American Express Clients Expect China to Lead Business Travel Recovery
- Company Reports Results of Two Surveys Evaluating the Economic and Business Travel Outlook of its Largest Global Clients and its China-based Clients
- Results Revealed During its Fifth Annual China Business Travel Forum Held in Shanghai
“Economic conditions over the past year have undoubtedly impacted the travel and entertainment industry on a global scale, however increase in demand will help to drive business and encourage investments, particularly in China,” said Charles Petruccelli, president American Express Global Travel Services. “As we look ahead to next year, we believe travel spend will play a crucial role in fueling recovery not only in China, but on a broader scale as countries begin to emerge from the recessionary environment. Businesses that will be best placed to take advantage of business opportunities in China, the U.S., or anywhere will strike the right balance between supporting necessary business-generating travel with applying smarter controls that don’t deplete the bottom line.”
The GBP survey reported the findings of 20 percent of American Express Business Travel’s largest corporate clients, representing more than $1B in air volume. Sixty-eight percent of respondents anticipate that China’s economic prospects would be better than those of the United States, followed by India. Eighty-nine percent of companies surveyed expect their companies to invest in China over the next twelve months while 79 percent say they will invest in India over the next year. A further 46 percent stated that China would be a top priority for international expansion in the short term.
The Barometer reported that respondents expect China as being the first country to emerge from the current economic cycle, with 72 percent of firms expecting to invest in China over the next twelve months. Interestingly, 60 percent of Chinese organizations surveyed have already started to hire staff or intend to finish hiring additional staff by the fourth quarter of 2009.
Additional Findings of the GBP Survey
Most global companies believe the worst of the economic crisis is over with 79 percent of executives predicting a modest economic expansion over the next 12 months. However, this does not mean spending will reflect this attitude:
- 50 percent of respondents said that their company will decrease travel spending over the next year by more than 10 percent.
- 25 percent stated T&E spend will stay the same over the coming year.
Meetings and events are reported as seeing the brunt of cutbacks with the survey stating more than 70 percent of companies have an opportunity to better control spending on meetings and events, a far larger percentage than those who felt they could cut back on air or hotel to control their costs.
Respondents were split on when their company will start hiring to support growth:
- 25 percent predicted they would be hiring again come first quarter of 2010.
- 36 percent said they will continue to hold off on hiring until 2011.
Key China Barometer Findings
The Barometer reveals that the global economic crisis has slowed, but not stopped, many organizations in China from investing in T&E. Twenty-nine percent of companies surveyed admit they have increased spending in this area over the past 12 months, though there is a visible slowdown in pace compared to last year’s 43 percent. Fifty-five percent of organizations indicate their T&E spending remained flat while only 16 percent reported a reduction in spending.
Travel policy compliance continues to improve and has been a focus of companies during this turbulent past year as they fight to gain tighter control over expenses.
Over the last four surveys, the focus on employee efficiency has been a growing concern while cost still remains important in devising T&E policy. The Barometer reveals that a vast majority of companies in China have consistently focused on monitoring and controlling travel expenditure, some highlights include:
- Almost 80 percent of organizations surveyed have formal policies in place, up from 70 percent last year.
- Policy compliance among employee travelers is also on the rise with 68 percent of companies reporting they have attained more than 50 percent compliance, up 17 percent from last year.
- Companies continue to use a mix of methods and tools to control their T&E expenditure. This year, the finance / purchasing departments show a greater role than the travel manager in the controlling of the expenses.
- A high number of Chinese organizations continue to have negotiated rates with suppliers i.e. 78 percent with airlines and 79 percent with hotels.
- Chinese firms are also encouraging the use of lower class for air travel and accommodation. The use of economy fares remains predominant due to the weight of domestic demand in overall travel spending.
Gregor Lochtie, vice president and general manager, Greater China, American Express Business Travel stated, “We’ve seen more organizations strive for an equal balance between cost and employee efficiency through robust travel policies. There’s no doubt progress has been made, but there is still room for improvement. The survey also shows China-based companies still enjoy varying degrees of autonomy and make decisions such as how to book their travel and what form of payment to use.”
T&E expenditure to increase in 2010
The Barometer also surveyed companies about their investment intentions over the next year.
Despite positive signs for a more prosperous 2010, businesses in China continue to remain cautious and have a number of strategies in place to control spending. These include:
- Tightening travel policy compliance
- Shifting business travel to economy
- Increasing usage of online booking tools
- Enforcing the use of preferred travel management companies
This sentiment is reflected by Tony Kieffer, Managing Director of Fair Isaac, who took part in the survey. Tony commented, “As we look forward to 2010, we see quite a bit of activity already in China. Measures taken by the Chinese government to liberalize some landing policies and the stimulus package has resulted in tremendous numbers of loan activities and many new projects. This directly increases the need for our staff to travel. I think we will be guarded as to where we spend our travel budget, but we’ll certainly continue on the path we’ve set in the second half of 2009.”
Concludes Lochtie, “While the global economic crisis has placed a significant strain on companies it’s also created opportunities - it’s made them want to spend smarter. We intend to use the results of the Barometer to work with our customers to help them maximise savings without sacrificing the tangible benefits of a robust travel and entertainment program. As a world leader in business travel management, American Express is proud to be working with our growing customer base in China to help them to achieve these goals.”
About the Global Business Partnership (GBP) Survey | American Express Business Travel surveyed key executives at its largest clients with global operations between August 2009 and September 2009 regarding their outlook on economic recovery in specific countries as well as travel management programs and plans. Respondents represented twenty percent of this client population with more than $1billion in air travel spending worldwide.
About the Barometer | The Barometer was conducted by Research International with the analysis and report carried out by Groupe Concomitance. The survey was conducted from August 09 to September 09 with 180 Chinese and foreign companies interviewed in the three economic regions of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Findings of The Barometer provide organizations, vendors and suppliers with the latest information on T&E management practices and the outlook of the business travel market for 2009 in China.
About the American Express China Business Travel Forum 2009 | The China Business Travel Forum is created and hosted by American Express Business Travel and the Shanghai International Conference Management Organization, a subsidiary of Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration. It is a business-to-business educational conference, designed to showcase the business travel industry, foster business relationships and further business travel in China, both internally and externally. The Forum, which was first held in Shanghai in 2005, is the first-ever event of its kind in China and features a wide variety of exhibitors including leading airlines, hotel chains, car rental companies as well as technology companies.
About American Express Business Travel | American Express Business Travel (www.americanexpress.com/businesstravel), a division of American Express Company, is committed to helping its clients maximize the greatest return on their travel investment through increased cost savings, world-class customer service and greater spending control. With clients ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations, American Express Business Travel provides a combination of industry-leading technology, travel management consulting, strategic sourcing and supplier negotiation support, alongside global customer service available online and offline. The Company also provides a dynamic online community () harnessing the collective intelligence of those in the business travel industry offering a variety of perspectives, best practices, current research and industry news.
American Express operates one of the world’s largest travel agency networks with locations in over 140 countries worldwide. Total travel sales volume in 2008 was $29.1 billion, including proprietary volume, volume processed through joint ventures, and American Express branded volume processed through its partner network.
American Express Company () is a leading global payments, network and travel company founded in 1850.
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