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Companies should be rethinking their business travel programs for a new era

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Ground transportation, sustainability, bleisure travel and meal options are just a few of the considerations, according to a new study from Uber for Business and GBTA.

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Business travelers are taking to the roads and the skies again, but are corporate travel programs and policies keeping up with the way business travel happens now? With corporate travel and in-person meetings increasingly returning, businesses need to be thoughtful about how they’re implementing – or re-implementing – their travel programs, especially when it comes to their ground transportation.

That’s the premise behind a first-ever ground transportation report – “The Corporate Travel Comeback: The Evolution of Ground Transportation and Other Trending Business Travel Topics” – which is based on a quantitative survey of corporate travel managers across the U.S. and Canada. From Uber for Business, Uber’s enterprise arm, and the Global Business Travel Association, the world’s largest association representing the pre-pandemic $1.4 trillion global business travel industry, the report uncovers pressing concerns and considerations from travel managers at some of the world’s biggest companies.

“Corporate travel is on the rise. Uber saw airport rides represent 13% of Mobility Gross Bookings in Q1 2022, growing 166% from the past year,” said Susan Anderson, Global Head of Uber for Business. “As more and more companies shift to in-person and hybrid work flows, it’s important that businesses reimagine their travel programs and policies, so that they’re tailored to this new era of business that we’re operating in. Our hope is that this report’s findings can provide travel managers and others in the business travel space with the insights and data they need in order to roll out seamless and efficient travel programs that outpace the requirements of a changing world.”

The report finds that travel managers emerging from the pandemic are laser-focused on a few key considerations when it comes to evolving business travel programs at their companies: traveler safety, policy compliance, and sustainability. Compared to two years ago, 75% of employers are more focused on traveler safety/well-being, 55% are more focused on sustainability/social responsibility, and 53% are more focused on travel policy compliance/enforcement.

“As we’ve moved through the pandemic, business travel and travelers have changed and therefore company travel programs must evolve accordingly. This research puts a spotlight on some of the important and thoughtful considerations happening across companies and corporate travel departments when it comes to serving employees traveling for business moving forward,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO of GBTA.

Getting business travelers from Point A to B and everywhere in between
When thinking about their company’s current approach to managing ground transportation, survey respondents identified some of the top strengths of their travel programs – as well as notable areas for improvement.

Rideshare and rental cars top the list. Most travel managers say their company’s employees “frequently” use rental cars (82%) and rideshare apps (70%) on work trips, but fewer than half (48%) say employees frequently use taxis.

Going premium. Most travel policies at least sometimes allow chauffeured transportation/black car service (74%), premium ridesharing (68%), and premium/luxury rental cars (51%). Roughly one-third say their company’s employees “sometimes” or frequently” use chauffeured transportation (36%) or premium ridesharing (30%).

Half of travel programs (49%) currently have a business account with a rideshare platform and one-third (35%) would consider it. The most important features cited by travel managers were reporting (76%), integration with expense platforms (69%), and ability to apply company policies (62%).

Evolving business travel for people and the planet – despite the cost
Making sustainability a priority. An overwhelming majority (84%) say sustainability is at least somewhat important in the design of their company’s travel program, with 50% saying it is very or extremely important.

Of the companies surveyed, 73% are tracking or considering setting up tracking ground transportation sustainability efforts.

Even though travel programs prioritize sustainability, not all are willing to incur significant additional cost in order to achieve more sustainable outcomes. Only 6% of respondents say their company currently allows employees to spend more on sustainable travel options, and an additional one-quarter (26%) are considering allowing employees to spend more.

Work meets play, but how does travel policy follow?
Business and leisure, better together. Ninety percent of respondents say employees are more (30%) or equally as interested (60%) in bleisure travel – adding vacation days to their work trips – compared to pre-pandemic times. And although 36% say their company’s travel policy expressly allows bleisure trips, 49% their policy does not, but employees are often allowed to take these trips in practice.

A business traveler has to eat – but what are the rules now?
Inflation’s impact on meals. Meal prices are rising because of high inflation. While almost one-third of respondents (29%) say their company has raised its spending limit or per diem for meals, a larger number (56%) say these are unchanged from last fiscal or calendar year.

Food delivery is here to stay. More than half (55%) of travel managers say their company’s employees at least sometimes use food delivery apps on business trips and 32% expect employees to use them more than they do today.

Most travel programs (52%) already have or would consider having a business account with a food delivery platform. Features important to travel managers are integration with expense software (74%), reporting (72%), ability to order group meals (66%), and ability to apply company policies (64%).

The Uber For Business/GBTA survey was fielded April 18-27, 2022, among GBTA members and industry stakeholders in the U.S. and Canada who are involved with managing or procuring travel on behalf of their company and resulted in 202 responses.

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