Research: The Changing Face of Business Travel

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April 24, 2018

Research: The Changing Face of Business Travel




Photo by Ryan McVay/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Business travelers are getting younger, with about 50 percent being under 45. That’s one of the key takeaways from “The New Face of Business Travel” report, released April 24 in honor of National Business Traveler Day by Upside Business Travel, an online travel service for business travelers.

National Business Traveler Day is the brainchild of 25 major companies and organizations, led by founding member Upside Business Travel. Business travelers take 514 million trips every year on behalf of their companies; that’s 2 million trips every weekday. Overall, U.S. companies spend $424 billion to send travelers out on the road to make sales calls, serve clients, select vendors, and get business done. The industry represents approximately 3 percent of the U.S. GDP, about the same as the automotive sector, according to data from the Global Business Traveler Association (GBTA).

A new in-depth study, containing opinions and insights from a large nationwide sample of 4,576 “do-it-yourself” business travelers was commissioned by Upside Business Travel and released today. DIY business travelers, who make up approximately 50 percent of today’s business travel market, and represent a growing segment of the overall business travel market, are those who lack access to formal travel resources and make their own plans.

This study seeks to document the new face of DIY business travel by focusing on key factors such as demographic shifts, attitudinal changes, and traveler choices and preferences. Overall, this study found that the makeup, preferences, and patterns of business travelers is on the move – and runs counter to many traditional expectations. Key findings include:

The days of older men being the dominant DIY business traveler are steadily vanishing: Business travelers today are younger; about 50 percent are under 45. Almost half are women, and women travelers are significantly younger than the DIY male business traveler. At the same time, younger women tend to travel less frequently than older men. But when it comes to frequency of business travel, age is not a differentiating factor. Younger travelers, men and women combined, were just as likely to be frequent travelers as older business travelers.

Business travelers cannot be viewed or served as a homogeneous group: In addition to shifts in age and gender, travel patterns and preferences vary significantly. So-called “bleisure” travel appeals more to women. Thirty-two percent of women DIY business travelers want to know about local attractions, restaurants, museums, and bars, compared to 23 percent of male business travelers. Bleisure travel is also less attractive to higher frequency business travelers.  

Booking site loyalty varies by consumer type: Sixty percent of women and 40 percent of men shop around when booking their travel. Business travelers who take more than nine trips a year are much more likely to make their bookings through the same site.

Customer service value on the rise: As the business traveler population gets younger, satisfaction with the “status quo” customer service from online travel agencies and travel suppliers is dropping. Older travelers, however, appear quite satisfied with the customer service they receive.

The impact of weather and road traffic are the most commonly cited “pet peeves” among business travelers, more so than airline and hotel issues.

Some things haven’t changed yet: Desktop still rules the roost as the #1 booking vehicle for business travelers. Mobile technology is gaining traction among business travelers more slowly than among leisure travelers. While some older business travelers still only book on desktop (66%), 53 percent of DIY business travelers under 45 purchase travel on multiple devices, including mobile and tablet.

Price remains the top purchase driver among older travelers (45+), while more frequent travelers want their miles and points more than a deal.

Congressional Resolution, Countrywide Events

The April 24 celebration also includes the introduction of a resolution in the U.S. Congress seeking to designate April 24 annually as National Business Traveler Day. U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, U.S. Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut’s 4th District and U.S. Representative Scott Tipton of Colorado’s 3rd District have joined together as original co-sponsors of this resolution to recognize the vital role played by business travel in the American economy.

These premier brands and organizations have also joined forces to celebrate business travelers and National Business Traveler Day, including Upside Business Travel, United Airlines, XpresSpa, Hertz, Mastercard, Uber for Business, along with 1-800-Flowers.com, 24 Hour Fitness, Audible, BARK, the makers of BarkBox, Blue Bottle Coffee, Global Business Travel Association, Hudson Group, operators of Hudson and Hudson News, iHeartMedia, iPass, JetBlue, Journy, LATAM Airlines, LoungeBuddy, Lyft, The Points Guy, THNKS, and UNTUCKit. The Wall Street Journal serves as NBTD’s media partner and Dress for Success is the non-profit partner.

April 24, in three major airports across the country, Upside Business Travel, United Airlines, XpresSpa, Hertz, Diet Coke, Mastercard, Uber for Business, and others, created hands-on experiences for business travelers with custom NBTD lounges at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago (Terminal 2), John F. Kennedy International Airport (Terminal 5), and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (Terminal C), equipped with comfortable seating and charging stations.

Lounge visitors will also have the chance to enter The Business Traveler Dream Sweepstakes and receive instant giveaways from participating companies. NBTD will also be taking over four XpresSpa stores, transforming each location with branded signage, collateral and decorative accents. Select business travelers who are readers of The Wall Street Journal will be treated to complimentary spa services at John F. Kennedy International Airport (Terminal 8), San Francisco International Airport (Terminal 2), Los Angeles International Airport (Terminal 5), and the Westfield World Trade Center location in lower Manhattan.

Prize Winner Announcements

The first winner of the Dream Sweepstakes was announced April 24. Sharon K. from Dallas, TX was named the First Prize Winner of The Business Traveler Dream Sweepstakes, pending verification. Sharon owns a business in the Dallas area, and travels approximately 8 times per year for meetings and events. Sharon will receive Free First Class Upgrades for a Year.

There is still time for more business travelers to enter the sweepstakes, as the Grand Prize of “Free First Class Upgrades For 20 Years” ($5,000 a year for 20 years to cover the cost of domestic first class upgrades) is on the table until May 18. Enter for a chance to win and view the complete details here.


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