It’s a common frustration among travel buyers: despite time, energy and resources that go into securing advantageous contracts with preferred air, ground and hotel providers, many business travelers still go outside of a business’ official travel channels such as a corporate online booking tool (OBT). A recent survey of European business travellers sponsored by Concur, Booking Behaviour: The Business Traveller’s Perspective, demonstrates that while this is still the case, many business travellers prefer to use their corporate OBT to other avenues if such a tool is available to them. That includes over half in the UK and Germany and three-fifths of business travellers in France. Even with the largely positive views of using OBTs, roughly half of respondents in each country still booked directly with a supplier or used an OTA/travel site at some point in the past year.
The study examined the booking habits of business travellers in the United Kingdom, France and Germany – Europe’s three largest business travel markets. The survey is similar to one that the GBTA Foundation conducted last year on North American booking habits, though the results among business travellers in the three European countries vary significantly with respect to booking preferences and motivations.
According to the study, “when business travellers had OBT access, they were more likely to use it than any other channel. However, these travellers commonly used other methods too. In each country, at least one-third of the travellers who had the option to use an OBT still booked direct, one-fifth to one-third booked through a Travel Manager or agent, and roughly one-fifth used an online travel agency (OTA)/travel site, in the past year.”
For travel buyers, the survey’s results indicate that their work is being acknowledged by the wider organization, yet challenges persist. Specifically, many travellers will still book their own accommodations outside of company-approved channels – even if the organization has an OBT, which is most traveller’s preferred method of booking.
The survey found that, “at least one-third of business travellers in each of the three countries booked a business trip directly with a supplier in the past year, even when they had the option to use an OBT. These travellers indicate a variety of reasons… They most commonly indicate better pricing / offers, the ability to earn loyalty status/receive loyalty benefits, and more convenience.”
Ultimately, the survey found a continuing paradox for business travelers in the UK, Germany and France. While travellers generally site OBTs as their preferred method of booking, more than half are willing to use alternative channels to book their travel accommodations. This is true even though a clear majority (55 percent for France – 69 percent for Germany) are required to follow a company’s published and enforced travel polices and over 60% in all three countries responded that they knew who their organization’s travel manager/travel team is.
What Booking Behaviour: The Business Traveller’s Perspective ultimately shows is that business travellers, for the most part, want to follow company rules and guidelines, prefer booking through preferred channels, and strive to be in compliance. There are times, however, when they are willing to go outside of the stated policy if it is in their best interest – to get points or status, for example – or if a preferred vendor is not available. While more work can be done to convince business travellers to book through approved channels, the work of business travel professionals in terms of negotiating the best deals, highlighting travel policy and educating travelers is seen to be positive overall.