The SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey has served as an annual touchpoint to assess the realities of the business travel landscape, including challenges faced by business travelers, travel managers, and their organizations. Each year’s survey has cast a light on how large-scale issues – COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine war, and inflation, to name a few – can have granular impact on how business is conducted through travel.
In its fifth year, the survey explores some of the most pressing challenges facing business travelers today, including remote work and equal opportunity to travel. It also revisits a few key themes from the past to gauge where things now stand, including duty of care and LGBTQ+ traveler experiences.
According to the global survey of 3,850 business travelers in 25 markets:
Nearly two-thirds of global business travelers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity to travel for business compared to their coworkers, and they attribute this primarily to their age, accent, or gender.
Nearly all global business travelers (94%) are willing to travel for business in the next 12 months, including 67% who are very willing. In fact, 92% say the future of their career is dependent on successful business travel in the next year because it’s important for maintaining client relationships (42%) and starting new ones (41%). More than a third (38%) say business travel is important for staying updated on the latest trends, technology, and advancements.
Yet, nearly two-thirds of global business travelers (62%) feel they haven’t had equal opportunity to travel for business compared to their coworkers. Even more U.S. business travelers (72%) feel they haven’t had equal opportunity. Global and U.S. business travelers attribute this to the following reasons:
- Their age (global: 21%, U.S.:27%)
- Their accent (17%, 23%)
- Their gender (17%, 26%)
- Their physical appearance (16%, 25%)
- Their ethnicity or race (15%, 22%)
- Being a parent or caretaker (13%, 18%)
- Their sexual orientation (8%, 17%)
- Their disability (7%, 14%)
Remote workers say business travel is critical for workplace relationships. Yet, more remote workers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity to take business trips because of where they live or how often they come into the office.
More than three in 10 remote workers recognize that business travel is critical to forming meaningful connections with coworkers (38%) and building stronger relationships with managers (37%), compared to in-office workers (27% and 24%, respectively). However, half of remote workers (50%) say they’re traveling more than they’d like, compared to hybrid (37%) and in-office (29%) workers.
At the same time, more remote workers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity for business travel – 77%, compared to 61% of hybrid workers and 52% of in-office workers – because of where they live (20%, 13%, and 13%, respectively) and how often they come into the office (17%, 11%, and 8%, respectively). It is particularly challenging for remote workers who are parents or guardians: 16% say they haven’t had equal opportunity for business travel because of their status as a parent, compared to hybrid (12%) and in-office (11%) workers. Remote workers are also most likely to decline a business trip due to challenges finding childcare (19%, 14%, and 14%, respectively).
More remote workers say the uncertain economy is affecting their company’s business travel than in-office workers (91% vs. 80%), with noted changes including reducing overnight trips (36% vs. 27%), staying in lower quality accommodations (39% vs. 26%), requiring a minimal number of meetings per business trip (35% vs. 23%), and requiring more advance approvals (31% vs. 22%).
Global business travelers still say that health and safety is the biggest threat to business travel – more so than inflation, budget cuts, or travel freezes.
Global business travelers still say that health and safety is the biggest threat to business travel (44%) – more so than international or local conflicts and tensions (34%), inflation (34%), budget cuts or travel freezes (31%), and remote work and virtual meeting options (28%).
That’s not to say that an uncertain economy isn’t having an impact: travelers have observed budget cuts (40%), reduced overnight trips (32%), staying in lower quality accommodations (31%), emphasis on lower fares (31%), and a minimum number of meetings per business trip (28%) in their organization. Of note, more U.S. business travelers have observed these changes (44%, 36%, 39%, 42%, and 36%, respectively).
Travelers expect their company to allow them to make out-of-policy bookings to ensure their safety (global: 48%, U.S.: 56%), support work-life balance (47%, 53%), book sustainable options (36%, 37%), take bleisure trips (34%, 41%), book for conferences (31%, 46%), and support ideological or lifestyle differences with travel destination (30%, 41%).
Safety (44%) and health (41%) are still the biggest reasons to decline a business trip, more so than feeling burnt out on travel (27%) and challenges finding childcare (15%).
In the past 12 months, more than half of global business travelers have had to change their accommodations because they felt unsafe.
Fifty-three percent of global business travelers have had to change their accommodations in the past 12 months because they felt unsafe, and more than a quarter (28%) have had to change more than once. It’s even higher in the U.S., where more than two-thirds of business travelers (70%) have had to change their accommodations because they felt unsafe, and nearly half (47%) have had to change more than once.
Business travelers, particularly those in the U.S., have experienced unfair treatment on their trips, including:
- Being ignored by service workers (global: 31%, U.S.: 41%)
- Unfair or improper security screening (26%, 32%)
- Being asked if they are traveling with their spouse (25%, 34%)
- Feeling in immediate danger (23%, 31%)
- Being the target of unwanted sexual advances or comments (22%, 36%)
- Derogatory language directed at them (20%, 27%)
- Fellow travelers assuming they work at the hotel (19%, 29%)
Globally, younger generations also feel more uncomfortable. In the past 12 months, almost two-thirds of Gen Z (64%) and millennials (61%) have changed their accommodations for a business trip because they felt unsafe. That’s compared to 40% of Gen X and 15% of baby boomers. In fact, 85% of baby boomers say they’ve never had to use this practice.
The majority of global LGBTQ+ travelers have hidden their sexual identity on a business trip, and more than a third have attributed it to anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the region.
More than half (54%) of global LGBTQ+ business travelers say the biggest threats to business travel are health and safety concerns, and 45% would decline a business trip due to safety or social concerns for traveling to certain parts of the world.
That said, most global LGBTQ+ business travelers (90%) have hidden their sexual identity on their business trip, with the top reason being safety and privacy issues (55%). A little less than half (46%) hid their orientation for business reasons, meaning they felt that their business goals had a better chance of success if they hid their identity. More than a third (38%) were forced to hide their identity due to anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the region.
In the past 12 months, 82% of LGBTQ+ business travelers have had to change their accommodations because they felt unsafe. Nearly all (94%) have experienced unfair treatment on a business trip, including being ignored by service workers (45%), being the target of unwanted sexual advances or comments (40%), and unfair or improper security screening (33%).
Ninety-two percent of LGBTQ+ business travelers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity to take business trips compared to their coworkers due to their age (38%), gender (34%), and sexual orientation (31%).
The SAP Concur global business traveler survey was conducted by Wakefield Research between April 7-28, 2023, among 3,850 business travelers in 25 markets: U.S., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, LAC (Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Argentina), UK, France, Germany, ANZ region (Australia and New Zealand), SEA region (Singapore and Malaysia), China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Italy, Spain, Dubai, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg), South Africa, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Data has been weighted to facilitate tracking.