In spite of the global economic slowdown, business travel seems to be holding up in Europe, and seems poised to do so for at least the next 12 months. That’s the overriding message from the results of a survey of 600 European business travelers, commissioned by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) in association with Vanson Bourne.
Travel Vital to Business Success
Published following Crossroads Paris—a pan-European business travel conference, co-hosted by 12 business travel organizations from around the world and the Paragon Partnership alliance of business travel associations held on May 14th–15th—the research shows that 52 percent of travelers expect to continue with their current level of business travel over the next 12 months, while 22 percent believe it will actually increase. 26 percent expect it to decrease.
However, the commitment by companies to safeguard what is viewed by many as a vital business function (50 percent of those who said they expect to travel less believe this will have a negative impact on their business) is dependent on travelers adhering to cost cutting measures when they travel.
Sixty-two percent of travelers cited convenience as the most important factor when booking travel, compared to 25 percent who said cost. Over a third of respondents (36 percent) indicated their companies have mandated cheaper travel over the last six months. Of these, 35 percent have moved to cheaper airlines and tickets, 29 percent have mandated a cheaper class of travel and 36 percent have moved to cheaper accommodation options.
The survey indicates that while meeting alternatives have their place, there’s no substitute for getting in front of customers, colleagues, partners and prospects. Almost 20 percent of travelers have never used conference call services, while of those that have, 50 percent use them to complement face-to-face meetings rather than replace. The stats around video conferences are similar with 35 percent having never used them, and 41 percent again using them to complement the flesh press. Webinars and Virtual meetings (such as those held in Second Life) also have low levels of awareness and usage.
Green Policies Changing Travel Behaviors
The survey also threw up some interesting findings around European business travelers’ attitudes towards green travel and alternatives to flights. 46 percent of respondents said that their company’s environmental policies had some direct impact on their business travel. Of that group, the number one change of behaviour (44 percent) was a switch to public transport options. 33 percent also said that they were sharing more journeys with colleagues.
Riding the Rails
When asked about rail as an alternative to air travel, price was the number one consideration overall with 54 percent of respondents flagging it as a priority. Time was also a major consideration, with 51 percent of overall respondents saying that rail is important for journeys of less than 4 hours. 30 percent value consistent communications such as mobile signal and email.
An interesting regional difference was apparent in the responses of UK business travelers, who said convenience of location was the main rail-versus-air decision-making factor over price, which suggests that UK business travelers are concerned about relying on rail infrastructure for business use due to the country’s patchy rail network. That difference supports the importance of the continued investment being poured into Britain’s railways to bring them up to the standard of their European neighbors.