Travel Leaders Says Company Policy Nearly Trumps Cost in Business Travel
By Mimi Kmet
September 24, 2012 4:30 PM
Company policy has almost as much influence as cost in whether or not business travelers fly in first or business class, according to a survey on business travel trends by Travel Leaders Group. In addition, a majority of Travel Leaders Group’s business travel agents said their clients stay at luxury or upper upscale hotel properties. And, if renting a car while on business, they overwhelmingly choose midsized cars.
Moreover, in analyzing year-over-year business travel bookings, 80.3 percent of those surveyed indicated that their bookings are on par with, or better than, last year at this time. In 2011, that figure was 83.5 percent. While these figures look as if corporate travel bookings have softened since last year, they are strong, considering that they are still above 80 percent and that the company broadened its survey to include all of its brands for the first time, according to Steve Loucks, CTC, chief communications officer for Travel Leaders Group. Until the latest survey, which was conducted from July 30 through Aug. 23, the company only surveyed self-identifying Travel Leaders franchisees. The most recent survey included agents from all of Travel Leaders’ brands, including Luxury Travel Network, Nexion, Results! Travel, Tzell Travel Group and Vacation.com.
“So it’s not a complete apples-to-apples comparison,” Loucks said. The survey will be across all brands moving forward, he added. “Despite the continued economic uncertainty, business travel bookings remain quite strong, and companies are adhering closely to their travel policies, which makes a huge difference in terms of the ability of business clients to control what they’re spending,” he said.
The data from the latest survey is based on responses from 269 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents who indicated that 50 percent or more of their portfolio consists of business travelers. The results are part of the larger 2012 Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders Group, in which 871 respondents participated.
The current survey did not include Travel Leaders Corporate agencies, because Travel Leaders Corporate is a wholly owned entity of Travel Leaders Group, which allows the parent company to measure that division’s bookings directly. Travel Leaders Group now provides a quarterly update of Travel Leaders Corporate’s bookings. But the parent company ran the survey by David Holyoke, president of Travel Leaders Corporate, who said the findings were “not inconsistent” with what Travel Leaders Corporate is seeing among its locations, Loucks said.
Specifically, 55 percent of respondents in Travel Leaders Group’s fall survey said that business travel bookings are higher than they were at this time in 2011; 25.3 percent said they’re about even; and 19.7 percent said they’re lower.
For 2012 year-to-date business travel air bookings, 51.3 percent of respondents in the fall survey said that 11 percent or more of their bookings were in first class, 44.6 percent said that 1 to 10 percent were in first class, and 4 percent said none of their bookings were in first class. Among the top reasons why some business travelers fly in coach were cost (50.6 percent of respondents) and company policy (44.3 percent).
Of clients who include hotel stays in their itineraries, 55 percent stay in the luxury and upper upscale categories, while 39.3 percent stay in upscale and upper midscale categories. And, of those who include a car rental, 79.2 percent book midsize cars, while 14.4 percent book full size cars.
“That’s quite a substantial number,” Loucks said of the percentage of business travelers who book first or business class. “The fact that 55 percent say travelers are staying in luxury or upper upscale hotels shows there is a little bit of leeway in terms of what corporate travel policies are allowing for.”