A recent study shows that, despite the prevailing economic volatility, Asia-Pacific (APAC) corporate travellers are exhibiting a greater willingness to travel for business, but not without higher expectations to prioritise safety, flexibility and sustainability.
The survey, conducted by SAP Concur and running in its fifth year, polled 1,050 business travellers in Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand in April this year.
Business travel is returning steadily, with nearly all (94%) APAC travellers asserting that the future of their career depends on successful business travel in the coming year.
Three-fifths (60%) are very willing to travel for business, which is a 12% increase from the 48% who were this willing last year. The stakes are shown in the value put on travel ̶ many (46%) believe it is vital to maintain customer relationships.
While there is greater inclination to travel, the vast majority (93%) of APAC business travellers expect flexibility to book travel outside of company policy when policy conflicts with their needs or values.
Flexible arrangement includes employers allowing staff to book travel that falls outside of company policy to help facilitate a healthy work-life balance (53%), and a rising priority – to book more sustainable travel options (40%).
These expectations show that for business travellers, it is not just about value; it is about values.
Two-fifths of APAC business travellers (40%) expect their company to allow them to make travel choices outside of company policy to book more sustainable travel options.
Ninety percent of travellers said they will take extra steps over the next 12 months to reduce the environmental impact of their business travel. Nearly a quarter (24%) would directly decline a business trip if they had concerns about the environmental impact of the travel.
Companies may need to swiftly make adjustments to accommodate such employee sentiments, otherwise their business and financial operations may be compromised. Already, the survey had found that many travellers were going outside their company’s purview to book business travel, thus hampering their employer’s visibility into travel spend.
Half of APAC business travellers (50%) book their travel directly using an airline, hotel or car rental company’s website or app, while slightly fewer use their company’s travel agency or department (41%).
Many change or cancel flights using a direct approach too – 41% typically use the airline’s website or app, and 19% call the airline directly.
This behaviour of taking matters into their own hands may gather momentum if employees’ expectations for greater control over the nitty gritty of their trips remain unmet. Already, more than a third of APAC business travellers (34%) said they would decline a business trip that does not give them the flexibility to make adjustments outside of company policy.
Employers Must Take Steps to Maintain Spend Visibility and Control
Despite the clear advantages and opportunities afforded by corporate travel, 93% of APAC business travellers perceive threats to their business travel today.
Nearly nine in 10 APAC business travellers (89%) said their business travels are already being affected, with the most common impact being reduced travel budgets (42%). Many have also seen policy changes that impact the comfort and pleasure of their business travel, including employers requiring travellers to stay in lower quality accommodations and/or less safe areas (34%), and taking cheaper flights even if it means layovers, indirect routes or alternative airports (32%).
“As companies seek to balance corporate budget restrictions with the re-opening of business travel post-pandemic, it’s imperative they recognise the experience of business travellers and seek solutions that can help meet traveler expectations within the capacity of corporate travel programs and budgets,” said Charlie Sultan, President, Concur Travel, SAP Concur.
“Tools, policies and practices to maintain spend visibility and control, meet compliance, and deliver employee duty of care obligations must be top of mind.”
For more information on the study, download the full report here.