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German business travel habits are evolving, according a survey released this month by German business travel association VDR, as travelers are taking longer average trips, trading up in hotel class and increasingly relying on spot buying.
German corporate travel spending grew last year from 2009 levels, but did not rebound to the peak levels reported in 2007, according to the study, which is based on 800 based respondents responsible for managing business travel for Germany-based companies of all sizes. Though no estimates were provided on spending and travel levels for this year, next year promises more increases than decreases, as 39 percent of respondents expect their organization to take more air trips in 2012 than they will this year, while 47 percent expect volumes to stay the same. Only 9 percent expect air trips to decrease, and 5 percent were unsure. Similarly, 31 percent expect hotel stays to increase next year. "For the hotel business and above all for airlines, the forecast has never been this positive," VDR claimed.
German organizations last year in total spent €43.5 billion on travel (up nearly 6 percent over 2009) and took 154.8 million trips (up nearly 7 percent), according to VDR. However, there was great disparity between large and small companies, as firms with fewer than 500 employees grew total trips by 9 percent, and larger firms "reacted with great caution," keeping such increases to less than 2 percent. Furthermore, companies with more than 500 employees reduced spend last year by nearly 4 percent from 2009 levels, despite more trips.
All the while, the business traveler population has been on the wane. While VDR counted 8.7 million German business travelers (defined as "employees of a company or public-sector organization who take at least one business trip a year") in 2009, that number was down to 8.1 million last year, according to the report.
Still, those travelers who remained last year spent 2.4 days on the road per trip, up slightly from 2009, reflecting what VDR called "a need to catch up on foreign travel, but also the consolidation of separate trips into longer ones."
"Business travelers are compensating for years of going without any luxury on the trip there and back by enjoying a more pleasant stay at their destination," according to the report, which claimed a "marked shift" to higher-tier hotel categories. Nights in properties with a four-star or above rating comprised 47 percent of hotel stays in 2010, up from 40 percent in 2009, according to VDR figures.
German air travelers aren't necessarily trading up in the air segment, however, as VDR found that "companies continue to steer their travelers into the economy and premium economy classes for intercontinental flights."
Meanwhile, 69 percent of respondents either "completely agree" or "tend to agree" that "the use of spot buying will in the future replace negotiated rates," according to VDR. Only half of respondents in a 2006 VDR survey in agreed with that sentiment. VDR attributed the growing prominence of spot buying to increased online booking.
The article originally was published in Business Travel News.
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