BCD Travel survey: Safe and satisfied travelers remain top priorities for buyers

BCD survey finds supplier flexibility is gaining importance with travel buyers.

Travel buyers are still working out answers to the question: To travel or not to travel? In a survey conducted by BCD Travel this fall, 97 travel buyers from around the world revealed their preferences for: the most important criteria for travel; travel program priorities; managing air and hotel sourcing; and increasing the use of cars for business trips. The results are summarized below.

To travel or not to travel? These are the criteria.

Provided that travel is not restricted by lockdown or entry limitations, 86% of survey respondents rated the infection level at destination the most important factor in deciding whether to take a trip. Return on investment of the trip (82%), employee vulnerability (78%) and quarantine requirements (77%) are next in importance

Less important are COVID-19 testing requirements, employee preference and travel alternatives, each one accounting for around a third of the responses. Cost and trip length are least important.

Travel program priorities: supplier management gains importance

In line with the results of travel buyer surveys BCD conducted in January and April, duty of care and traveler satisfaction remain the top travel program priorities, while supplier management gained importance in comparison with the April evaluation. Seventy-seven percent of travel buyers either have renegotiated existing supplier agreements or are planning to do so. Similarly, 72% have issued or will shortly introduce new requirements to their preferred suppliers.

Teri Miller, Executive Vice President, BCD Travel

“While uncertainty can be unsettling, it also creates an opportunity to drive change,” says Teri Miller, Executive Vice President at BCD Travel. “Change enables you to optimize your travel program to control cost while providing a positive travel experience. Now more than ever before, it’s essential to review supplier partnerships, use data and shift travel.”

Good to know for negotiations: most travel managers (58%) expect the hotel prices to drop, while the same number expect the airline rates to rise (60%). Other costs are expected to stay about the same or are more difficult to predict.

Air sourcing: focus on flexibility and hygiene

When asked about the air policy, travel managers are most likely to add a requirement for non-stop/direct flights (37%) or have already implemented it (34%). The second most likely addition to the air policy is to encourage shorter advance booking (23%). Similarly, the second biggest expected change in air sourcing is the requirement for more flexible cancellation policies. Both illustrate the travel managers’ search for more flexibility in 2021. The biggest expected change in air sourcing refers even more directly to the pandemic: 79% of the surveyed managers have increased their focus on cleanliness and hygiene requirements.

Hotel sourcing: something old, something new

Hygiene will dominate the focus of hotel sourcing strategy: 70% of managers are likely to implement a requirement for hotels to pass a health and/or safety certification. Over 40% of managers are predicting a mix of old and new policies, probably driven by the unpredictability of this year’s market conditions. This is reflected in most managers’ (52%) prediction that the volume of travelers per hotel will decrease and the use of a cancellation and exchange policy will increase (68%). The focus on hygiene also emerges in accommodation types: 41% of managers expect to more often choose a hotel room with kitchenette for extended stays.

Car policy: DYOC is the newest acronym

A major shift is taking place in the car category. The requirement for rental cars to meet certain safety and hygiene criteria will increase for many managers. In addition to 23% of travel buyers that have already introduced it, 41% more plan to implement this requirement. When asked for the expected frequency of use of various transportation modes, no less than 75% anticipated an increased use of DYOC (Drive Your Own Car) travelers. About the same percentage (71%) expected air transport to decrease.

Travel managers expect business travelers to use their own car more frequently and not just for the neighboring cities. The maximum expected driving distance for business trips is an average 284 miles (457 km).

Look for flexibility, act tactically

Miriam Moscovoci, BCD Travel’s senior director of Research & Corporate Innovation

BCD’s Senior Director Research and Innovation Miriam Moscovici presented these findings in a webinar. “As long as we’re facing these highly uncertain times, it is wise to make your sourcing policy and strategy as flexible as possible, in order to maximize the opportunities at hand and to minimize the consequences of sudden change,” Moscovici said. “Take it per quarter when negotiating new contracts, rather than looking for the long-term contracts that used to be the best option with most suppliers.”

Moscovici also advises against using cost savings as the main driver for travel strategy. The best strategy for uncertain times, she says, is to act tactically.

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