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Perception vs reality: What business travel really is.

Chess pieces depicting perception vs reality - what is travel management

When they hear the words ‘business travel,’ Joe Public typically visualises seat 1A, first-class, high-end hotels and champagne (the Instagram perception). But as industry professionals know, the truth behind this misconception can be vastly different.

Luxury at 25,000 feet does happen of course, but business travel is not routinely glamorous. The reality is more… well, reality. Early mornings, the grappling with a highly unpredictable transport systems and nights away from the family, sometimes for weeks on end. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

That’s not to say that business travellers haven’t jumped at the chance to travel again. 83% of employees regard travel as a perk of their jobs, and 39% of Millennial and Gen Z workers wouldn’t accept a job where they couldn't travel.[1]

Most people travel on business to do their jobs, not to enjoy the trappings of luxury. The received wisdom is that we travel to meet, but that’s not always the case. One thing that’s clear is that all travel should have a purpose and is more effective when it’s managed.

Purposeful travel.

9 times out of 10, business travel is about being where you need to be for work, whatever that may be. To put this into perspective, consider the UK’s weather in recent years, and the devastation often caused by high winds, floods, snow and ice.

power lines workmen

When these things happen, we often take for granted that transport routes must be cleared, power lines fixed, media and energy services restored. How does all that happen… sometimes over night?

It’s the workers for these companies with the necessary skills, getting to where they need to be, as quickly as possible. We sometimes fail to see this, and don’t think about; how did they get there? Where are they staying? More often than not, they need transport to get to where they need to be, somewhere to rest, eat and drink, and be supported to stay connected with their loved ones whilst working away. This isn’t business travel as it’s often perceived, this is purposeful travel.

Like remote working, the pandemic also gave extra impetus to the trend for purposeful and meaningful travel, where business trips must make spend count professionally, economically, sustainably, and personally. This can be time-consuming if managed in-house.

According to Oxford Economics, every pound spent on business travel generates £11.08 in incremental revenue and sends £3.66 to the bottom line. Managed travel is the key to that potential. It gets the job done, wherever that job might be.

Different priorities.

In 2021, there were 5.6 million small and medium size businesses in the UK, 99.9% of all the firms. 75% employ no staff beyond the owners. When international borders reopened, SMEs led the charge.

Many of the first movers were essential industries: healthcare, construction, manufacturing and logistics. These businesses needed to get back on the road to keep running.

SME priorities are different too. The bigger players are focussing on risk management and optimising supplier agreements. SME objectives lean toward cost-savings, traveller productivity, and visibility of spend. But one thing they all have in common, regardless of organisational size and spend, is employee duty of care and the environment.

Managed travel, not business travel.

That’s why the term ‘business travel’ is almost meaningless. These days, organisations large and small require their travel to be managed instead of travellers doing their own thing. Which is where a travel management company comes in.

Travel management companies make sure purposeful travel is done in the most cost effective, safe, sustainable and practical way, whilst carefully understanding and balancing the requirements for travel.

So, when you next see the pictures of the private jets, first class travel and plush hotel rooms, take a moment to ask is this Instagram or the reality of what business travel really is.


[1] Financesonline, Travelperk, FitSmallBusiness, Spendesk

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