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Five trends shaping corporate travel in 2024

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Survey of North American business travelers reveals top trends, concerns, and expectations.

NEW YORK — As the global travel landscape continues to be disrupted by geopolitical tensions, socioeconomic disparities, natural disasters, and more, a new survey of North American business travelers reveals increased enthusiasm for travel, alongside ongoing safety concerns. The survey, conducted by Opinium*, was commissioned by World Travel Protection (WTP), a global leader in travel risk management. Here are five trends influencing business travel in 2024.

1. More business travelers are happy to be traveling again

With the global pandemic seemingly in the rear-view mirror, more business travelers say they are happy to be traveling for work this year than last. While only one-third of business travelers indicated they were happy to be traveling for work in 2023 (US 33%, CAN 36%), almost half say they are happy to be traveling in 2024 (US 44%, CAN 48%).

Perhaps as a result of this heightened enthusiasm, the number, length, and duration of business trips have also increased, with half of business travelers saying they went on more trips in 2023 than in 2022 (US 54%, CAN 48%), and many noting these trips were longer in duration (US 48%, CAN 40%) and included more meetings per trip (US 54%, CAN 43%).

It’s encouraging to see growth in the number of business travelers who say they enjoy the experience, especially given the challenges of recent years,” said Frank Harrison, Regional Security Director Americas, WTP. “The personal connections made through business travel remain absolutely vital in fostering creativity and innovation and propelling industries forward.”

2. Hybrid and remote work has reinforced the value of in-person meetings

The normalization of working from home seems to have increased employees’ appetite for face-to-face meetings and business travel.

Three-quarters of business travelers (US 74%, CAN 73%) say that meeting in person is critical for building positive, long-term relationships, and six in 10 (US 67%, CAN 58%) say that traveling for business has become more important since they’ve started working from home. Indeed, more than half of business travelers (US 59%, CAN 51%) worry that traveling less would impact their ability to be successful at their jobs.

While virtual meetings have helped bridge gaps and keep people connected, it’s clear that they cannot fully replace in-person interactions, which are important for relationship building and making connections across teams,” adds Harrison.

Survey respondents cited three main benefits of business travel: traveling to places they enjoy (US 43%, Can 42%), networking with new people (US 41%, Can 52%), and having an opportunity to bond with their team (US 38%, Can 44%).

3. Safety is a concern amidst war and global upheaval

Even though many respondents are happy to be traveling, safety remains a concern in the face of increasing global conflict and instability. Two in 10 travelers (US 22%, CAN 21%) feel less safe when traveling for work these days, and six in 10 (US 71%, CAN 59%) are concerned about geopolitical threats – such as war, terrorist acts, or tension between countries – while traveling for work.

Further, almost half of US travelers (48%) and more than a quarter of Canadian travelers (28%) say the number of work trips canceled or negatively impacted by war, geopolitical conflict, and/or acts of terrorism increased in 2023 compared to 2022.

Significantly, the vast majority of business travelers surveyed say they would decline a trip if they didn’t feel their employer was prioritizing their safety and well-being (US 75%, CAN 72%), and three in five (US 69%, CAN 60%) say they would quit their jobs if they felt their safety when traveling was not a priority.

4. Budget cuts are also fueling safety concerns

In the last year, more than eight in 10 business travelers have been impacted by budget cuts (US 89%, CAN 86%). One-third of business travelers (US 34%, CAN 32%) report the need to be more careful about how they spend their travel budget these days, and many indicate their organization is much more reluctant to approve business travel (US 25%, CAN 20%).

Three-fifths of business travelers (US 65%, CAN 60%) say they are concerned that safety could be compromised if budget is the chief travel booking criteria.

Two in 10 travelers (US 22%, CAN 16%) reported they were asked to fly at cheaper times in 2023, and two in 10 (US 21%, CAN 27%) also said they were asked by their companies to stay in less expensive accommodations.

This isn’t just about the loss of perks for business travelers; reductions in budgets have wider safety concerns,” says Harrison. “A less expensive hotel in a high-crime area, for example, not only poses a risk to physical safety but is also likely to cause anxiety for the employees themselves. Similarly, opting for cheaper flights that arrive in the middle of the night is a logistical issue as the traveler struggles to get enough rest and a safety issue, particularly for more vulnerable travelers.”

5. Travelers want employers to do more to keep them safe

Importantly, more than half of business travelers (US 61%, 51% CAN) say their employer could do more to keep them safe, with many (US 51%, CAN 44%) saying they don’t feel their well-being is taken seriously by their organization when traveling for business.

It’s important for employers to know they have a duty of care to protect employees from reasonably foreseeable risks, including risks to safety and well-being,” says Harrison. “Failure to do so may expose them to significant legal and reputational consequences.”

He adds: “The world has changed significantly over the past few years. Destinations have evolved, political climates have shifted, and organizations now confront heightened risks. While business travelers may be eager to travel, they require more guidance and support than before. Having a comprehensive travel risk management program in place is now more important than ever.”

*This release offers a snapshot of the attitudes and perceptions of business travelers from the US and Canada. Research was conducted by Opinium Research from February 1-8, 2024, amongst 1,000 adults who travel for business at least once a year in the US (500) and Canada (500).

Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website | + Posts

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

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