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Convenience Trumps Cost for Business Travelers, Says Inaugural GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment IndexTM, in Partnership with American Express

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Business travelers value convenience over cost savings, according to new research from the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), in partnership with American Express. According to the first in a series of GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment IndexTM reports, U.S. business travelers put a high premium on convenience, particularly when it comes to their flight schedule choices. When booking flights domestically or internationally, more business travelers say their top consideration is convenient flight schedules (36%), compared with ticket price (24%) and ability to earn miles (20%).

The GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment IndexTM in partnership with American Express is a proprietary, data-centered barometer based on business travelers’ attitudes toward five key components of business-related travel:

  • Overall Trip Experience and Travel Friction – Business travelers’ attitudes toward air travel, hotel stays and ground transportation
  • Travel Management Policy Friction – Attitudes toward company travel policy management, flexibility and comprehension
  • Expense Tracking and Management - Satisfaction with business travel expense management and tracking, and using credit or charge cards for business travel
  • Business Travel Safety - Satisfaction with employers’ efforts to keep travelers safe while they’re on the road
  • Social Media Experience - Attitudes toward using social media while traveling for work, including finding or posting reviews of travel suppliers

Because this is the first period analyzed for the GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment IndexTM, initial results will serve as a benchmark against which future research will be measured. Currently index values are set at 100.

Travelers Generally Satisfied With Trip Experience, but Airports and Flights Frustrate

For the most part, business travelers are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their time on the road. However, in general only slightly more than half are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with airline travel (57%) and getting through airport security (55%). In fact, survey respondents cite airline delays (45%), airport security (33%) and airline fees (29%) as the main reasons why travel is more difficult today than it was three years ago.

“Time is money for business travelers, so it comes as no surprise that U.S. travelers place such a high premium on convenience,” said Joseph Bates, Vice President, GBTA Foundation. “While a more convenient flight or a hotel closer to the meeting may cost slightly more, it is worth it to business travelers and their companies if it allows them to be more productive and maximize their time.”

Additional GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment IndexTM findings include:

  • Millennials lead the way in using newer travel services and social media. Thirty-seven percent of travelers ages 18 to 34 say they will “definitely” or “probably” use a mobile, cashless wallet in the next 12 months, compared with 20% of all business travelers. These younger travelers are more interested than travelers of other ages in rideshare services (46%) and room-finding services (35%). They are also the most enthusiastic users of social media for business travel, with approximately half of those ages 18 to 34 saying they use it to review travel suppliers and meet up with colleagues and friends (about 50% each), compared with roughly 40% or less of business travelers in other age groups.
  • Employees are generally satisfied with hotel stays and booking travel. Three- quarters or more of survey respondents are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with hotel stays for work (78%) and making their own arrangements (75%).
  • Connectivity is critical for traveler productivity on the road. Nearly nine-in-ten travelers (86%) say access to Wi-Fi is “vital to work productivity while traveling,” and free access to Wi-Fi is one of the top items travelers believe all airlines should offer (26%), surpassed only by free checked bags (37%).
  • Frequent business travelers find tracking and managing expenses challenging. On average, employees who travel a dozen or more times a year for work are generally less satisfied with their ability to track receipts than those who travel for work less often (on a seven-point scale, 5.6 vs. 5.8 of those who travel four to 11 times a year). Nearly two-thirds of all travelers are highly satisfied with processes they use to track expense receipts (65%) and complete expense reports (63%). Overall, three-quarters of business travelers (75%) are highly satisfied using a corporate credit card to pay for trip-related expenses, and just about two-thirds (66%) are highly satisfied using their personal card to pay for expenses.
  • Most are comfortable with their companies’ travel policies. Sixty-two percent of business travelers surveyed are generally satisfied with their company’s travel policies. If employees have concerns, it’s about changing itineraries; 59% said they are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with for the ease of changing an itinerary, while 35% are neutral, and 6% are “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”
  • Majority are generally satisfied with their companies’ safety efforts, but there’s room for improvement. Seventy-one percent of travelers “agree” or “strongly agree” that their employers care about their well-being and safety when they travel for work. Slightly more than half (56%) agreed that they “always feel safe” while traveling, and 55% said their desire to feel safe affects their travel choices.

“The Index identifies the greatest pain points for business travelers, indicating to organizations which areas to target for improvement,” said Susan Chapman-Hughes, senior vice president at American Express Global Corporate Payments. “In the area of expense management, for example, companies would be wise to invest resources into mobile apps and expense management solutions to help business travelers save time and be more productive.”

For the GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment IndexTM – At a Glance executive summary, please click here.

To purchase the full GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment IndexTM, please click here.

Survey Methodology

The GBTA Business Traveler Sentiment IndexTM, in partnership with American Express, was fielded December 4-19, 2014 to business travelers within the U.S. through an online research panel. Overall, 826 respondents qualified for the study (their primary residence is located in the United States, they are employed part- or full-time, and they have taken four or more business trips in the prior 12 months). The margin of error is +/- 3.4% at the 95% level of confidence.

About the GBTA Foundation

The GBTA Foundation is the education and research foundation of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. Collectively, GBTA’s 7,000-plus members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA provides its growing network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts with world-class education, events, research, advocacy and media. The Foundation was established in 1997 to support GBTA’s members and the industry as a whole. As the leading education and research foundation in the business travel industry, the GBTA Foundation seeks to fund initiatives to advance the business travel profession. The GBTA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, see gbta.org and gbta.org/foundation.

About American Express Global Corporate Payments

Through its Global Corporate Payments division, American Express offers a suite of B2B and T&E payment solutions that can help organizations streamline processes and identify opportunities to help drive savings and efficiency. American Express can help your organization improve working capital flexibility and your relationships with suppliers. For more information, visit https://business.americanexpress.com/us/

About American Express

American Express (NYSE:AXP) is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, foursquare.com/americanexpress, linkedin.com/company/american-express, twitter.com/americanexpress, and youtube.com/americanexpress.
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