures to discourage last-minute bookings
• 11 percent are choosing to drive to their destination more frequently rather than fly
A Look Ahead to 2009
Looking ahead to 2009, a majority of business travellers surveyed, 55 percent, say they are planning to travel as much or more than they did in 2008.
The report also explored the extent to which professionals feel traveling to conduct business in-person makes them successful. When asked how important maintaining travel frequency is to overall productivity and business success, 76% say that it is important, with 16% labeling it as “critical.”
A significant storyline in 2008 was the tightening of corporate travel policies as a means to control or curtail travel expenditures. In fact, some companies have already implemented new policies for 2009 to account for new fee structures being rolled out by suppliers.
For example, some airlines are now charging, or plan to charge more for an aisle or window seat. The Orbitz for Business year-end report found that 34 percent of respondents’ employers will not allow such an upgrade as a business expense. Twenty-four percent say it is allowable, while 42 percent are unsure.
Other notable findings in the survey include:
• 80 percent of respondents said they have had no change to their company’s per diem spending policy in the past six months
• 31 percent of respondents say they will be required to squeeze in more work and more meetings per business trip compared to this past year.
The Orbitz for Business/Business Traveller Magazine Trend Report was conducted online from 8/19/08 through 8/27/08, through a MarketTools survey of 612 Business Traveller Magazine subscribers.