The Top Three Priorities for Business Travellers in 2023


Almost 90% of global business travellers report that the uncertain economy has affected travel within their companies. As a result, more than a third of businesses now require travellers to opt for lower airline fares, even if it means enduring layovers, indirect routes, or using alternative airports. However, these cost-cutting measures can negatively impact both employees’ work-life balance and the organization’s carbon footprint.

This insight comes from recent research conducted by SAP Concur, which sheds light on business travellers’ top priorities for achieving work and career success. These include sustainability, flexible business travel, and health and safety.

To assist employers in achieving company growth and retaining employees, below are expert tips for businesses to consider:

Supporting Sustainability Efforts with Relevant Data

Employees’ concern over the environmental impact of business travel is significant, with nearly a quarter being willing to decline trips for this reason. Moreover, the majority of workers plan to take additional measures in the next 12 months to reduce the environmental footprint of their business travel, with some even considering purchasing carbon offsets to directly address their travel-related emissions.

While advocating for sustainable travel poses challenges for travel managers, with more than a third expecting difficulties in finding environmentally friendly options going forward, there is also mounting pressure to report on the company’s travel emissions. Over a quarter of travel managers anticipate that this reporting requirement will make their role more challenging moving forward.

The key, however, lies in leveraging data to drive sustainability. By analysing data, companies can gain insights into what sustainable travel entails and effectively measure their progress. Prior to setting sustainability goals, it is crucial to familiarize themselves with the overall sustainability metrics of the business. This data can then be utilized to establish, monitor, and manage sustainability efforts for both individual programs and the organization as a whole.

Empowering business travellers with information about their choices and their impact on the organization can serve as a strong incentive. Consider implementing tools that illustrate the effect of individual booking decisions and the environmental impacts thereof. Some tools enable travellers to track carbon emissions for each flight and their annual flight emissions, while also offering options to offset the environmental impact. These simple measures keep business travellers engaged and committed to making environmentally conscious choices that benefit both the business and the planet.

Enabling Flexibility through Direct Bookings

Flexibility is a key requirement for business travellers, as roughly 30% would decline a trip that lacks the ability to adjust outside of company policies. They also expect their companies to permit travel choices beyond the policy, especially to ensure safety, support work-life balance, and promote sustainable travel.

However, approximately a third of travel managers perceive business travellers making direct bookings with suppliers as a major threat to their company’s travel arrangements. Despite the challenges this poses, almost half anticipate changes in their company’s travel policies within the next year to accommodate the need for flexible options, such as direct bookings.

Travel managers can therefore adopt user-friendly tools that provide visibility into bookings made outside the traditional framework or without the involvement of a travel management company. This approach allows employees to book through their preferred vendors and accrue loyalty points while ensuring that companies maintain visibility over previously untracked expenses.

Prioritising Health and Safety:

In addition to sustainability and flexibility, the health and safety of business travellers are crucial considerations. Close to half of business travellers identify health and safety concerns as the most significant threat to business travel. Furthermore, over a third perceive international or local conflicts and tensions as additional threats.

It’s for this reason that business travellers would consider declining trips to certain parts of the world due to safety or social concerns, or if they were apprehensive about health issues within a specific destination. However, around a third of business travellers also admit to compromising on accommodation quality or safety due to the uncertain economy.

Protecting employees’ health and safety is paramount, and travel managers anticipate changes in their company’s travel policies to address this. More than 40% expect policy adjustments in the next 12 months to enhance tracking capabilities and ensure employee safety in specific regions.

Implementing automated digital solutions helps to ensure data accuracy and enables near real-time support for employees. Partner tools and apps offer various benefits, such as real-time alerts and neighbourhood safety scores. Ideally, these tools should provide comprehensive information ranging from public health and safety advisories to cancellation policies and updated travel guidelines.

With employees citing that travel is important for maintaining strong relationships with existing clients, as well as for establishing relationships with new clients, nearly all business travellers recognise that there are threats to their company’s business travel. It is therefore vital for companies to put measures in place to ensure continued and sustainable travel for both business and customer success.