Despite the challenges of the economy, budget cuts and new travel fees, business travel has been on the upswing over the past five years, according to Embassy Suites fifth annual business travel survey. Only one in five survey respondents has traveled less for business since 2008. However, the survey revealed that the traveler of 2013 has become more focused on value in order to adapt to an increasingly challenging environment.
It should come as no surprise that the economy has had an impact on business travel since the U.S. economic downturn in 2008. Nearly 80 percent of survey respondents reported that the economic climate changed the way they traveled for business over the past five years, including an increase in teleconferencing (33 percent), more pressure to book accommodations that offer great value (29 percent) and only flying coach (25 percent).
The soft economy resulted in stricter travel rules, with approximately one-third of respondents reporting that their company’s business travel policies became more austere over the past five years. Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents said they’re focusing on opting for “safe” travel options that don’t raise red flags with their company’s finance department in 2013.
Between tighter budgets and a spike in travel fees, business travelers have become savvier when it comes to finding value in every trip. Nearly half of survey respondents said a great value is most important when booking a hotel for business travel in 2013, which means that hotel brands need to keep value top-of-mind when catering to their business travel guests. In addition, almost half (47 percent) of respondents said their biggest business travel complaint over the past five years is new fees for previously free items or amenities.
Another trend that has shaped the business travel experience is the rise of social media, which over the past five years has changed how seasoned travelers interact with travel brands. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said they would follow a travel brand on social media in order to learn about travel deals (61 percent) learn about other travelers’ experiences with that brand (29 percent) or stay updated on the brand’s latest news (28 percent). Further validating the importance of social media, more than three-fourths of survey respondents believe online travel reviews are critical when preparing for business travel.
Although social media hasn’t totally taken over traditional means of interaction with travel brands – more than half of respondents said they still call a brand’s customer service department to share a business travel experience – there is a generational shift on the horizon, as nearly two-thirds of business travelers ages 21 to 29 would do so via the brand’s social media page.
Seasoned travelers are feeling more positively about business travel in 2013, with 85 percent saying they find business travel to be more enjoyable now compared to five years ago.