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Corporate travel survey reveals it’s about business, not pleasure

Pullman Sydney Olympic Park

Recent news might have been dominated by accusations of certain politicians and union officials allegedly rorting their travel expenses, but for the majority of Australian ‘road warriors’ corporate travel is far more about business than pleasure.
 
The Accor Asia Pacific Business Traveller Survey 2012 shows that out of the 2,586 respondents in eight countries across Asia Pacific, Australian and New Zealand business travellers were the least inclined to mix business and pleasure while travelling on company time and money.
 
The research, conducted by leading global research consultancy ORC International, surveyed business travellers from eight destinations: Australia, China, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand. Accor is the largest hotel group in Australia with over 200 hotels under brands such as Sofitel, Sea Temple, Pullman, Quay West, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Novotel, The Sebel, Citigate, All Seasons, and Ibis.

“While some of the survey results were not too dissimilar from the 2011 survey, it does bring to light new aspects of business travel habits and preferences such as using a business trip for added leisure benefits and use of social media while on business,” said Peter Hook, General Manager Communications for Accor Asia Pacific.
 
“It is encouraging that corporate travellers across Asia Pacific are planning to take more business trips this year, with the increase driven largely by a greater number of domestic trips, which, for Australians, links back to their primarily reason for travel – internal meetings and visiting customers.
 
“The survey also found that business travellers in Australia and New Zealand draw quite a distinct line between business and pleasure, which suggests that allegations of rorting by certain politicians and union officials are more the exception than the rule. In fact, it would appear that Australians are generally quite puritan in their business travel habits, though it could also mean that scrutiny of travel expenses is considerably tighter in this country than in Asia.
 
“One result that wasn’t a surprise – but continues to be a disappointment – is the lack of gender equity in business travel. Australia had one of the better records in this area – with two thirds male compared to one third female – but corporate travel still seems to be overwhelmingly skewed towards male road-warriors.”
 
Highlights of the research findings include:
 
Australians concentrate on business, rather than pleasure – when asked whether they had extended their business trip to take a holiday break or to visit friends and family or had taken a friend or partner on the trip, Australian and New Zealand corporate travellers were the least likely of the eight countries surveyed. Only 11% of Australians said they had extended their trip to visit friends and relatives, a mere 11% had tacked on a holiday and just 15% of respondents had taken a friend or partner along on a business trip. This compares with 33% of Thai, 25% of Malaysians and 20% of Hong Kongers who have extended their business trips to take a holiday. Australians were also the least likely (21%) to take a long bath on the company’s travel time, where as 89% of Malaysians and 83% of Chinese say they take to the bath to while away their hours.
 
Australians are also reluctant to use the corporate credit card for “ancillary” services such as the mini bar, spa treatments and in-house movies, though Aussie men are more likely to be profligate than female business travellers.
 
However, Aussies travel on business and attend meetings more for networking and internal purposes rather than their Asian counterparts whose mantra is simple – SELL, SELL, SELL. For instance, while the principal reason for business travel by Indian and Chinese corporate travellers is for “visiting customers”, Australian business travellers stated that “internal company meetings” was their primary reason for travel.
 
Meanwhile, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) travel accounted for 28% of all trips taken in the first six months of 2012. The quality of the agenda/program (59%) is what drives Australian business travellers to attend MICE events rather than seek business development opportunities.
 
Business travel still dominated by the boys club – almost three quarters of business travellers who responded to the survey across the eight countries were male. With little change from 2011, there is still a major imbalance in Australian corporate travellers with 67% males and only 33% females. Thailand, Australia and New Zealand had the highest number of female business travellers while India had the least with a mere 6% of females travelling for work.
 
A comfortable bed is key – proven once again by Accor’s business traveller survey, a comfortable hotel bed is of the utmost importance for all business travellers. Of the top three services when staying in a hotel, Australians voted for a comfortable bed number one (74%), followed by a good quality clean bathroom/shower (45%) ahead of free internet (30%).  And that is why the world’s leading economy hotel brand, Ibis has instigated the largest ever upgrading of beds to meet what road-warriors want. The Ibis ‘Sweet Bed’ moves the brand into premium economy extending on what  5-star hotels used to provide travellers back in the nineties to make 3-star sleeping a 5-star experience today.
 
Location is still number one when determining choice of hotel – while location was the primary reason for selecting a hotel by travellers from all Asia Pacific countries, Australians (68%) placed the highest importance on location well ahead of free Wi-Fi and price. As was the case in 2011, the majority of respondents in all countries believe it is more important to be located near to where they are doing business rather than located close to shopping, nightlife and entertainment areas (though former executives of the Health Services Union East Branch may beg to differ on this survey result).
 
Australian corporate travellers plan more business travel in the next 6 months – looking to the remainder of the year, the average number of business trips planned is higher than this time last year. Chinese and Indian business travellers lead the pack in terms of projected business travel, where as Australian corporate travellers anticipate a marginal increase in travel, primarily domestic, in the second half of 2012 compared to the first six months.
 
Business travellers keep quiet on social media – regardless of whether they had a positive or negative hotel experience business travellers are unlikely to always post comments on social media websites such as Facebook to TripAdvisor. Nearly half (47%) of Australian business travellers have never posted reviews on social media and the majority of respondents prefer to contact the hotel directly via comment card or email/letter in the case of a negative experience, rather than posting comments online.
 
Australian corporate travellers prefer to book it themselves – business travellers in Asia Pacific are most likely to book their hotel accommodation themselves with online the preferred medium (82%), while only a minority using offline travel agents or reservation centres. 50% of Australians usually book directly with the hotel online compared to only 31% of Chinese business travellers.
 
Australians not so keen to be green – while Australians are increasing their environmental programs, it appears that Australians are the least likely of all the countries surveyed to choose a hotel above another simply because it is more environmentally conscious. A mere 21% of Australians are driven by environmental factors when choosing a hotel. That said, 60% of Australians would be willing to reuse their towels and linens if the hotel shared its laundry cost savings with environmental initiatives. 
 
Personalisation a key driver for choice in ‘hotels of the future’ – Australian business travellers would like to see more personalised services in hotels including a dedicated check-in and check-out counter for loyalty card members (63%) with over half of Australian respondents (60%) wanting to see more hotel amenities and products from Australia.
 
New Zealand business travellers love us (and we love them), but Australia not so important for Asian business travellers – while Singapore and Hong Kong have emerged in the ‘Top 3’ destinations for Australian business travellers, not surprisingly New Zealand was the second most popular destination for Aussie travellers in the first half of 2012 accounting for 30% of all international business trips in the first half of 2011. However, intra-Asia travel, rather than travel to New Zealand and Australia, was the hottest travel pattern, with neither Australia nor New Zealand in the top three destinations of any of the Asian countries. The good news is that the Kiwis love us back with Australia in New Zealand’s ‘Top 3’ destinations for business travel alongside Singapore and China.

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