New research commissioned by the SAP Concur organization in April – May 2021 revealed a shift in priorities for business travelers amid COVID-19. The data offers powerful insights for organizations to consider as they continue to think about the evolution of their travel programs, suggesting that employees see travel as essential for both professional and personal reasons. Ninety-six percent of respondents are willing to travel for business over the next 12 months, including 65 percent who are very willing!
Notable highlights of the responding 3,850 business travelers across 25 global markets include:
It’s personal. Travelers believe their career success and fulfillment depend on a return to business travel.
- Ninety-two percent of respondents are motivated to travel for business this year for personal reasons, including making personal connections with customers and colleagues (54 percent), experiencing new places (52 percent), and taking a break from their everyday life (41 percent).
- That said, four in five business travelers worry that unless they increase business travel this year, their personal (80 percent) and professional lives (80 percent) will suffer.
- Respondents listed personal concerns about the ability to develop and maintain business connections (45 percent), making less money (38 percent), and not advancing in their career (33 percent). In fact, one in five (18 percent) are worried they could lose their job if they are unable to increase their business travel.
- Respondents also felt that if business travel does not increase, it will be more difficult for their company to build new relationships (38 percent), and it would result in fewer new deals signed (37 percent) and fewer contract renewals with existing clients (34 percent).
- Heavy workloads and unused vacation days also mean workers want to make the most of any upcoming business travel—89 percent say they will add personal vacation time to their business trips in the next 12 months.
But COVID-19 has also altered power dynamics in the workplace. Business travelers will consider their options if employers don’t match their expectations.
- Two out of three respondents (68 percent) clearly state that they want to return to business travel, but they want to do so on their own terms.
- Almost a third (31 percent) say they would ask to limit travel if their company does not implement policies or measures to help protect their health and safety, while 20 percent would go as far as looking for a different position.
Travel flexibility is moving to the forefront for business travelers, while safety is taking a back seat.
- Flexibility, such as choosing your transportation, lodging, and travel dates, is now the most pressing need for business travelers, ahead of their vaccination-related demands (72 percent vs. 62 percent).
- In contrast, in 2020, ensuring personal health and safety while traveling was the most important consideration for business travelers.
Additional findings—including how businesses can address travelers’ requirements to rebuild trust and retain talent—will be released and discussed during the SAP Concur Travel Industry Summit on June 17, 2021.
The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com), a leading independent provider of quantitative, qualitative and hybrid market research, among 3,850 business travelers (defined as those who travelled for business three or more times in the past 24 months, and who work in a role that will likely require them to resume business travel when it is safe to do so) from the following markets: US, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, LAC (Colombia, Chile, Peru, Argentina), UK, France, Germany, ANZ region (Australia, New Zealand), SEA region (Singapore, Malaysia), China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Italy, Spain, Dubai, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), South Africa, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. The survey took place April-May 2021.