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Defining today's business travelers is less about
understanding that they've changed from the archetypical road warriors of past
decades and more about recognizing the folly in relying strictly on
generalizations. Business travelers come in all stripes, with a wide array of
tendencies and behaviors. Most use mobile technology, but in innumerable ways.
Most want self-service, but not always in all or the same areas. Most, but not
all, want to do the right thing by following corporate rules. And those that do
don't always know how.
[Please click here to
view the digital edition of The Frequent Traveler: Finding A Balance, featuring
all charted data, downloadable as a pdf.]
Such variances create a broad spectrum of traveler types,
especially when considering such demographics as age, frequency of travel, job
function, level in organizational hierarchy and degree of freedom when choosing
travel suppliers and itineraries.
Understanding these differences, accommodating preferences
where reasonable and maintaining two-way dialogue are critical as organizations
attempt to optimize managed travel programs while keeping traveling employees
safe, healthy and productive.
Much has been made of the challenges of managing younger
generations of travelers. The conventional wisdom is that those who have known
only the Internet age are more insistent on doing their own thing, more likely
to immerse themselves in a mobile-reliant world, more likely to empower
themselves with information and more problematic when it comes to complying
with company policies. While certainly true in many cases, it's by no means a
"I can't say that older travelers want it this way and
younger travelers want it that way. It's really not age-related," said
Agilent Technologies director of worldwide travel Cindy Message. "Travel
is very personal. It's a very emotional topic for people. They are influenced
by all sorts of factors that set very different expectations. Sometimes I am
really surprised when I expect that someone wants something a certain way, and
it turns out not at all."
To be sure, traveler proclivities are diverging under the
disrupting force of mobile technology. Nearly ubiquitous among travel
professionals, smart devices enable a multitude of options for searching,
planning, booking, purchasing and managing just about every aspect of a trip. This
presents enormous challenges and opportunities for travel managers.
Business Travel News
explores these topics on the following pages to help understand how employers
work to find equilibrium—between their travelers' work and life, between price
and productivity, and between cost and comfort.
The Productivity section examines the question of who takes
responsibility for keeping travelers effective. The answer is both employers
and travelers themselves, though the blend varies from one organization to the
Internet access—whether at airports, on airplanes or in
hotels—is an increasingly vital cost item, while providing or at least
sanctioning mobile apps is an emerging area that travel departments carefully
The Remote Conferencing section examines when and why
travelers and their employers favor collaboration technologies over travel,
though few companies have mandated it. And while remote conferencing is one way
companies reduce wear and tear on travelers, in many cases it is, first and
foremost, a cost-control tool.
Social media is top of mind in the Communications section,
which also addresses the critical function of maintaining contact with
travelers during emergencies. Though younger travelers unsurprisingly are more
likely to participate in social media than their older co-workers, some
managers are recognizing the need to engage all travelers in all channels.
Disregarding the ways people communicate in their personal lives is a mistake,
they say, but so is duplicating those ways. Better to create platforms specific
for work life.
Tying each component together, the Finding A Balance section
assesses how travelers are moving away from a work-centric lifestyle, how human
resources departments increasingly support schedule flexibility and how travel
policy exceptions and customization can be in play for very frequent flyers.
But the bottom line for many is that cost savings trumps all.
In Perspective, veteran travel buyer Tom Barrett airs
grievances on what he sees as declining service levels around the industry.
Data collected as part of this research and presented here
were generated from two separate but similar surveys of business travelers and
buyers conducted during August and September 2012.
The traveler survey was fielded by Equation Research. The
online survey was administered to a panel of consumers that had taken at least
four business trips during the previous 12 months.
Four hundred respondents met the criteria and provided
responses. On average, they took 11 domestic and 7 international trips during
the preceding 12 months and expected to take 10 domestic and 7 international
trips during the subsequent 12 months. They were away from home on average for
22 nights for domestic trips and 14 nights for international trips in the
preceding year and expected about the same in the year ahead. Their average age
was 41 years old, with the following age group distribution: 31 percent under
the age of 35; 30 percent between 35 and 44; and 40 percent over 44.
The buyer survey was conducted through online polling tool
SurveyMonkey. Email invitations with direct links to the survey were sent to
all Business Travel News subscribers,
including the BTN Research Council.
To qualify, respondents must have been involved in corporate travel
managing/procurement and/or meetings management for organizations with at least
$500,000 in U.S.-booked air travel spending.
Of the 244 qualified respondents, 79 percent indicated they
set corporate travel policies, 82 percent managed business travel cost
controls, 77 percent negotiated rates for transient travelers and 56 percent
selected/recommended meeting facilities and/or meeting destinations. The
distribution of represented organizations' air spend was: 16 percent with $500,001
to $1 million, 11 percent with $1.1 million to $2 million, 40 percent with $2.1
million to $11.9 million, 12 percent with $12 million to $20 million and 22
percent with more than $20 million. Buyers' organizations represented a mix of
industries, with finance/insurance (21 percent) and technology (12 percent) the
It is important to note the inherent differences between the
two samples. Surveyed travelers were more likely to have worked for smaller
organizations—50 percent indicated their companies had fewer than 1,000
employees compared to 21 percent of represented buyer companies. At the same
time, 16 percent of surveyed travelers either said their organization had no
travel policy or indicated they were unsure. Another 31 percent said their
company had an unwritten policy. Unsurprisingly, nearly all buyer respondents
worked at companies with written travel policies.
Because a travel policy usually is the foundation of a
managed travel program, it follows that some number of traveler respondents
would fall into the unmanaged category. Buyers, by virtue of their current
responsibilities, of course work for organizations that manage travel.
originally appeared in the Oct. 22, 2012, edition of Business Travel News.