Travel Leaders Group’s annual Travel Trends Survey, released Jan. 4, finds that 80 percent of the group’s business-focused travel agents are forecasting that clients will be traveling as much or more than last year. Fewer than 10 percent of those polled say their clients will be traveling less, which paradoxically may prove to be the reason why the survey data also reveals that “cost savings” will be the most important factor for business travel clients in 2013.
Conducted Nov. 19 to Dec. 16, 2012, the survey is based on responses from 335 Travel Leaders Group owners, managers and frontline travel experts throughout the United States who identified that 50 percent or more of their portfolio consists of business travel clients. Travel Leaders Group, with collective travel sales of $18 billion, includes the Travel Leaders Franchise Group, Tzell Travel Group, Nexion, Protravel International and Vacation.com.
“Despite the hype of the ‘fiscal cliff,’ our travel agents, nationwide, expressed optimism that Congress would come through at the 11th hour -- which it did,” said Barry Liben, Travel Leaders Group CEO. “Over 77 percent of our business travel experts polled indicated they were optimistic about their business heading into 2013, while another 18 percent stated they were neutral about the coming year. Finding ways to trim costs and save on business travel are still paramount, and business travelers who use a corporate travel management company have a distinct advantage because they can travel more frequently as they contain costs on each individual trip.”
When Travel Leaders Group agents were asked what their business travel clients indicate about the amount of travel they expect to book for 2013 compared to 2012, the results were: 38.7 percent said bookings will increase compared to last year, 40.8 percent said booking levels will remain on par with last year, while 9.8 percent said booking levels will decline compared to last year.
Travel Leaders Group agents also were asked to choose the most frequently charged Ancillary Fees that their business travel clients encounter. Agents could select multiple answers. The top 10 responses were airline fees for changing flights (85.1 percent), airline fees for baggage (71.6 percent), airline fees for seat assignments (upgrade and/or premium seat) (61.5 percent), hotel fees for parking (37.9 percent), hotel fee for Internet (36.1 percent), car rental fees for one-way rental drop-offs (33.1 percent), hotel “resort” fee (32.5 percent), airline fees for Internet (25.4 percent), car rental fees for gas (17.3 percent) and airline fees for food (15.2 percent)
When asked about their top concerns for their business travelers, the top five concerns selected by Travel Leaders Group agents were delayed flights (89.3 percent), limited airline seat availability (72.8 percent), ease of passing through security (51 percent), earning frequent flyer/loyalty points (49.9 percent) and missed connecting flights (49 percent). Agents could list more than one concern.
Travel Leaders Group agents also were asked what services will be most valuable to their clients in 2013. Top responses were waivers and favors (72.2 percent), tracking and using nonrefundable tickets (66 percent), financial reporting (38.8 percent), managing negotiated supplier programs which include earned tickets (32.5 percent) and providing mobile app technology (20.9 percent).
When asked about the most important services they provide to their business travel clients in 2013, the top three responses were cost savings (42.1 percent), cost control (33.7 percent) and flexible booking options for air/car/hotel (13.4 percent).
Nearly 51 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents stated Monday is typically the most expensive for hotel bookings and 60.8 percent stated it is most expensive when renting a car for their business travelers. The least expensive days were Tuesday for hotel bookings and Saturday for car rentals.
When asked about the time of the day business travel clients most prefer as their departure time for air travel to get to their business travel destination, 63 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents stated before 9 a.m. while 33.1 percent said 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
When asked about the time of the day their business travel clients most prefer as their departure time for air travel to return home from a business trip, 69 percent of Travel Leaders Group agents said 3 to 6 p.m. while 15.2 percent said 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.