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Egencia Forecasts Growth in Business Travel Demand

June 3, 2010 By: George Dooley

A new study of the corporate travel market by Egencia says 56 percent of North American travel buyers and 45 percent of European buyers expect their travel volumes to increase during the remainder of 2010. The new report says 20 percent of North American and 15 percent of European travel buyers are planning to change their travel policies during the year. Additionally, 40 percent of North American travel buyers and 49 percent of European travel buyers said they will negotiate more this year than they did in 2009.

“We found that, in North America, 36 percent of travel buyers are evaluating supplier contracts more frequently due to the economic climate,” said Noah Tratt, vice president of supplier relations for Egencia Americas. “Following the themes from our research, the largest opportunities for cost savings this year are through better program management and a stronger hotel program.”

Travel managers universally identified cost control as the greatest challenge facing travel programs. Specific rankings of travel program challenges are:

*    Cost control/reducing expenses (59 percent Europe, 49 percent North America)
*    Traveler satisfaction (11 percent Europe, 23 percent North America)
*    Traveler compliance/policy enforcement (12 percent Europe, 13 percent North America)
*    Capturing a full view of travel spend (9 percent Europe, 7 percent North America)

Egencia, an Expedia, Inc. company, unveiled the data in its 2010 Corporate Travel Global Benchmarking Study which evaluates the current business travel landscape and corresponding supply environment for air, hotel and car inventory. The study focuses on top domestic and international business destinations in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Egencia analyzed industry trends, supplier research and capacity implications in the first quarter of 2010. 

“We’re seeing a different pricing picture compared to this time last year,” said Tratt. Corporate travelers are returning to the air and road, but companies are still seeking to control spending. Given the increased discipline of airlines in reducing capacity, we believe the biggest cost savings opportunity for corporations is found with hotels.”

The study validates themes uncovered in Egencia’s 2010 Forecast and Hotel Negotiability Index, the company said, including that the hotel market for corporate travel has experienced significant decreases in Q1. In addition, Egencia also surveyed more than 400 travel buyers in North America and Europe regarding travel program expectations, policies and challenges.

As a result of the economic downturn and resulting decrease in travel in 2009, airlines have maintained capacity discipline into 2010, the study shows. “With increased demand for business travel in Q1 2010, this has resulted in an increase in average ticket prices (ATP), higher fuel surcharges, reduced competition on many routes and the dramatic slowing of route expansion has also resulted in upward pressure on ticket prices for major business destinations in North America,” the report states.

European airlines are also maintaining their capacity discipline in 2010, Egencia says. “Though European businesses are slowly increasing travel demand both domestically and internationally, this tighter control of capacity has resulted in an increase in ATPs for several business destinations, though the picture is not as clear-cut as North America,” the report says. Conversely, prices are being driven downward by a number of factors including perceived economic vulnerability of Euro-zone.” Increased competition from a number of low-cost carriers and decreased passenger load factors have also resulted in downward pricing pressure for corporate travel, Egencia said.

Asia-Pacific represents a truly heterogeneous air pricing landscape, varying on a market-by-market basis. “Driving the pricing increases is greater demand for business travel into China and India and the strength of the dollar, which has resulted in higher fuel costs for many APAC carriers,” the report states. Many markets also showed substantial decreases, especially in Australia where the competition for domestic routes heated up between JetStar and Virgin Atlantic, as well as Tiger Airways. Many Asia-Pacific carriers have maintained or increased capacity in contrast to their European and North American counterparts, resulting in decreased prices.”

In the first quarter of 2010, hotel average daily rates dropped in major business destinations. “Contributing to this, the meetings and incentives business has yet to fully recover and the recent influx of supply coming on the market over the last several years has resulted in an overabundance of hotel capacity in many cities,” Egencia said. While corporate demand has begun to rebound, higher average ticket prices and lower air capacity brings less business travelers, resulting in decreasing hotel rates. With improved occupancy and a decreasing amount of new hotel supply coming into the market, hotel prices in select European and Asia-Pacific markets were actually flat to up.” 



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