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May 9, 2018

Research: Business Travelers Won’t Trade Privacy for Safety

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While a large majority of business travelers acknowledge the value of traveling for work, a varying percentage are reluctant to comply with company travel policies. Employees cited a lack of clarity and understanding of policies and companies’ duty of care obligations, in addition to concerns around privacy and tracking. In many cases, travelers believe they know better when it comes to health, safety and saving company money.

Traveler 360⁰, a new study from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), surveyed 2,000 business travelers from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Singapore and India to gain insights into travelers’ perceptions and attitudes about travel policies and programs. Respondents were positive about the value and benefits of traveling for business. Despite the optimism, the survey revealed clear areas of opportunity for employers to show greater support of employees, especially regarding safety, flexibility and wellbeing.

The Traveler 360⁰ study identifies key points of improvement, including the need for more education about travel policies and the benefits of compliance, and better engagement and communications with travelers.

A majority of the travelers surveyed were aware of their companies’ travel and expense policies, but more than half of respondents outside the U.S. believe policies are unclear, leading to failure to comply with them. Traveler satisfaction has become a key pillar of a successful travel program because of its link to employee productivity, morale and retention.

U.S. Highlights: Business Travelers Deviate From the Global Norm

In the United States, business travelers have distinctive attitudes towards business travel that largely stray from other surveyed countries. In general, U.S. travelers are less concerned about the impact business travel has on their personal lives, with less than half believing that it hurts healthy living, makes meeting other work obligations difficult, or can be stressful. Only one in five business travelers believe their company travel policies are unclear, while three out of five respondents follow policy all the time. The starkest difference in attitudes between the U.S. and the other countries is travelers’ concerns about security. Despite the current geopolitical climate, only a third of U.S. travelers expressed security concerns, either domestic or international – compared to 51-77 percent in the other countries surveyed.

The study found that nine out of 10 business travelers outside the U.S. and eight out of 10 in the U.S. understand the value of business travel, noting its importance in both business and individual success. Despite the positive sentiment, the majority of employees (52-79%) outside the U.S don’t adhere to travel policy all the time – whereas U.S. travelers are considerably more compliant, with just 40 percent sometimes going outside policy. When it comes to traveler location technology, U.S. travelers are the least keen on employers knowing their whereabouts at all times: just 40 percent see the need for this, compared to 62-84 percent in the other countries.

U.K. Highlights: Cost-conscious With a Focus on Well-being

The majority of business travelers in the United Kingdom are aware (74%) that their companies have a travel policy and are very or extremely familiar with it (78%). At the same time, 61 percent of U.K. travelers report not following policy all the time. An overwhelming 94 percent say they would book out of policy if it meant minimizing any negative impact to their health and well-being. Particularly concerning to note is that only one third of respondents believe employers always have safety in mind when staff travel on business, suggesting a need for better communications. While holding an aversion to policy if it encroaches on their wellbeing, travelers in the U.K. are cost-conscious on the company’s behalf and nearly 90 percent agree it is important they save company money when booking business travel. This behavior is largely encouraged by the person approving their expense reports, and eight in 10 travelers require approval prior to booking travel and/or submitting an expense report.

France Highlights: Concerned About Security

Similar to the U.K., a majority (76%) of business travelers from France are very familiar with their business travel policy, though 59 percent say their companies do not have a clear policy, while 64 percent report not following policy all the time, the key reasons cited being safety and security, as well as health and wellbeing. In fact, France’s top two challenges are centered around security concerns, with the third being unable to adjust travel arrangements if something unexpected happens. Despite concerns, travelers from France are even more cost-conscious than the U.K., as 94 percent of respondents say it is important to save  company money when booking business travel. Acting on this sentiment may be easier in this marketplace, as the majority of travelers know about upcoming trips at least a month in advance.

Germany Highlights: Unclear and Minimal Policy

While travelers from India and France are more likely to return from business travel feeling motivated (50% and 42% respectively), nearly half of respondents from Germany (the second highest percentage after the U.S. at 67%) say they return feeling relieved to be home. At the same time, these respondents are unanimously satisfied with their jobs (100%). While 84 percent are very familiar with their companies’ travel policy (the second-highest result after India), these respondents are of the just 67 percent who are certain their company actually has a policy − Germany trails all other markets in this regard. A further 58 percent of German business travelers don’t believe policy is clear when it comes to business travel and expense reporting.

Australia Highlights: Middle of the Road With Personal Flexibility

Nearly half of business travelers from Australia report being relieved to be home after a trip, just 21 percent of respondents report always being allowed to be flexible with amount of time spent traveling to reflect their personal lives, and 51 percent saying ‘always’ or ‘most of the time’. This is the second lowest result in terms of flexibility after Singapore. In line with the sentiment among their international peers, the majority of business travelers from Australia are familiar with their business travel policy, though nearly half of respondents believe their company does not have a clear policy when it comes to business travel and expense reporting. More than half report not following policy all the time, and more than 30 percent say they are not aware of/don’t have a company travel policy.

Singapore Highlights: App-based Preferences Scrutinized

In the other countries, at least seven in 10 travelers believe that their employers have their safety in mind most of the time when they travel for business, but just 59 percent of travelers from Singapore feel this way. Just 49 percent believe their company has a clear policy when it comes to business travel and expense reporting. Furthermore, only 45 percent find apps to book travel easy to use; significant as three quarters of Singaporean business travelers use an app to book their trip. For this group of travelers, convenient locations are a key reason to book out of policy and their behavior is most affected by incentives.

India Highlights: Complicated Expense Reports Deter Compliance

In India, 90 percent of business travel respondents say their company has a business travel policy, and of those, 90 percent are extremely or very familiar with it. Yet, not unlike their international peers, more than half (53%) believe the company does not have clear travel and expense policies. Business travelers from India in particular believe that expense reports are overly complicated. Only 47 percent said their company has a strictly enforced policy – the second lowest country result after France – and 66 percent report not following policy all the time. Convenient locations are the key reasoning for booking out of policy, and similar to business travelers from Singapore, those from India are most likely to be influenced by incentives to comply with policy.

Source: American Express Global Business Travel

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