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New Pulse Survey Explores the Current U.S. Business Travel Experience

SAP Concur Team |

Eighty-eight percent of business travelers say that they are willing to take steps to reduce their environmental impact while traveling for business.

This year, we’ve explored the realities of business travel in 2022 from the finance manager and travel manager perspectives. Building on those findings, a new pulse survey commissioned by the SAP Concur organization in April 2022 now looks at how the travel experience has changed, among other key topics, from the point of view of the U.S. business traveler.

The survey found that most business travelers (78%) are satisfied with the pace at which their company is returning to pre-pandemic travel habits (e.g., reduced or eliminated safety protocols). However, more than half of business travelers (55%) say that they are unhappy with their current amount of business travel, including 20% who would prefer to travel more than they are. Also, as our survey findings continue to suggest, flexibility remains a top priority.

“Employees expect greater flexibility in their workplace, wherever that may be—in the office, at home, or on the road,” said Ralph Colunga, SAP thought leader on travel and expense solutions.  “Travelers overwhelmingly want to return to travel, but under their own terms and conditions. And with more control over how and when they travel, the vast majority of U.S. business travelers are also taking this opportunity to reduce their environmental impact.”

Below are key themes and findings from the SAP Concur pulse survey of 1,000 U.S. business travelers:

The New Business Travel Experience

Previous SAP Concur pulse surveys have found that finance managers and travel managers expect increases in business travel in 2022, although they both feel their companies aren’t quite prepared. As volume increases, travelers have noted changes to their business travel experience, both at their company and more broadly.

  • When asked to rank their top three travel concerns, business travelers most commonly noted health and safety around COVID-19 (53%) and increasing costs associated with travel (48%).
  • Eighty-nine percent of business travelers have been forced to take unexpected steps recently because of difficulty booking transportation and lodging for business travel. Most-reported steps were canceling or rescheduling meetings (38%), spending additional unplanned days on a trip (37%), and incurring additional travel expenses (34%).
  • Most business travelers (80%) say that their company has altered the types of business travel requests it approves since before the pandemic. The most-reported changes include travelers now being expected to take longer trips to accomplish more at once (36%), fewer travel requests are approved in general (34%), and travel requests by senior leaders are generally approved while others’ requests are often denied (31%).

The Push for Flexibility

The annual SAP Concur global business travel survey has underscored the importance of flexibility from the business traveler perspective during the past two years (2020, 2021). According to pulse survey findings, business travelers now feel more empowered to make flexible travel requests—and their companies are likely to acquiesce.

  • Eighty-three percent of business travelers feel more empowered to make travel-related demands of their company now, compared to before the pandemic. Even more high-frequency business travelers—those who travel at least twice a month—feel more empowered, at 91%.
  • Forty-three percent of business travelers, and 62% of high-frequency business travelers, say that they have made travel requests that they weren’t sure completely complied with their company’s travel policies in the past 12 months. When in doubt, asking likely means receiving: Only 19% of these business travelers, and only 17% of these high-frequency business travelers, had their requests denied.
  • Of note, it’s up in the air whether “bleisure” travel—taking personal time off while on a business trip—is a perk offered by some companies or a standard benefit: 54% of business travelers say it’s a perk, while 46% consider it table stakes.
  • Also, the world is the business traveler’s office. Places that business travelers have commonly worked while on a business trip include a café or coffee shop (70%), a lobby (64%), a waiting room (57%), a restroom (39%), and poolside (31%).

The Impact of Sustainability

Sustainability is a top consideration for business travelers. According to survey findings, most are willing to act to reduce their impact—and they are more likely to do so when planning a business trip vs. personal travel.

  • Eighty-eight percent of business travelers say that they are willing to take steps to reduce their environmental impact while traveling for business, including:
    • taking fewer but longer business trips (40%)
    • staying in a less preferred but greener hotel (40%)
    • using public transportation (33%)
    • using a less preferred but greener mode of transportation (28%).
  • Ninety-three percent of Gen Z and 89% of millennial business travelers say they are willing to take steps to reduce their environmental impact, versus 82% of Gen X and 84% of baby boomers.
  • Eighty-eight percent of business travelers would like to see sustainability information when booking business travel, including comparing sustainability measures for different accommodation options (47%) and transportation options (45%).
  • Business travelers are more likely to consider the environmental impact of their choices for business travel than personal travel (60% vs. 40%).

The Realities of Travel Discrimination

Discrimination while traveling has always been an issue. For instance, the 2019 SAP Concur global business travel survey found that 95 percent of LGBTQ+ travelers said they have hidden their sexual orientation while on a business trip, and the most common reason provided was to protect their safety. Additionally, the 2020 survey found that business travelers expected a pandemic-related increase in discrimination of certain groups while traveling. Pulse survey findings suggest how things have—and haven’t—changed in 2022.

  • Seventy-three percent of business travelers have seen—or known someone who has seen—discriminatory practices while traveling for business, including:
    • travelers avoiding sitting near certain people (35%)
    • people being ignored by service workers (33%)
    • derogatory language directed at people (28%)
    • unfair security screening (26%)
    • people presumed to be traveling illegally (23%)
    • denial of service completely (22%).
  • More non-white respondents (79%) and high-frequency business travelers (85%) than the average (73%) have seen, or known someone who has seen, discriminatory practices while traveling for business.
  • In addition, younger travelers are particularly attuned to discrimination. More than four in five Gen Z business travelers (82%) and nearly three in four millennial travelers (74%) say they or someone they know have witnessed discriminatory behavior on the road.
  • More than half (53%) of business travelers say that recent legislation in states like Texas and Florida—regarding teachers’ rights to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, and students’ ability to identify with their preferred gender in some school settings—has impacted their willingness or comfort to travel to those destinations.
    • Eleven percent would refuse to travel there if asked.
    • Fifteen percent would not feel safe traveling to those states.
    • Twenty-seven percent would travel there if requested, but they would feel uncomfortable.

For additional findings, read the highlights from our U.S. surveys of finance managers and travel managers on the SAP Concur blog. Also, read “Reach Sustainability Goals with Responsible Travel Spending” for more on sustainability from the perspectives of U.S. business travelers and travel managers.

The SAP Concur business traveler pulse survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 U.S. business travelers, defined as those who traveled for business 3+ times in the past 24 months, and an oversample to reach 250 high-frequency travelers who travel at least twice a month, between April 1st and April 10th, using an email invitation and an online survey. The main sample data was weighted to help facilitate a tracking analysis.

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