Corporate booking trends in focus

Fewer travellers were given the freedom to book trips independently in 2015 yet the number of rogue bookers rose by 1 per cent, according to the annual Business Travel Show buyer survey. 

David Chapple
David Chapple

The survey revealed that, when buyers were asked about policy compliance, 44 per cent of travel managers did not give travellers freedom to book their own travel this year, compared to 39 per cent in 2014. Despite the clampdown, 86 per cent continue to go rogue, 10 per cent of these on a regular basis. This is a small increase on last year’s figure of 85 per cent.

The survey also shows a marked difference in the compliance behaviour between SMEs and corporates.

Buyers with budgets under £1 million are almost twice as likely to give buyers freedom book independently than those with more than £1m to spend: 71 per cent compared to 40 per cent. In 2014, these figures were 56 and 62, respectively, implying a tightening up of processes among corporates but a more laissez faire approach from SMEs.

The explanations for travellers going rogue and booking outside policy have altered slightly year on year. Personal preference remains in the top spot irrelevant of budget. Price was voted in second place by corporates but fourth by SMEs and on average. ‘Forgot about policy’ was a much more prevalent excuse from SME business travellers.

The survey also showed that corporates have tightened processes in order to drive compliance: 93 per cent are using preferred suppliers, 88 per cent have increased their use of online booking tools (OBTs). This compares to 81 per cent and 73 per cent in 2014. For SMEs, just 77 per cent use preferred suppliers and less than a half (44 per cent) OBTs.

Buyers are adopting a more proactive approach to driving compliance, adopting techniques that engage rather than alienate or punish travellers. Nearly one fifth (19 per cent) more buyers are educating travellers about policy. The same number have stopped restricting choice and just 1 per cent are inflicting penalties on travellers who ignore policy.

“These results are really interesting. Buyers are no longer enforcing policy compliance on travellers and hoping for the best. Instead, they are investing in processes and education to encourage them to make the right choices, then rewarding them through incentives when they do,” commented Business Travel Show event director David Chapple.

“It’s important to remember that while traveller management, wellbeing and duty of care are all increasingly important to buyers, their number one priority is efficiency – if they didn’t focus on managing costs and ROI, they wouldn’t be doing their job properly, and one of the key methods of achieving these is, of course, through driving compliance.”

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