The value of business travel. The travelers perspective

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1 The value of business travel The travelers perspective

2 Contents 1. Executive summary Introduction Travel purpose and business meeting outcomes The success of a business trip...7 Are lower results anticipated before the trip? Drivers of failure for business trips...8 Number of meetings attended during the trip...8 Length of stay...9 Advance booking...10 Trip type...10 Traveler job level...11 Other factors...11 Financial impact estimation Conclusions Bibliography

3 1. Executive summary This publication is a continuation of our research into the return-on-investment (ROI) of business travel. In a previous paper [1] we discussed how travel approvers approach this topic when dealing with trip requests from travelers. This study focuses on ROI from the traveler s point-of-view, and is based on a wide-scale traveler survey (10,000 respondents) conducted by Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) between May and October First, we analyzed the breakdown of travelers by their primary purpose of travel. We found that the top three reasons to travel were: Meeting with existing or potential clients (31%) Team-related meetings (21%) Training and development (13%) Second, we measured the success of business trips by asking travelers how useful their last trip was. The scale ranges from 1 to 5 with 5 being the most successful. 88% of the trips are judged useful, with ratings of 4 or 5. Finally, we analyzed the unsuccessful trips in order to understand if common patterns exist among them. We found that certain factors are indeed related to the low success of a business trip. Specifically, we measured the probability that a trip will fail as a function of the following variables: Number of meetings taking place during the trip Cumulative time spent in meetings Length of the stay Advance bookings Trip type (domestic, continental or intercontinental) Level of seniority In summary, we present a measurement of business trip success from the perspective of the business traveler. The next step will be to tie this success with key performance indicators typically used in global companies. Linking travel with business goals will help companies manage their travel program more efficiently and better support their strategic priorities. 3

4 2. Introduction Understanding the value of business travel and its ROI is of primary interest to the travel industry. But estimating the ROI for a given business trip is a challenging task. For the investment part of ROI, the productivity loss generated by travel stress [2] must be considered along with the actual expenses. For the return part things are less clear when it comes to quantifying a trip s value or understanding what makes a trip succeed or fail. This research addresses these challenges. The data used for this study was collected in a large-scale business traveler survey conducted by CWT between May and October The paper is structured as follows: Section 3 highlights the main purpose of travel, the outcomes travelers expect from their business trips and meetings, and the reasons why positive results are occasionally not achieved. Section 4 presents a first measure of the value of a business trip, and we introduce a classification of business trips based on this measure. We show that most business trips are successful and that low-outcome trips are typically the exception, not the rule. Section 5 is dedicated to analyzing the drivers and patterns of failure for business trips. These insights will serve to better recognize, anticipate and ultimately prevent unsuccessful trips in order to improve the overall ROI of business travel. Section 6 gives a summary and conclusions of this study. 4

5 3. Travel purpose and business meeting outcomes We conducted an online survey between May and October More than 10,000 business travelers from seven global companies served by CWT completed a questionnaire. 1 To be eligible to participate, travelers were required to have completed at least one trip by air in the preceding 12 months. We investigated the primary purpose for travel. Our findings are presented in Figure 1 and show that most employees travel to meet clients or suppliers (38% combined), followed by team-related meetings (21%). Innovation and R&D Supplier meeting Operations and quality control 10% 7% 7% 31% Client/prospect meeting 11% Events conferences and fairs 13% 21% Training and development Team-related meeting Fig. 1. Respondents primary purpose of travel. We also drilled down to the individual business meeting. In essence, the return of a given business trip is the sum of the returns of all meetings that take place during that trip. Travelers were asked what makes their business meetings valuable, and what causes meetings to fail. The top meeting outcomes are shown in Figure 2 and indicate that value is created along three directions, not mutually exclusive: Externally with business partners (business development, clients service delivery) Internally with colleagues (increased people development or engagement) Individually for the traveler (self-development and networking) Positive outcomes such as increased collaboration, strategic alignment or innovation may present both external and internal benefits. 1 Our recent study on trip approval [1] was largely based on the same data, with one difference: in the one-month interval between releasing our two studies, 100 additional answers were collected, bringing the total to 10,050. 5

6 Networking Other - 3% Self-development Employee engagement People development 7% 6% 5% 4% 21% Business development 7% 15% Quality control Innovation 8% 11% 13% Client service delivery Strategic alignment Increased collaboration Fig. 2. Top meeting outcomes as reported by business travelers. Travelers reported that when a meeting is unsuccessful, it is mainly due to a lack of preparation (40%) or a lack of a clear agenda (16%). Other reasons given by respondents include: Trip s costs in relation to its benefits (10%) Lack of participation (10%) Lack of an action plan (6%) Too many participants (5%) Not reaching set goals (4%) With an understanding of what travelers expect from their business meetings, we measured the success of a business trip. 6

7 4. The success of a business trip A simple measurement of the value of the trip can be obtained by asking travelers how useful their last trip was. In addition, we also inquired about other factors such as destination type, advance booking, length of stay, etc. This allowed us to build a sample of 10,000 trips whose characteristics, including success, are known. 2 The usefulness of the trip was rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 corresponding to the best rating. The breakdown of the 10,000 trips by reported rating is shown in Figure 3 and demonstrates that business travel is a worthy investment: 88% of trips are perceived as successful (scores of 4 and 5). 9.5% of trips have an average outcome (score of 3). 2.5% of trips are seen as not useful (scores of 1 and 2), indicating that the return is outweighed by the total cost of the trip (including travel stress). 88% of trips are perceived as successful by travelers 50% 44% 44% % of trips 30% 10% 1% 2% 10% Trip value Fig. 3. How valuable are business trips? The average trip rating was 4.3 indicating a high degree of overall success. Are lower results anticipated before the trip? For the trips showing average and below-average returns we asked travelers if these low results were expected before the trip: 7 For the lowest-rated trips (score of 1), the low return had been anticipated by 68% of the travelers. For trips rated 2 or 3, the low return had been anticipated by 56% and 43% of the travelers, respectively. There is a sizeable fraction of travelers who foresee the low results prior to the trip. The lower the success of a trip, the more likely it is for the traveler to have anticipated it prior to the trip. These findings indicate there is an element of predictability to failure. The next section investigates this in detail. 2 Given the respondent selection criterion, these trips had been completed within the past 12-month period.

8 5. Reasons behind unsuccessful trips As seen in Figure 3, almost 9 out of every 10 trips received high or very high ratings. Given that success is by far the norm for business trips, what causes some trips to fail? We measured the unsuccessful trip rates, or trip failure rates, in different subsamples of trips. Failure rates are defined as trips receiving low (1 or 2) or average (3) value ratings. For this measurement, we scanned different trip variables (such as advance booking and trip length) and analyzed the impact they had on the trip failure rates. The results are presented below. Number of meetings attended during the trip If the return on a given trip is the sum of the returns of the meetings which took place during that trip, then more meetings will generate more value and implicitly fewer failed trips. This is our observation, as illustrated in Figure 4 (left): A trip with only one meeting produces an unsatisfactory result 19% of the time. This is reduced by a factor of 2 when the number of meetings increases to 6 or more. As a rule-of-thumb, every additional meeting reduces the probability of an unsuccessful trip by about 10%. Number of meetings Time spent in meetings 6 or more % 5% 10% 15% 20% % of unsuccessful trips Over 2 days 2 days 4-8 hours 2-4 hours 1 hour or less 0% 10% 20% 30% % of unsuccessful trips Score 1 or 2 Score 3 Fig. 4. Trip failure rates as a function of the number of meetings attended during the trip (left) and cumulative time spent in meetings (right). This illustrates the additive nature of return: more meetings (or time) lead to a better ROI. every additional meeting lowers the probability of an unsuccessful trip by 10% 8

9 Related to the number of meetings is the time spent in meetings during the trip (Figure 4, right chart). In 38% of the unsuccessful trips the cumulative meeting time was four hours or less. When the cumulative meeting time is one hour or less, the probability of an unsuccessful trip is 28%. This probability is reduced to 8% when meetings take up a total of two days or more. Given that the number of meetings and the associated time are important for the success of the trip, we investigated the importance of the length of the stay. Length of stay There are two factors which make the length of stay relevant for business success. The first one is that during a longer trip a traveler is able to fit more meetings and thus derive more value. The second factor is advanced booking: longer trips tend to be booked earlier, and so more time is available to travelers for meeting planning and preparation. Figure 5 shows how the probability of low-result trips reduces with increasing length of stay. 5 nights or more Length of stay 2 to 4 nights 1 night same-day trip 0% 4% 8% 12% 16% % of unsuccessful trips Score 1 or 2 Score 3 Fig. 5. Trip failure rates as a function of the length of stay. On average, longer trips fail less often. 9

10 Advance booking Advance booking has a strong impact on the probability of a bad trip. The longer the trip is booked in advance, the less likely it is to fail. The date of planning the trip is also important. Early planning allows travelers sufficient time to book their trips and arrange their meetings. Figure 6 shows the failure rate as a function of the advance booking range: A trip booked less than 3 days in advance has a 21% chance of being unsuccessful. The probability of a low outcome (scores 1 or 2) decreases three-fold when the advance booking period is increased from less than 3 days to 15 days or more. More than two weeks in advance When did you book your trip? 1 to 2 weeks in advance 3 to 7 days in advance Less than 3 days in advance 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% % of unsuccessful trips Score 1 or 2 Score 3 Fig. 6. Trip failure rates as a function of advance booking range. Trips booked close to departure day are the most likely to fail. Trip type We have measured the failure rates for the three main trip types: domestic, continental and intercontinental. Our results show that: The probability of having an unsuccessful trip is the highest for domestic travel (14%). For continental and intercontinental trips this probability is 12% and 9%, respectively. Explaining this decrease is the fact that international trips are typically longer and booked earlier, so more meetings can be better arranged and prepared. 10

11 Traveler job level Besides the trip conditions, we also considered factors related to the traveler, such as seniority. The highest rates of unsuccessful trips (15-16%) were observed for employees at the administrative or associate levels. The probability decreases to 11% and 7% for the manager-level and director-level employees, respectively. The trend reverses at the level of vice-president and above (11%); this is related to the higher demand for frequent travel on corporate executives, which ultimately reduces the advance booking and meeting preparation time. Other factors Lastly, our analysis revealed that the trip failure rates are not significantly impacted by: Traveler gender: Male and female travelers are equally likely to have an unsuccessful trip. Traveling alone or with colleagues. How often the traveler visits the destination. Traveler s geographical region (failure rates are within 10%-13% for all regions). Financial impact estimation To assess the financial impact of unsuccessful trips, we take the case of a company with 1,000 travelers, taking a total of 5,000 air trips annually: Assuming an average cost (air ticket and hotel accommodation) of $1,000 per trip, the total travel spend is $5,000,000. In the previous section we found the rate of unsuccessful trips (scores of 1, 2, and 3) to be 12%. Assuming they account for a proportional amount of travel spend, this represents $600,000. Table 1 presents three scenarios for reducing trip failure. By requiring each trip to have at least two meetings and over four hours of combined meeting time, the unsuccessful trip spend is reduced by $160,000 (or 27%). To summarize, more than a quarter of the unsuccessful trips could be eliminated by increasing meeting quantity and time. Scenario for increasing trip success Each trip has a minimum of two meetings Each trip has over four hours in combined meeting time Each trip has a minimum of two meetings and over four hours in combined meeting time Unsuccessful trips (%) Unsuccessful trip spend ($) Savings ($) 10.5% $525,000 $75, % $520,000 $80, % $440,000 $160,000 Tab. 1. Scenarios for increasing trip success. For a company with 1,000 travelers, unsuccessful trips account for roughly $600,000, annually. 27% of this spend can be controlled 11

12 6. Conclusions This publication brings forward two new elements related to the value of business travel: First, we provide a measurement of business travel success. We find that 88% of business trips are considered successful by travelers. This value is comparable with the travel approver estimate of 80% reported in our previous study [1]. Second, we find that the probability of a successful trip is related to: The number of meetings and the cumulative meeting time The length of the stay The advance booking range Trip type The traveler s seniority While some of the findings are intuitive, our analysis validates that intuition through quantitative results. In conclusion, the results presented here enhance our knowledge and understanding of business travel success. Our next step is to tie this success with business KPIs specific to the purpose of the trip to allow companies better manage travel as a strategic activity supporting corporate goals. 7. Bibliography [1] CWT Solutions Group, Trip Approval in Global Companies (2014). [2] CWT Solutions Group, Travel Stress Index: The Hidden Costs of Business Travel - A New Industry Direction to Improve Traveler Wellbeing and Corporate Productivity (2013). 12

13 CWT Carlson Wagonlit Travel is committed to promoting environmental sustainability.

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