New research from American Express has found that globalisation has brought about a significant shift in attitudes to business travel. Despite today’s digitally connected global marketplace, the new research shows that business travel is important to the success of UK businesses, with just over three quarters (76%) of the UK business travellers surveyed believing that face-to-face meetings are essential in achieving their company objectives and over half (54%) indicating that reducing current levels of business travel would give competitors an advantage.
The research amongst regular business travellers, conducted by YouGov for American Express, reveals that UK professionals find business travel personally fulfilling. UK respondents were most likely in the global survey to say that business travel made their job more interesting (71%). Furthermore, just over half of UK respondents (52%) say that travelling for business has made them consider working abroad.
The frequent UK business travellers surveyed undertake 11 trips a year on average, with six in the UK and five overseas. With UK companies under pressure to manage their discretionary expenditure, optimising productivity is essential. The survey clearly showed that good preparation is key to getting the most out of a business trip – just over three quarters of UK professionals (76%) report that this enables them to be more productive. Furthermore, 62% admit that failure to prepare in advance for business meetings makes them significantly less productive.
Of those who prepare for business travel, 70% said they typically research topics in advance of meetings, while over two thirds (68%) prepare presentations in advance. In a nod to the increasing importance of trading overseas for UK companies, 55% of those who research countries they haven’t been to before said they read about local customs and etiquette, while just over half of UK travellers (52%) spend time researching the local political and economic environment. In spite of this level of preparation, almost a third of UK business travellers (30%) believe they have made a cultural faux pas when travelling abroad for business.
On the logistical side, travellers report that last minute travel hitches and technology issues have the most detrimental effect on their productivity. Professionals highlighted the top issues that can impact their productivity during business travel, including last minute travel delays affecting two thirds (66%), followed by internet access or other technology problems (62%). To help maximise their time on the road, just under three quarters of travellers who prepare for business travel check in to flights in advance (74%), and almost two thirds (63%) make sure they charge devices before they depart.
When asked to choose the three most important travel services when on the road, UK travellers selected airport lounge access (39%), business class travel (36%), staying in four- or five-star accommodation (36%), having access to a business credit card (26%), and staying on a designated ‘hotel club’ floor for business travellers (16%) as most important.
The research also revealed the clear positive commercial benefits of business travel. Three quarters (76%) say face-to-face meetings are essential to achieving their business objectives and, if this was curbed, half (49%) said revenue would decrease, with a third (36%) expecting this to drop by 25% or more. Around half of respondents agreed that prospect conversion would decrease and that the existing customer base would reduce (49% and 48%, respectively). Over half (54%) said reducing business travel would give competitors an advantage.
Fabienne Cauli, General Manager, Global Client Group, International, at American Express Global Commercial Payments, comments: “Professionals have told us that business travel is not only an important aspect of the job and a critical part of business growth, it’s also one they enjoy and find personally fulfilling. To ensure business travel continues to have a positive impact on the bottom line, the research has highlighted that preparation is key. Supporting business travellers by ensuring admin and travel logistics are straightforward and fuss-free will make business travel more productive and more rewarding.”
“The research highlighted that being able to offer travel with work is an important attraction and recruitment tool for businesses, as well as a vital part of overall job satisfaction – with two thirds (61%) of respondents in our research reporting that business travel is an important consideration when applying for a new job.”