Business travel spend is set to increase during 2015, but new research from Priority Pass reveals changing expectations among the UK’s most frequent business travelers. The opportunity to extend the benefits of business travel, such as airport lounge access or preferential seating to families during leisure time, is increasingly important for this group. There is also a desire for travel brands to offer business travelers more experience-based benefits during work-related trips, such as access to spas, top restaurants, and cultural events.
According to the annual buyer survey commissioned by the Business Travel Show, more money is being freed up in the business travel market in 2015, with a third (33%) of European business travel buyers admitting to having more money to spend. The research by Priority Pass backs up these figures, showing that the UK’s frequent flyers will take an average of 5.8 business trips and 3.5 leisure flights this year.
This increase in budget however hasn’t necessarily been reflected in upgrades to class of travel or accommodation among business travellers. Collinson Group’s research found that three-quarters of frequent business travellers fly Economy and 73% choose not to stay in 4 or 5 star hotels, but look to enhance their trips with other benefits. Airport lounge access is considered essential or nice to have for 69% of UK frequent business travellers meanwhile nearly half (46%) see concierge services as essential or nice to have. Just under half (48%) of UK frequent business travellers would also consider upgrading their seat on a flight, using travel miles or points or by paying extra.
Frequent business travellers are also more engaged than leisure travellers in seeking experience-led holidays. For example 66% look to experience different cultures, over half choose holidays where they can be pampered and 41% actively seek locations which are off the beaten track.
The research highlights a number of opportunities for business travel providers and for internal corporate travel teams. Frequent business travellers are much more loyal to their preferred airline (61%) than general travellers (39%) but show less loyalty to hotel groups, suggesting that hoteliers who can offer enhancements such as access to arts and cultural events, to fine dining and wines or spas can attract and retain these valuable customers. Hotels could also offer more family oriented benefits which bridge business and leisure travel, such as organised excursions. Companies offering these benefits to frequent travellers can motivate hard-working employees who are often away from their families and reduce the stress of business travel, with relatively cost-effective but valued rewards.
Frequent business travellers are active users of technology. This group use many more smartphone apps than leisure travellers. Fifty-five percent use music apps compared with just 38% of general travellers and 68% use shopping apps compared with only 49% of leisure travellers. Finding new ways to add value and share information with business travellers via smartphones is also an area where hotels and airlines can increase loyalty.
Errol McGlothan, General Manager, Priority Pass commented, “Business travellers have revealed a strong desire for experiences to enhance their travel experience, such as access to airport lounges, concierge services, and upgrades. They are also keen to extend the benefits from their business trips to improve the experience of travel with their families, for example using points to ensure they can book plane seats together for their families when on holiday.”
McGlothan continued, “Business travel is a powerful ‘moment of truth’ for many brands, from financial services to telecoms providers and, indeed, travel providers. We’re seeing more and more companies in these areas approaching us to help them unlock greater customer loyalty and increased profitability.”