SAP Concur commissioned Wakefield Research, a full-service quantitative, qualitative, and hybrid market research firm, to study COVID-19’s impact on global business travel across 23 global markets including Australia and New Zealand.
Last October 2019, SAP Concur’s business travel survey highlighted the societal issues and employee experiences, including the preference of aircraft type as a concern of business travellers. Fast forward to 2020, global business travel has painted a drastic picture that none of us have predicted due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
The new SAP Concur study conducted by Wakefield Research in May-June 2020 reports that despite the extreme changes and challenges in travel today, travelling remains irreplaceable in fulfilling critical business demands. As travel resumes, it is expected though that the health and safety of travellers alongside stricter policies and trip preparation will be the absolute priority.
Mike Koetting, Chief Product Strategy Officer, SAP Concur stated:
“The scope of the COVID-19 travel disruption has magnified common travel and expense challenges in a way that is unprecedented. Traditional challenges, like ensuring necessary oversight of employees’ business travel plans, rapidly became complex for employers amid ongoing restrictions that remain unpredictable.”
“Businesses need to be proactive about supporting and safeguarding employees as they prepare to travel again for work, whether putting pre-trip approvals and guidance in place or ensuring visibility into itineraries and spend information, wherever employees book travel,” he added.
Wakefield Research conducted two surveys involving 4,850 business travelers defined as those who travel for business three or more times annually from 23 global markets such as US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, ANZ and SEA region among others; and 800 travel managers from eight global markets of US, Brazil, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, SEA region (Singapore, Malaysia), and Hong Kong.
In the survey, 97% of business travellers expect a “new normal” coupled with new travel behaviors in business travel even the COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted. Business travel’s “new normal” includes wearing facemasks during travel, hand sanitizers as standard accessories, social distancing, contactless greetings, and routine temperature screening.
The global survey has shown notable insights from business travellers that can be segmented as follows:
Excitement and Reservations
The majority (59%) of the respondents look forward and feel positive about their next travel. However, 26% of business travellers find the preparation for a trip as the most stressful part while 45% of the respondents said that the actual trip is the most stressful part, which is an increase of 50% from last year.
90% of business travellers expect an increase in discrimination for certain groups such as those displaying cold/flu-like symptoms (59%), those from countries with greater than average infection rates (49%), and travelers of Asian descent (32%).
A heightened discrimination against certain groups, including LGBTQ+ (95% compared to 90% of non-LGBTQ+) and those with special needs and underlying health conditions (95% versus 89% of those without) is also anticipated.
Company Accountability and Preparedness
Though 36% of the respondents take accountability on their own safety and protection, 18% hold their employer most accountable while 13% hold their government most accountable.
96% of the travel managers surveyed shared that their company was not fully prepared to manage evolving travel demands during the outbreak highlighting the pain points in: handling the volume of canceled reservations (44%); processing the volume of refunds, receipts, and unused tickets (43%); and determining if it is safe to travel in the absence of government guidelines (40%).
41% of SMB travel managers said their company is unprepared to provide safety guidelines to travellers as compared to the larger businesses (33%).
Health and Safety Above All
As expected, the majority (65%) placed personal health and safety as one of their top considerations for travel. 55% are concerned about infecting their families and 53% worried to get the virus themselves.
Globally, 96% identified at least one measure they consider to be critical for their company to implement when travel resumes. These are mandatory personal health screenings for traveling employees (39%), limiting business travel to only the most business-critical trips (39%), and easier access to personal protective equipment like gloves or facemasks (33%).
Business Travellers’ Outlook
The majority (92%) of the surveyed markets anticipate some company losses due to COVID such as closing contracts and opening new businesses that require face-to-face interaction.
If their employer fails to implement new measures to support business travel, the survey reported that 65% of business travellers would take some degree of such as a request for limited travel, apply for a new position within the company or explore opportunities outside.
SAP Concur Supports the New Normal
Aside from this recent survey that may guide business leaders in navigating and strategising the “new normal” in travel, SAP Concur also recently launched a Traveler Resource Center in TripIt, a collection of resources including public health and safety advisories, cancellation policies and new travel guidelines to aid business travellers safely plan their next trip.
Also, on 17 September 2020, SAP Concur will hold a one-day complimentary virtual event open to the business travel industry community. The SAP Concur Travel Industry Summit will encourage cross-industry, government, and business community dialogue in addressing the current and future needs of business travel.