The sharing economy represents something of a new phenomenon for travel agents, despite services like Airbnb and Uber being essentially mainstreamed among consumers.
Some new data from Travel Leaders Group show that business travel agents are finally heeding more requests from their clients for alternate accommodation services and new ground transportation options.
Travel Leaders Group polled 354 of its agency owners, managers, and agents this summer who earn more half or more of their sales in business travel. It found that 34.1 percent of agents said one to 10 percent of their clients had used an alternate accommodations provider for their clients, up from 29.6 percent in 2015.
At the same time, just 10.5 percent said 11 percent or more of their clients had used an alternate accommodations provider, down from 14.8 percent last year.
The results on the ground transportation front are more skewed toward consumer trends. More than half of those polled, 54.6 percent, said 11 percent or higher of their clients are using an alternate ground transportation supplier, up from last year’s 32.4 percent.
“As some business travelers embrace alternatives to long-established suppliers, companies must review their travel policies and how they accommodate ‘duty of care’ going forward. While traditional transportation suppliers still command the majority of the market, there is a shift and businesses can’t ignore this trend,” said Gabe Rizzi, chief sales officer and head of Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Group’s corporate travel division.
Business Travel From the U.S. to Europe
There is also evidence that business travel from the U.S. to Europe hasn’t been as hard hit by terrorism fears and Brexit as some have suggested. But the state of business travel in 2016 is worse than at this time last year, according to data.
More than two-in-three of those polled said business travel bookings to Europe were on par or higher than 2015, while 31.1 percent said they were lower.
Looking at business travel bookings overall, 74.5 percent said business is equal to or higher than last year. But a full quarter of those said business is weaker in 2016 than 2015.
To put things in perspective, in 2015 Travel Leaders Group reported that 80.9 percent of those polled said bookings were equal to or higher than in 2014. Just 19.1 percent said bookings were lower than 2014.
Another nugget from the report goes against traditional business travel wisdom.
In the section on duty of care, the agents reported just 11.3 percent of those polled said that ever been involved with a duty of care situation with a client.
One of the biggest value propositions that corporate travel management companies espouse is that they support clients during travel disruptions and other events threatening their safety. It’s surprising, then, that just one in 10 agents polled had ever been involved in a duty of care situation.
The situations that caused agents to get involved the most were air travel disruptions, civil unrest in a foreign country, snowstorm, terrorist incident, and hurricane.