While online travel services are a boon, organizations have yet to embrace digital transformation internally to reduce the travel banes.

In a survey of 7,850 business travellers in 19 global markets, including 2,500 respondents in Asia Pacific (APAC) on the challenges faced in business travel, safety was found to be the top priority for APAC business travellers when they are on the road.

Nearly one-third (32%) of business travellers in the region prioritize their own personal safety as the most important factor when taking a business trip. Travellers from the Greater China Region (China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) prioritize their personal safety most during trips, with 43% putting their safety above all else, followed by travellers from Singapore and Malaysia (37%), and Australia (31%).

Interestingly in Japan, business travellers put their business needs above their personal safety when travelling abroad. Close to half of the respondents in Japan (43%) prioritized the goals of the business trip ahead of personal safety (23%).

  • APAC business travellers are more sensitive to current events, with close to half (46%) reducing travel to a location because of political unrest or health hazard in the last 12 months, compared to 38% of business travellers globally. Business travellers from Singapore and Malaysia are the most cautious of unsettlement, with 60% reducing travels plans, followed by Australia (53%) and India (50%).
  • 63% of respondents in Asia Pacific have even gone to the extent of changing their travel arrangements specifically because they felt unsafe. While business travellers across the region rated safety as their top priority while on a business trip, only 27% of business travellers say that their employers prioritised safety first, leaving their employees wanting more: more than half (53%) say that safety trainings would be the most valuable training their employer could offer.

Technology not yet easing business travel

The survey found that 70% of business travellers in APAC believe that their company lags behind when it comes to adopting the latest technologies to make business travel easier. In fact, an overwhelming majority of business travellers (86%) are willing to share personal information to improve the convenience and personalization of their business travel experience, which is telling in an age of data privacy concerns.

For business travellers which felt that their company is behind in adopting the latest technology, 64% say that booking and expense reporting tools is the area that their employers’ tech lags behind in. With safety as the top priority for APAC business travellers, it comes as no surprise that 61% are hoping to see their employer improve the travel safety tools they offer.

In terms of travel stress, 35% of APAC business travellers feel the most stress before a trip, during the planning, booking and organizing phase. On the flip side, 33% feel stress after the trip with emails to catch up on and expenses reports to fill—1 in 5 (20%) would even rather have a cavity filled at the dentist than complete an expense report.

Business travellers in Japan are the most stressed after the trip, with 56% dreading tasks like filling expense reports. This is an area that technology should make painless or automated.

APAC embracing online booking tools and services

More than 3 in 5 (68%) business travellers from APAC preferred booking their business travels through Online Travel Agents (OTAs), citing convenience (68%), better prices (67%), and better information, such as descriptions of hotels or airlines (65%) as the top reasons. Business travellers from the region are also avid users of online booking tools, with nearly half (47%) saying that they like to use them. The biggest reasons for using online booking tools include better information (73%), greater convenience (69%) and better prices (69%).

In addition, APAC business travellers would choose their booking tool based on the quality of information available. Some 73% chose better information as a key reason for using the selected platform to book their business travel. With the multicultural dynamics in Asia Pacific, details and descriptions in local languages are key to ensuring a more convenient travel booking experience for business travellers.

When travel arrangements are cancelled while travelling for business, 76% of APAC business travellers would prefer to re-book their trip online. Indian business travellers would avoid human interaction the most, with 84% choosing to rebook online instead, followed by business travellers from Japan (80%) and the Greater China region (79%).

Another survey finding: Female travellers report high levels of harassment and sexism on the road. More than 3 in 4 female APAC business travellers (76%) have experienced some sort of harassment or mistreatment while travelling. They are also often asked if they’re travelling with their husband (47%), assumed that they are a hotel staff (43%), ignored by service workers (42%), and catcalled on the job (30%).

Also, delays in getting reimbursed for expenses are affecting business travellers’ trust in their companies: 43% of APAC business travellers reported forfeiting their expenses in 2018, either because they did not think the expense was worth filing or because their employer never paid them the money owed. On average, APAC business travellers forfeited US$839 from expenses that weren’t reimbursed by their employers in the past year. This is another area that requires digital transformation. 

The study was commissioned by SAP Concur, and according to Andy Watson, its Senior Vice President & General Manager for Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China: “Employees in Asia Pacific, in particular, are looking for a safe and seamless experience when they go on business trips, and want guidance and better technology to help them alleviate common hindrances.”

With that said, companies can take heed of the survey findings and maximise traveller satisfaction by transforming their corporate travel programs and simplifying tedious processes from booking to expense reporting.