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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited
International corporate travellers are turning to new technology to deliver greater speed and cost savings, according to the fourth American Express Corporate Travel Barometer. Conducted at the Business Travel '99 exhibition, the survey asked corporate travellers about their individual loves and hates and their views on the corporate travel industry.
Iain Robinson, Head of UK Corporate Travel, American Express comments: "The pressures facing travelling executives are greater than ever before. The globalisation of the world economy is creating increased demand for corporate travel, but at the same time economic uncertainty is forcing companies to become more cost conscious. Our survey shows corporate travellers are turning to new technologies, such as self-booking solutions, to help them manage their time and money more effectively."
Being able to work effectively on the move is increasingly important for corporate travellers. Almost all (98 per cent) said that mobile working is important or very important for company productivity, and viewed new technology as indispensable. Of the respondents, 39 per cent said e-mail is vital for staying in touch with colleagues, compared with 32 per cent who relied on mobile phones for keeping in touch. Just under a third (30 per cent) of those surveyed access their e-mail three or more times a day when travelling and 45 per cent once or twice a day. Video-conferencing has still to make a real impact on corporate travellers, with only 6 per cent citing it as a time-saving innovation.
Looking into the future, the Internet is forecast to continue revolutionising the way corporations do business. Over half (55 per cent) said the Internet will be the most important new technology in the new millennium. Of those surveyed, 13 per cent believe smart cards will change the face of corporate travel, with applications ranging from electronic cash to e-ticketing.
"Corporate travellers are increasingly using email and the Internet to stay in touch with colleagues around the world. The travel manager who caters for executives' working needs is carving out a new role - a role with far-reaching responsibilities that include mobile working, IT, facilities management and executive care programmes, as well as the travel itself," comments Iain Robinson.
Self-booking technologies, such as American Express Interactive (AXI) are increasingly popular with time-conscious corporate travellers. A total of 84 per cent say they are looking forward to self-booking to help them plan their travel and book accommodation. A quarter (25 per cent) predict that self-booking technology will be the most important new technology of the future.
Corporate travellers appreciate the flexibility and time-saving benefits of self-booking technology. Nearly three-fifths (59 per cent) say speed and the ability to book travel quickly are the main benefits of self-booking technology, while 15 per cent appreciate the flexibility of 24-hour access and 13 per cent cited ease of use. Cost savings achieved through self-booking technology are seen as secondary benefits, one in ten (9 per cent) said purchase and process savings were the most important advantage of self-booking.
As productivity becomes increasingly important for the mobile workforce, corporate travellers are demanding improved facilities at airports. Over a third (34 per cent) would like airports to provide virtual offices of workstations, 16 per cent want meeting facilities and 9 per cent video/tele-conferencing. Other corporate travellers appreciate the time to relax and 16 per cent would like health and beauty facilities. Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of those surveyed were strongly opposed to the abolition of duty free facilities - now being phased out within the European Union.
For 60 per cent of corporate travellers, speed of service is most important when checking in for their flight. A total of 14 per cent would like a separate check-in desk for business travellers to speed up the process, while for a fifth (19 per cent) courteous customer service from check-in staff is crucial.
For the busy corporate traveller, wasted time at airports is a major frustration. A third (30 per cent) complained about having to check in early, while over a quarter (27 per cent) resented having to queue. Flight delays were cause for complaint for 26 per cent of those surveyed. Only 5 per cent of respondents complained about the time taken to go through security clearance/passport control, compared with 8 per cent last year and 41 per cent the year before.
No-frills airlines are becoming increasingly popular with cost conscious corporate travellers. According to the American Express Corporate Travel Barometer, two-fifths (40 per cent) of corporate travellers have used no-frills airlines in the last 12 months and over half (56 per cent) plan to use them in the next year. The lack of primary airport slots, which has traditionally held back the growth of low cost airlines, is apparently becoming less important with two-thirds (64 per cent) of corporate travellers planning to fly from a secondary airport this year.
Flying is a time to relax
While mobile working is clearly on the increase, many corporate travellers still consider flying to be a time to relax from the pressures of work. Over half (54 per cent) of respondents say they like to relax during the flight, while 18 per cent enjoy in-flight entertainment. Only a quarter (26 per cent) work during the flight, compared with a third (34 per cent) last year and only 2 per cent take advantage of on-board telephone facilities.
Quality over cost - hotels
The quality of the hotel is more important than the cost for most corporate travellers. The quality of the service was the most important factor in choosing a hotel for nearly half (43 per cent) of those surveyed, compared to only 14 per cent who cited cost as the crucial factor. Convenience was the second most important reason for selecting a hotel. Over a third (37 per cent) considered the distance of the hotel from the business venue before deciding where to stay.
Corporate travellers' main complaint about hotels was lack of flexibility. Nearly half (46 per cent) resented the inconvenience of having fixed check-out times, while 12 per cent wanted facilities to be available 24 hours a day. While cost seems to be a lower priority than service for corporate travellers, 21 per cent complained that telephone and fax charges are excessive. Not being treated like an individual was cited by 13 per cent of mobile workers who wanted a more personalised service.
Corporate travel policy
Encouragingly, the American Express Corporate Travel Barometer showed that most executives realise the importance of sticking to their company's corporate travel policy, the cornerstone of every travel management strategy. A total of 70 per cent had a clear understanding of what their policy included and over half (58 per cent) recognised the cost savings travel policy compliance delivered. A quarter (23 per cent) realised its importance in helping leverage negotiations with suppliers, while 19 per cent appreciated the comprehensive information it could deliver to corporate travellers.
Commenting on the findings, Iain Robinson added: "In the current uncertain economic climate, it is more important than ever that companies keep a tight control on corporate travel and related expenditure. It is encouraging that travelling executives appreciate the importance of travel policy compliance on managing costs and improving negotiations with suppliers."
Asked what they would like to see included as part of their company's corporate travel policy, over a third (38 per cent) suggested allowing partners to join them on their trips. Loyalty schemes were popular with 26 per cent of those surveyed and 20 per cent wanted weekend stopovers.
The impact of the euro
According to the survey, the majority of corporate travellers are enthusiastic about the introduction of the euro, although whether it will deliver the promised cost savings is in question. A total of 57 per cent thought the euro would have a positive impact on their business compared to 11 per cent who thought it would be negative and 32 per cent who thought it would have no impact at all.
Corporate cards will be the preferred method of payment of corporate travellers during the transition period. With the advent of the euro, 59 per cent said they will be using corporate cards to purchase goods and services in the "in" countries, compared with 11 per cent who said they would use travellers' cheques and 22 per cent who thought they would use cash.
The impact of the euro on business travel is uncertain. Of those surveyed, 47 per cent thought business travel would increase as a result of the euro with the remainder predicting it will have no effect. Corporate travellers are also uncertain about the promised benefits of price transparency which the euro should deliver. A total of 38 per cent believe the cost of business trips will increase, compared with a quarter (25 per cent) who think they will fall and 37 per cent who predict they will remain unchanged.