Sabre Corporation has published the results of its “2017 Asia Pacific Corporate Traveler Study,” identifying two major trends driving business travel in the region: an increased emphasis on mobility and a growing concern over non-compliance.
The company surveyed corporate travel professionals across 19 markets in the Asia Pacific region, including professionals at travel management companies and agencies representing corporate travelers.
According to Sabre, corporate travelers are increasingly prioritizing mobile solutions to enhance and support business travel. In fact, 80 percent of travel managers surveyed told the company mobility is now their biggest priority. That includes the ability to book travel via a mobile device, manage itineraries while on the go and ensure travel managers can keep in touch with travelers through mobile devices.
The data follows previous research from Sabre and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), released last year, which also emphasized the potential for mobile travel and entertainment (T&E) industry solutions to gain traction in a saturated market. According to that report, 78 percent of U.S. business travelers said they prefer to use self-service tools, including those they can access on their own mobile devices.
Sabre's most recent report also found APAC travel managers may be looking more closely at mobile payments, with two-thirds signaling interest in alternative forms of payment technology as a top priority. The company noted this emphasis on mobility and payments technology coincides with growing demand for an end-to-end corporate travel solution, one that combines booking, payments, risk management and expense reporting and management. Such integrated solutions, Sabre added, could help with the growing concern of non-compliance with corporate travel programs.
According to the survey, 43 percent of corporate travelers have deviated from internal policy before the business travel even began. Nearly the same figure — 42 percent — changed their itineraries while already on the trip, a result, researchers said, of travelers mixing business travel with leisure travel.
“The increasing incidence of non-compliance is the result of corporate travelers booking out of policy, where they extend business trips to include some leisure time at their own expense,” explained Jason Toothman, vice president of global accounts for Sabre travel network Asia Pacific. “With more companies shifting accountability of policy compliance to the traveler, the ability to integrate non-traditional sources of flight and accommodation — and [options] to change plans easily while on the go — will a go a long way in helping the corporate traveler adhere to policy without compromising on the quality of travel.”
Toothman also suggested there may be a link between use of mobile corporate travel solutions and a greater adherence to company travel policy.
In response to this trend, Sabre's research found businesses are attempting to change their travel policies. In 2015, neary two-thirds of survey respondents said they were recrafting their rules, compared to 47 percent that said the same in 2016. One-quarter of survey respondents told Sabre they have already deployed mobile apps that include capabilities to make sure users adhere to business travel policies — another initiative that shifts responsibility of compliance to the traveler, Sabre said.
Finally, Sabre identified a third key trend as corporates' increasing reliance on “premium economy,” a result of businesses looking to cut costs and step back from premium class air travel, yet still retain quality of travel service. The majority of professionals surveyed by Sabre said their companies have switched from business to premium economy. But, there is also a significant portion of businesses which reported upgrading travelers from economy to premium economy to boost traveler satisfaction, reports said.
“Both forces have contributed to [the] 81 percent of respondents [that] are seeing an increase in premium economy bookings,” Sabre said in its announcement.