Do your employees’ travel expense reports leave you with the feeling that you’re footing the bill for luxury living? You’re probably not alone among small business owners. A survey last month of 1,001 American adults commissioned by Expedia revealed that the vast majority of small business travelers (91%)—spend more money on meals, hotel rooms, and room service during business travel than they do during personal travel. Millennial employees—age 18 to 34—are the most likely of all to splurge on room service, transportation, alcohol, entertainment, first class airline seats, and advance seat selections while traveling for business, the survey found.
There’s a reason this class of travel is called “unmanaged.” Unlike large companies that have resources to book and monitor staff travel, small business owners are often at the mercy of employees who make their own travel arrangements.
Expedia says it wants to help. The leisure travel website today launched Expedia+ business, a free travel site and loyalty program designed to help small businesses better manage staff travel from a dashboard and offer travel-based rewards to employees. David Doctorow, Expedia’s chief marketing & strategy officer, says that between 20 and 30 percent of Expedia customers book business travel on the site. He says small business employees take 8 trips a year, spending 17 nights away from home.
This “unmanaged business travel” market is a $36 billion opportunity, Doctorow estimates. The Expedia survey found that small business travelers spend an average of $987 on a round trip flight, $288 per night on a hotel, and $214 on a car rental. Business travelers in the IT/tech sector travelers spend even more, averaging $1,345 on a round trip flight, $382 per night on a hotel, and $260 on a car rental. Requiring staff to book travel through Expedia+business could save companies as much as $4,512 per employee annually, he says.
Says Doctorow, “Saving money on travel for small businesses is a big deal. They spend up to 24 percent of their budgets on travel. That’s a big number and it’s growing; 51 percent say their travel budget has gone up over the last 5 years, and 46 percent say the spend has gone up year on year.”
Employees who enroll will benefit from being automatically upgraded to Expedia’s “+silver tier” rewards program, which includes access to perks such as priority customer service and free hotel amenities at more than 900 “+VIP Access” hotels. For every 10 hotel nights booked, companies will earn a $100 hotel coupon that can be used immediately, saved for future travel, or rewarded to employees.
Why, in an age of easy communication via screen technology, is business travel increasing? Doctorow says Expedia research suggests there’s no substitute for face-to-face meetings. Well over half of Expedia’s survey respondents said they would rather meet customers and partners in person than by video communications. “Tech has come into play and is used more to connect people, but it’s not a substitute,” says Doctorow.