TORONTO, March 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The message from leading travel industry executives is clear: business travel in Canada is in a full recovery mode. Demand for air travel and hotel stays amongst business travellers is up in 2013, and business and meeting planning is growing exponentially, according to senior travel executives from Best Western International, Concur, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) in Canada and Vision 2000 at the annual Business Travel Summit in Toronto last week.
Domestic air travel is expected to grow almost five percent and hotel stays are growing four percent according to the GBTA 2013 Industry Pulse Report issued in February. Although business travel budgets this year have increased slightly by three percent, more travellers are on the road more often, according to GBTA Canada President Tanya Racz.
Best Western's Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dorothy Dowling added, "While demand is up one to two percent for corporate travel, what we're starting to see over the past two years is that rate is also starting to improve, which is good news for the lodging industry." Vision 2000 also reported business and meeting planning is up more than 15 percent in 2013 compared to last year.
While the travel industry continues to place a significant emphasis on social media channels and mobile sites, executives indicated that travellers value the content as they research travel, or "look to book," but the sites don't necessarily drive a significant volume of bookings.
"The information gathering stage for business travellers continues to escalate and all travel providers need to provide powerful content on the web for them to best make their travel decisions. While mobile is being used as an information source, it's not necessarily a transaction source yet," said Dowling. "A corporate traveller might have four or five choices of where they can book but they still go to the Internet to evaluate and research content before they choose where to stay. We've found that business travellers primarily view images and look at room types along with reading reviews, as they want to see what other travellers are saying about the property."
Vision 2000 reports that 30 percent of its corporate travel clients use the brand's mobile booking options. "For corporate travellers, online adoption is increasing but from a knowledge standpoint, these travellers are still calling their travel advisors to help with preliminary research for their trips, " said Vision 2000 COO Brian Robertson. "While more corporate travellers are booking themselves online, we're supporting both the online and full-service environment and are aggregating content from all available sources, including direct booking sites, GDS sites, our online tool and Concur. The content is coming from everywhere."
Each executive agreed that social media and web services are increasingly playing a role in communication with the business traveller. Dowling said that Best Western values social media and review sites, such as TripAdvisor, as a listening tool to understand its customers and their points of view. Vision 2000's Robertson indicated that more than ever they look to chat functions, such as Salesforce Chatter, to have instant dialogue with its clients. Concur's Executive Vice President of Supplier Management, Michael Koetting, finds that business travellers are more likely to share itineraries with its TripIt tool through LinkedIn, as they are often more interested in seeing what their fellow business travellers have to say about a hotel or destination as opposed to the general public on TripAdvisor.
When it comes to who's making the travel decisions, what's true for leisure travel is true for business travel. According to Best Western's Dowling, recent surveys show that 85 percent of the travel decision making in North America is controlled by women, with women representing more than half of all business travellers that stay with Best Western.
With a growing number of female business travellers on the road, travel brands are placing a stronger emphasis on helping ensure their safety.
"Our 'duty of care' begins with knowing where travellers are at all times," said Concur's Koetting. "Progressive travel managers are beginning to allow travellers more flexibility in how they book travel with online channels and such, but they are required to share the data so that the company knows where the traveller is."
Vision 2000's Robertson added, "When booking travel for those on the road by themselves, both men and women, we have to take into consideration and respect their accommodation requests such as providing hotel rooms near elevators, dining in open environments, looking at gyms with glass doors and such to make a traveler feel safe."
GBTA's Racz said that historically, risk management in many companies floated around without a clear distinct owner, but a recent travel risk management survey of 125 companies identified corporate travel as the owner.
As millennials enter the workforce, managed travel programs are being impacted. Koetting said, "Millennials want more freedom to book wherever they want and that can complicate the inherent duty of care. Companies are trying to adapt to the expectations of millennials and this speaks to the need for new technology that can enable that duty of care."
ABOUT BEST WESTERN INTERNATIONAL Best Western International, Inc., headquartered in Phoenix, Ariz., is a privately held hotel brand made up of more than 4,000* BEST WESTERN®, BEST WESTERN PLUS, BEST WESTERN PREMIER hotels in more than 100* countries and territories worldwide. Now celebrating 67 years of hospitality, Best Western welcomes hundreds of thousands of guests nightly. Best Western provides its hoteliers with global operational, sales, marketing and promotional support, and online and mobile booking capabilities. More than 15 million travelers are members of the brand's award-winning loyalty program Best Western Rewards®, one of the few programs in which members earn points that never expire and can be redeemed at any Best Western hotel worldwide. The brand's partnerships with AAA/CAA, race car driver Michael Waltrip, and Harley-Davidson® provide travelers with exciting ways to interact with the brand. In 2012, Best Western won a record number of awards, including AAA's Hotel Partner of the Year, CAA's Partner of the Year, TravelClick's eMarketer of the Year and Compuware's Best of the Web Gold awards. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit www.bestwestern.com.
*Numbers are approximate and may fluctuate.
ABOUT CONCUR Concur is a leading provider of integrated travel and expense management solutions. Concur's easy-to-use Web-based and mobile solutions help companies and their employees control costs and save time. Concur Connect is the platform that enables the entire travel and expense ecosystem of customers, suppliers, and developers to access and extend Concur's T&E cloud. Concur's systems adapt to individual employee preferences and scale to meet the needs of companies from small to large. Learn more at www.concur.com or the Concur Blog.
ABOUT GBTA The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world's premier business travel and meetings organization. Collectively, GBTA's 5,000-plus members manage over $340 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA provides its network of 17,000 business and government travel and meetings managers, as well as travel service providers, with networking events, news, education & professional development, research, and advocacy. For more information, visit gbta.org.
ABOUT VISION 2000 Vision 2000 Travel Group Inc. is the largest Canadian owned travel management company. A Leader in travel management, Vision 2000 provides a full range of Corporate Solutions, Meetings & Events, Cruises & Vacations and World Tours travel related services from over 30 full service and corporate onsite locations. Vision 2000 is currently the leading Canadian member and Top 10 globally in Virtuoso, the world's leading Luxury Travel Network. Vision 2000 is the Canadian shareholder agency of RADIUS -- the global travel company. RADIUS is one of the largest travel management companies in the world and is well positioned to service multinational corporate clients on a global basis. RADIUS operates from more than 3,600 locations in over 80 countries worldwide and has an annual sales turnover of USD $20 billion.