Road Warrior

Business Travel Spending Still Tight: Survey

Gary Stoller, USA Today

The recession may be over, but business travelers still feel the effects of a sluggish economy, a survey of them released Thursday shows.

Lisa Blue | E+ | Getty Images

More than a third of 407 business travelers surveyed this month say fewer employees in their companies are allowed to travel to meetings than a year ago, according to the online survey sponsored by Cambria Suites.

About a quarter of survey respondents say more of their business trips have cost-saving daily spending limits than a year ago, and 23 percent report they are staying less frequently at full-service or luxury hotels.

The survey, conducted by the research arm of the Global Business Travel Association, the trade group representing corporate travel departments, includes only business travelers with full-time jobs and who took at least four business trips of at least 50 miles each in the last 12 months.

Of the respondents, 65 percent were men and 57 percent earned less than $100,000 before taxes last year.

More than four of every 10 travelers surveyed report their business travel expense reports are "more closely scrutinized."

Two of every five say they've been encouraged to spend less per day on business trips, and there is greater scrutiny of "outcomes emanating from business trips."

Frequent business traveler Dave Simonson, a computer consultant in Antioch, Tenn., says the sluggish economy has affected his travel spending.

"I always try to find the least expensive way to travel to keep expenses down," he says.

Nancy Walters, president of a marketing and public relations agency, spent more than 100 nights away from home on business this year and notices the economy's effects on travel expenses.

"Gone are the days of luxury business hotel stays and the focus on building reward perks through frequent hotel stays," says Walters of Rancho Bernardo, Calif.

Despite companies' efforts to reduce travel expenses, the travelers surveyed emphasized the importance of business travel.

Nearly eight of 10 agree or strongly agree that business travel helps their companies grow, and face-to-face meetings are necessary for "doing business successfully."

Michael McCormick, the business travel association's executive director, says companies may look to cut travel spending in a challenging economy but shouldn't.

Cutting business travel can hurt "a company's bottom line" and do nothing to help the economy, he says.

Among Other Survey Findings

Some 64 percent say technology has helped their companies save money on business travel, and 83 percent say they use technology to plan or book business trips.

Technology has helped 66 percent of those surveyed achieve greater productivity, and 73 percent say technology is equally important in their business and personal lives in enhancing productivity.

More than half say they've downloaded mobile apps to help them be more productive on business trips.

A third say social media has enhanced their business travel experience by keeping them in touch with personal and professional networks.

More than half say that a hotel's amenities have a greater effect on their ability to work productively than do those connected with airline flights or rental cars. Free hotel Wi-Fi is an amenity that about 90 percent say is important.