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Business travellers turn away from direct booking channels in 2018

New research from SAP Concur and GBTA shows that the trend from business travellers to book flights and accommodation directly from suppliers has reversed.

The number of European business travellers who booked flights directly with their preferred airline fell from 79% in 2017 to 68% in 2018. During the same period, the number booking hotel accommodation directly dropped from 83% in 2017 to 70%.

Pierre-Emmanuel Tetaz, EMEA SVP and general manager, SAP Concur says: “The research tells us that 62% of business travellers believe their employer is somewhat or very advanced when it comes to the travel booking technology they offer.

“That may account for the move away from direct bookings and the high and relatively steady use of online booking tools (OBTs) in 2018. However, there is more that can be done to encourage greater use of these corporate channels to the advantage of both the traveller and their employer.”

For travel managers who want to improve take-up of corporate booking channels, the Europe-wide evidence is that business travellers are looking for convenience and personalisation. Overall, 41% said that they chose to book directly because it was more convenient.

When asked about features they would like to see in corporate booking tools, 43% of travellers across EMEA included personalised booking in their top three choices. 42% cited pre-trip approvals and travel personalisation. 

That said, the quality of the technology alone is not enough to change business traveller behaviour. Stricter travel policies can lead to a small but still notable increase in the use of corporate channels. In a typical example, 74% of travellers whose corporate policies were fairly flexible still booked directly with an airline. That number fell to 64% among travellers whose companies had much stricter travel policies.