Travel buyers are tightening policies but not making grand cuts to spending, according to a survey of customers by India-based travel management company Itilite.
The survey, which Itilite based on data in its platform as well as more than 50 in-depth interviews in November and December with customers and prospective customers, indicated that 70 percent still require travelers to get "hard" approvals before booking travel, while only 30 percent have soft or no approval policies. Booking windows also are increasing, with 63 percent of flight bookings made at least 10 days in advance from July through November, compared with 49 percent from January through June, according to the data.
Itilite founder and CEO Mayank Kukreja said the hard approval policies are partly why booking windows are lengthening, though he also credited such "carrot" approaches as Itilite's early booking rewards programs, in which employees receive a small financial incentive for booking early.
The survey indicated that about 25 percent of companies have tightened their travel policies over the past six months, but Kukreja said companies are not making broad changes such as imposing flat limits on hotel spending or traveler-unfriendly policies such as forcing employees to take red-eye flights. Instead, they have been pushing harder to ensure corporate rates are booked and set targeted policies such as imposing hotel spending limits based on the city, he said.
In terms of customer outlook for corporate travel, Kukreja described it as "cautious."
"The majority view seems to be that the next couple of quarters will be tough, but what we didn't hear is that people right now are cutting travel," he said. "Travel is coming back, which is leading to businesses opening up."
He added that could change if there is a drastic dip in economic conditions.
The Itilite survey also indicated that top on buyers' wish lists was pricing transparency and avoiding "death by a thousand cuts" in fees for travel management services. Buyers also listed technology to prevent leakage, including hotel booking audits and flight re-shopping tools, as one of their biggest desires.