Business travellers turn away from direct booking channels in 2018

Direct bookings made by 69% of travellers – down from 81% in 2017


Maidenhead, 3 December 2018 – The trend among business travellers to book flights and accommodation directly from suppliers has gone into reverse, according to new research from SAP Concur and GBTA.  The number of European business travellers who booked flights directly with their preferred airline fell from 79 per cent in 2017 to 68 per cent in 2018. During the same period, the number booking hotel accommodation directly dropped from 83 per cent in 2017 to 70 per cent.


Pierre-Emmanuel Tetaz, EMEA SVP and General Manager, SAP Concur says: “The research tells us that 62 per cent of business travellers believe their employer is somewhat or very advanced when it comes to the travel booking technology they offer. That may account for the move away from direct bookings and the high and relatively steady use of online booking tools (OBTs) in 2018. However, there is more that can be done to encourage greater use of these corporate channels to the advantage of both the traveller and their employer.”


For travel managers who want to improve take-up of corporate booking channels, the Europe-wide evidence is that business travellers are looking for convenience and personalisation. Overall, 41 per cent said that they chose to book directly because it was more convenient. There are some differences across the continent, however:

  • Convenience and pricing were the two most popular reasons in the UK: both chosen by 48 per cent of travellers.
  • At the top of the list in France, convenience (chosen by 45 per cent) was slightly more popular than pricing (chosen by 44 per cent).
  • In the Nordic countries, pricing was by far the most popular reason for making a direct booking – chosen by 42 per cent, compared to 36 per cent who went for convenience.
  • Pricing and the descriptions available on direct booking channels were the two most popular reasons in Germany – both chosen by 44 per cent. Convenience was in third place (37 per cent).
  • In Benelux countries, pricing also topped the list and was chosen by 48 per cent of travellers. Convenience and better selection came joint second, chosen by 38 per cent of travellers –some way behind pricing.


When asked about features they would like to see in corporate booking tools, 43 per cent of travellers across EMEA included personalised booking in their top three choices. Forty-two per cent cited pre-trip approvals and travel personalisation.


That said, the quality of the technology alone is not enough to change business traveller behaviour. Stricter travel policies can lead to a small but still notable increase in the use of corporate channels. In a typical example, 74 per cent of travellers whose corporate policies were fairly flexible still booked directly with an airline. That number fell to 64 per cent among travellers whose companies had much stricter travel policies.


There is also plenty of room for improvement around policy: 43 per cent of business travellers said that their travel policies had become more flexible over the past five years, and only 15 per cent said they have become stricter.


However, delivering a more personalised booking process also requires new ways of thinking about travel policy, particularly data-sharing in the GDPR era. For example:

  • 45 per cent of travellers said they would share personal data for a clear purpose.
  • 42 per cent said they would share if they could opt out at any time.
  • 34 per cent said that clear purpose included making booking easier.
  • 47 per cent said they would share travel preferences and favourites with their OBT.
  • 45 per cent would share their contact information.
  • 43 per cent would share their company location.


Yet, travellers are much more reluctant to share more personal information like residence, dietary requirements or biometrics.


Jessica Collison, GBTA director of research said: “Travellers have high expectations of their organisations when it comes to their safety as the majority (73 percent) expect their organisations to proactively contact them within two hours of an emergency – despite the fact that most would not contact their organisation if they were in need of assistance, leaving the responsibility solely on the company.


“This expectation extends to bleisure travel, with 31 percent expecting their company to be responsible for traveller safety on leisure days tacked onto business trips as well. Travellers truly value the duty of care component in company tools, so it’s not surprising that they want to see more safety-related features such as emergency support and safety notifications as part of their company resources in the future.”


Tetaz, SAP Concur, concludes: “The nature of business travel continues to change, and travellers are demanding more from both their providers and their employers. On one hand, this puts extra strain on corporate travel departments who need to control the cost of executive travel and have a duty of care for employees on the road. On the other, it gives them an opportunity to develop a more traveller-friendly component to their employment brand based on the right combination of policy and technology.”




Notes to readers:
A survey of 1252 European business travellers in Germany (152), France (151), the UK (152), the Nordics (513), Belgium (155) and the Netherlands (129) was conducted using an online panel. This survey was fielded between September 21 and October 16, 2018 with respondents qualifying if they (a) were employed full-time or part-time, and (b) traveled for business more than once in the past year.

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