Travel Leaders Forecasts Business Travel Growth in 2016

business traveler
Photo by Ullman

Results from Travel Leaders Group’s 2016 Business Travel Trends Survey indicate overall growth in the marketplace, along with substantial increases among those business travel clients who now enjoy expedited passage through airport security with TSA PreCheck approval. A plurality (40.2%) of business-focused travel agents expects their 2016 corporate travel bookings to remain on par with 2015, with nearly as many (36.6%) expecting their bookings to increase year-over-year. By a wide margin, the top concern clients are expressing to agents is the proliferation of “delayed flights” – directly reflecting this year’s increased weather disruptions.

Conducted November 17-December 8, 2015, these business travel trends are based on responses from 423 Travel Leaders Group travel agents throughout the United States whose portfolio consists of 50 percent or more business travel clients.

“Almost in spite of headlines forecasting a global recession, the U.S. economy continues to show positive growth, and with that, our outlook for business travel in 2016 remains cautiously optimistic,” said Ninan Chacko, Travel Leaders Group CEO. “This past year proved to be a challenging one for air travelers as they faced extraordinary flight delays and cancellations. So it is no surprise the top concern agents are hearing from clients focuses on ‘delayed flights.’”

Anticipated Level of Business Travel in 2016

When asked, “What have your business travel clients indicated in terms of either actual bookings and/or client feedback as to the amount of travel they anticipate for 2016 compared to 2015?” agents said:

  2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
Booking levels will increase compared to last year 36.6% 45.5% 38.4% 38.7% 34.5%
Booking levels will remain on par with last year 40.2% 34.0% 39.4% 40.8% 42.2%
Booking levels will decline compared to last year 6.6% 4.9% 5.7% 9.8% 4.7%

Top Business Travel Concerns

When asked, “What are the top three concerns for your business travelers?” survey participants indicated:

  2016 2015 2014
Delayed flights 78.7% 68.5% 70.1%
Limited airline seat availability 38.3% 42.0% 46.7%
Earning frequent flyer / loyalty points 37.6% 32.9% 37.5%
Ease of passing through security 33.8% 33.1% 28.3%

TSA PreCheck

When asked “What percentage of your business travel clients are approved for TSA PreCheck?” 35.6 percent of agents now indicate that a majority of their business travel clients are approved for TSA PreCheck, up from just 22.3 percent last year.

Ancillary Fees for Business Travelers

When asked, “Please choose the most frequently charged Ancillary Fees your business travel clients encounter,” the majority of surveyed agents cited three airline-related fees – for changing flights, gaining seat assignments and checking bags. As more hotels offer free Wi-Fi, the percentage of agents naming it among the top ancillary fees dropped to 9.5 percent from 17.7 percent last year. Additionally, an increasing number of agents said that clients are paying hotel “resort fees” and airline Internet fees.

  2016 2015 2014
Airline flight change fees 73.5% 73.7% 77.4%
Airline seat assignment fees 62.2% 53.9% 52.6%
Airline baggage fees 58.6% 53.2% 55.0%
Hotel "resort fees" 16.5% 11.7% 11.8%
Airline Internet fees 12.3% 8.9% 6.8%
Hotel Internet fees 9.5% 17.7% 18.5%
Hotel parking fees 6.6% 10.3% 10.1%
Hotel early check-in / late check-out fees 6.6% 4.4% 4.0%
Car rental one-way drop-off fees 5.4% 5.6% 9.0%
Airline food fees 3.1% 2.8% 4.5%

These business trends are part of a travel trends survey of 1,316 U.S.-based travel agents from Travel Leaders Group’s flagship Travel Leaders brand and All Aboard Travel, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, Results! Travel, Travel Leaders Corporate, Tzell Travel Group and units.