Industry Update
Opinion Article19 August 2019

The World Of Travel: ​Making Business Travelers Happier In Each Region

By Peggy Studer, Vice President of Marketing at RoomIt by CWT

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RoomIt recently helped launch the GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index™, which measures business traveler sentiment over the course of a year.

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When we shared the initial findings during a game show session at the GBTA convention, it was fun watching and listening to the reactions of the travel buyers.

There are many universal trends among business travelers from all regions, like high satisfaction with business travel (86%), and especially for the hotel-related components of travel.

A closer look at each region, however, reveals unique traveler sentiment profiles that surprised us and many buyers. Here is a quick look at those profiles and what you can do to improve sentiment in each region.

North America: Stressed and not as impressed

Travelers in North America are among the hardest to please.

They report the highest levels of frustration and are the least likely to want to travel more often for work; only 54% would do so.

64% of all travelers say traveling for business increases their stress, and people in the U.S. are among the most stressed on Earth, which may explain this greater aversion to travel.

Despite high levels of stress, only 57% of North American travelers feel their travel policy takes their health and wellness into consideration; the lowest among all regions.

The importance of exercise in combating stress cannot be understated. Considering the high levels of global interest for what have traditionally been considered leisure activities, like yoga (43%), Cross Fit (33%), and meditation (32%), it may be smart to partner with hotels that offer these wellness option or with hotels that work with gyms nearby that do so in order to raise sentiment among North American travelers.

Plus, 73% of travelers are interested in healthy food delivery and considering the positive effects of good health on work productivity your company can ultimately benefit from allowing these types of expenses.

Latin America: Personal and productive

More Latin American travelers report feeling productive while traveling than travelers in any other region.

75% say they feel very productive in handling day-to-day tasks while on the road, which can be compared with 55%-60% in other regions. 89% also feel travel is vital to making progress on projects or company initiatives.

An important element of this sentiment is likely the strong feeling among Latin America business people that business should be conducted face-to-face. Business is built much more on personal relationships in this region than other regions. Face-to-face meetings are conducive to the small talk and the personable nature of many Latin American business people.

Additionally, despite the fact that Latin American travelers experience the most disruptions, they are more satisfied overall with their travel experience; only 25% find the process frustrating.

88% say travel is enhanced by mobile, which makes sense in the second fastest growing mobile market, and a region containing Brazil, a country with extremely high mobile usage due, in part, to lower personal computer and laptop ownership.

Considering the high mobile use and travel disruptions in this region, it is important to recommend travelers download their TMC mobile app. Not only will they be alerted via their app about flight delays and cancelations, but they can easily access their itinerary and agents who can quickly re-book all aspects of their trip if necessary.

This high mobile adoption combined with relatively low credit card penetration throughout Latin America means travelers in this region are reportedly more likely to adopt cashless wallets or mobile pay than Europeans and North Americans.

Along these lines, Latin American travelers are the most pleased with business travel technology overall, as 91% feel it allows them to keep up with work demands while traveling, and 83% feel social networking and internal networks improve their ability to find hotels.

If you are looking to cut budgets in the coming year by cutting back on the amount of travel, you may want to start with individual regions first. Due to the high desire to travel more and the overall feeling of productivity Latin American travelers, this should be the last region you consider cutting back on if you do take this approach.

Additionally, the results suggest this region may also be good to use when piloting new travel technologies.

Europe, Middle and Africa: Choice matters

One in three people travel over 12 times a year making them the busiest travelers in the world. Despite their frequency of travel, they tend to have less mishaps and are generally pretty satisfied with their experience.

When asked about a hypothetical need to cut travel budgets, travelers in these regions are the most willing to cut the number of trips taken each year (66%), as opposed to cutting spend on a per-trip basis.

Again, if you take that regional approach to cutting trips in order to reduce your travel budget, this region could be the right one to begin with. However, before you do that, consider that according to the US Travel Association, for every dollar companies invest in travel, $12.50 in incremental revenue is realized.

One area of concern for these travelers, however, is the variety of choices when booking accommodations, as they are the least satisfied among all regions with only 17% being very satisfied. This low satisfaction can result in higher hotel program leakage.

Overnight stays account for a huge portion of the overall travel experience, and this market is flush with independent and boutique hotels that these travelers seek access to. Utilizing TMC deals and third-party rates are an easy way to bring these properties into your program and reduce out of channel bookings.

Asia Pacific: Tech-savvy and willing to travel

Asian Pacific travelers are eager for more options and interactions.

Travelers in this region report that they are the most likely to have home-sharing included in their travel policies. This seems to be in response to a high demand for alternative lodging styles in this region. However, more options need to be made available, because, like European travelers, Asian Pacific travelers still report a lower satisfaction with the variety of property choices (19% are very satisfied).

Secondary and tertiary cities in Asia tend to have low supply and growing demand, so you should consider expanding your content to include less traditional lodging styles. For example, you may need to include guest houses in India and ryokans in Japan, and it may even be necessary to have camp sites available in Australia in order to fill in the gaps these travelers are facing.

77% say they are willing to travel more often, which comes as a bit of a surprise considering 63% of Asian Pacific travelers feel technology can be used as an effective replacement for face-to-face meetings.

This discrepancy may be explained by the fact that Asian Pacific travelers feel time spent with clients, prospects and coworkers is the most important way to meet corporate goals; more important than technological support, setting clearer objectives, improved Wi-Fi access and better work space options.

The high demand for travel is also likely aided by the less frequent flight cancellations and delays, as well as the lower levels of travel related stress reported in this region.

Unsurprisingly Asia Pacific travelers are the most likely to use mobile or cashless wallets over the next 12 months, as China is far outpacing the world in both use of mobile payment and vendors that accept mobile payment. If you haven't already, you should begin strategizing how to integrate with mobile payment systems like Alipay and WeChat Pay, or a credit card that allows for pay by mobile.

Like Latin America, this is a region that simply craves more interactions. Employees can feel isolated when their global headquarters are located in North America and Western Europe, so companies should explore different ways of bringing these employees into the fold. Providing more opportunity for them to travel may be the ticket.

A multivariate approach to solving traveler sentiment

Understanding each region's distinct sentiment profile is an important step in creating a more specialized approach that will go much further in improving overall traveler experience. The first iteration of the GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment Index™ has shown that improving traveler experience means adopting more user-friendly tools, focusing on health and wellness, opening up your content offerings and giving travelers in Asia and Latin America plenty of opportunity to travel and interact.

Peggy Studer

Peggy is a senior leader with proven ability to build, lead and motivate global cross functional teams to meet deadlines in fast-paced multi-cultural environments. She is an initiative-driven, customer-focused leader, with strong analytical and strategic thinking skills and a broad knowledge and understanding of the hotel, OTA and corporate travel industry and its key players.

    More from Peggy Studer

    About CWT

    CWT is a Business-to-Business-for-Employees (B2B4E) travel management platform. Companies and governments rely on us to keep their people connected - anywhere, anytime, anyhow - and across six continents, we provide their employees with innovative technology and an efficient, safe and secure travel experience. Every single day, we look after enough travelers to fill more than 100,000 hotel rooms, while our meetings and events division handles more than 100 events every 24 hours.

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