Travel and Expense

2023 Global Business Travel Outlook

SAP Concur Team |

Managing global business travel for an organization has always been challenging. But over the past few years it has become even more so. That’s because, according to the 2023 SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey, employee travel needs and preferences have changed; employees require a lot more flexibility in traveling now than they have in the past; and protecting and supporting the human rights of marginalized populations (such as LGBTQ+, people of color, and others) has risen to the forefront. As a result, there’s mounting pressure on organizations to increase equal access to business travel among their employees and improve their duty of care.

In this episode of the SAP Concur Conversations podcast, Nathan Richter, Senior Partner at Wakefield Research, a global market research consultancy, and Jeanne Dion, Vice President of the Value Experience Team at SAP Concur, discuss some of the findings from the 2023 SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey, which are outlined in the 2023 Global Business Travelers Report and the 2023 Global Business Travel Managers Report. Now in its fifth year, the SAP Concur Business Travel Survey offers insights into the current state of business travel and what the next year will bring. Below is an overview of the conversation. 

You can listen to this episode on Apple | Spotify | Google or your favorite place to find podcasts.

Providing employees with equal access to business travel

According to our 2023 Global Business Travelers Report, 92% of business travelers believe the future of their careers depends on business travel. Yet:

  • 62% of business travelers haven’t had equal opportunities to take business trips compared to their colleagues due to differences in demographics and sexual orientation, physical appearance, or health conditions.
  • Among LGBTQ+ business travelers, 31% feel that their sexual orientation has prevented equal access to business travel.
  • 23% of women believe their gender led to fewer opportunities for business travel.

Some of the most common obstacles survey respondents believe limit their business travel include having an accent (17%), physical appearance (16%), ethnicity or race (15%), their status as a parent or caretaker (13%), and disability (7%).

“Business travel is not a door someone gets to walk through once. It’s a road that one walks down on the way to their next professional accomplishment and their next personal accomplishment,” Richter says. He explains that for travel managers this “really begins with understanding travel needs and expectations, which is at the heart of this research.” After all, 91% of travelers say they will decline a business trip if some of their needs are unmet, and those needs consistently center around areas such as safety, social, and health concerns.

Dion agrees. “It’s not about, do you want to travel or are you going to travel, or can I relieve the stress of your travel? There’s way more of an investment than that,” she says. “Travel isn’t an option anymore to somebody’s career. It actually ties directly to their career growth and advancement.”

Employees want more flexibility in business travel

While business travel has resumed and most employees are willing to travel for their organization, employees want and expect more flexibility in traveling now than they have in the past. The reasons?

  • 48% want flexibility to ensure that they feel safe when they travel to certain parts of the world. [This is especially important because in the past 12 months, more than half (53%) of global business travelers said they have changed their accommodations because they felt unsafe.] 
  • 47% want flexibility to help them maintain a healthier work-life balance.
  • 34% cite the need to add personal travel to work trips.

“What we’re seeing here is a more empowered traveler, a traveler who has maybe not greater needs, but a greater comfort with expressing and acting on those needs than what we’ve seen traditionally,” Richter says.

Dion shared that as a bleisure person herself, knowing that she can combine business travel with personal leisure travel makes her more willing to travel, more open to travel, and more excited to travel. “It gives me a work-life balance even while I travel,” she says. “It’s a nice balance for me.”

With this shift to flexible travel, there is added pressure and stress on travel managers and a change in the approach to duty of care. “Five years ago, duty of care was really about keeping people safe, and it still is, but these days, the definition of safety extends beyond just physical safety. It really is a more holistic approach,” Richter says.

Dion agrees. “It’s not just there’s a hurricane coming, or there’s a flood, or there’s a war breaking out. There’s many, many more aspects to think about. There’s health. Can I get healthcare in the place that I’m traveling to? Will people be reacting to my accent, my look, my affectations, my gender? So, this becomes really that duty of care is no longer just a compliance checkpoint, it’s a lifestyle.”

To learn more about the findings from the 2023 SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey, listen to the podcast episode Grounded Horizons: The Realities and Opportunities of Business Travel Today.

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