Business travelers are opting for the upgrades these days, and that includes pricey tickets on airline flights, according to the latest survey from Travel Leaders Group.
The company, North America’s largest retail travel agency, notes from booking data that there has been a 3.5% increase in the number of clients staying in either “luxury” or “upper upscale” hotel properties while on the road for business, as well as 4.6% increase over last year in the number of agents indicating “11% or more” of their business travel airline bookings are in First or Business Class.
The data comes from the 2013 Fall Travel Trends Survey conducted by Travel Leaders Group as feedback from U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers and frontline travel agents who indicated that 50% or more of their portfolio is made up of business travelers.
“Our findings, based on our business travel bookings, certainly mirror the country as a whole – we are seeing growth in some key areas, which demonstrates positive news economically,” stated Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben. “More than 84% of our agents who specialize in business travel indicate that bookings are on equal to or better than last year is important to note.”
First/Business Class vs. Coach
When asked “For your 2013 year-to-date business travel air bookings, what percentage of clients are purchasing ‘front of the cabin’?” more than half (55.9%) of survey participants indicated over 10% of their clients are flying in the front of the plane.
When asked for the top reasons why their business travelers fly in coach, the top response was “company policy” (52.6%) followed by “cost” (43.1%). In 2012 it was reversed – “cost” (50.6%) followed by “company policy” (44.3%)
Hotel Bookings for Business Travel
When asked “What percentage of your business travel clients add a hotel reservation to their travel itinerary?” a majority (67.3%) of Travel Leaders Group agents report that more than half of their clients request a hotel booking in addition to their airline reservation.
When asked “Which hotel category would you say the majority of your business travel clients book?” 63.9 %of Travel Leaders Group agents state the “Luxury” and “Upper Upscale” categories, while 31.8% indicate “Upscale” and “Upper Midscale” categories. (In 2012 the percentages were 55.0% and 39.3% respectively.)
Car Rentals for Business Travel Leaders
When asked “What percentage of your business travel clients add a car rental reservation to their travel itinerary?” a majority (54.7%) of Travel Leaders Group agents report that more than half of their clients request a car rental in addition to their airline reservation.
When asked “Which rental car category would you say the majority of your business travel clients book? 78.6%of Travel Leaders Group agents say “Midsize,” while 12.2% indicate “Full size.
Duty of Care
Because business travelers may encounter situations that impact their safety and well-being, survey participants were asked, “Which types of incidents required you to execute Duty of Care procedures for your client?” the top responses were: “Airline emergency,” “Hurricane,” and “Civil unrest in an international country.”
Trends in Leisure Travel
Other data culled from the 2013 survey showed that overall travel bookings are the same or higher than last year at this time while trends in cruise bookings seem to be about even with 2012. However, river cruising has shown a marked increase in interest especially those products in Continental Europe, Russia and the Mississippi River.
“We are seeing a 6.2 percent increase over last year in the number of Travel Leaders Group agents stating that the average cost per airline ticket they are booking for Hawaii is $1,000 or more, and an 11.3 percent increase among those saying airline tickets to Europe are averaging $1,300 or more,” said Liben. “Some of that cost may be ‘perks’ that business and leisure travelers are willing to pay for – such as extra leg room. In addition, more than eight out of every 10 agents surveyed indicated that their bookings are equal to or higher than last year. So, clearly American business and leisure travelers are not scaling back. Perhaps they have adjusted to the ‘new reality’ of airline pricing, because the demand for travel is robust.
“When looking at cruising trends now and into 2014, we see that nearly 70 percent of agents who book river cruises are already booking vacations for 2014. River cruising continues to be one of the hottest trends in the travel industry and, with Europe and Russia leading the way in terms of increased bookings, any increases in airfare costs are not deterring consumers,” Liben added.
When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients within the (U.S.) Continental 48?” 67.5% of Travel Leaders Group agents selected $300-499, while 17.9% indicated $500-599. (In 2012 the percentages were 73.6% and 12.6% respectively.)
Alaska: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Alaska?” 64.1% of agents stated $600-$899 (compared to 59.3% last year).
Hawaii: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Hawaii?” 51.8% of those polled indicated $700-$999 as compared to 56.3% last year. (It should be noted that 28.8% selected “$1,000 or more” in this year’s survey).
Caribbean: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to the Caribbean?” 47.6% of the agents selected $500-$699 while 19.5% indicated $700-$799. (In 2012 the percentages were 52.4% and 15.4% respectively).
Mexico: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Mexico?” 53.5% of agents polled indicated $400-$599 as compared to 61.3% last year. An additional 21.3% indicated $600-$699 in this year’s survey.
Europe: When asked “What is the average cost per airline ticket, per person you are booking for clients to Europe?” 42.4% indicated $1,300 dollars or more (compared to 31.1% in 2012), while 46.2% of agents indicated $1,000-1,299 as compared to 53.3% last year.