The results of the Barometer – a survey of 982 travel, HR and procurement professionals across Europe – show that travel budgets in Europe grew by 1% in 2016. Respondents said they expected to see continued, stronger growth in 2017, with 2.5% increase expected. According to the survey, the rise in travel spend in 2016 was driven by small and mid-size companies, which saw budget increases of 1.8% and 2.1% respectively.
The Barometer captures a shifting corporate perception of business travel, with most now believing that business travel plays a vital role in fulfilling business objectives. Instead of viewing it as a cost, almost half of companies consider travel as a form of investment. This proportion has increased by 28 percentage points in three years.
The trend is strongest in the UK, Germany and Scandinavia, with more than three quarters (76%) of UK companies reported that business travel plays an essential role in facilitating growth. The figure was 54% in Germany and 53% in Scandinavia.
Meanwhile, geopolitical developments haven’t dented overall confidence, with 67% predicting that Brexit would have no impact on the European business travel market.
Traveller safety is still a key concern for businesses, with a growth in new techniques to track delegates. The proportion of companies using traveller locating technology has grown and now stands at almost two-thirds (64%), up 5% on 2015. Although companies are placing greater emphasis on safety, productivity, and employee satisfaction when developing travel programmes, cost control remains a fundamental pillar of managed travel. However, when asked if they still had room to optimise travel expense, almost half (48%) said there was either no scope, or very limited scope, to make savings. This number rises to 56% among small businesses.
Elyes Mrad, American Express GBT’s managing director for EMEA, said: "The findings of this year’s Barometer reflect the positivity we’re seeing in the marketplace. Businesses are now looking to corporate travel as an investment to support growth objectives rather than treating it as a cost, with small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) in particular leading the way. This SME sector is the backbone of all European economies; their optimism is good news for entire marketplace."
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