The business travel management industry in China has grown rapidly over the last decade. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has reported that China surpassed the US as the top business travel market in the world in 2015, with US$291.2 billion in spend. It also forecast that business travel spend in China will grow at 10.1 percent in 2016 to US$320.7 billion.
The various stakeholders in China’s travel ecosystem have adapted to the fast- changing environment by developing and implementing better technology and solutions at an unprecedented pace. Chief among these industry players are travel management companies (TMCs), technology solutions providers, travel service providers (airlines, hotels, car rental companies), and the indispensable corporate travel managers. As the link between businesses and service providers, travel managers are often seen as the driving force of advancement in the industry; their views and requirements help shape the direction in which the industry develops.
For the 2016 Survey Report on Business Travel in China, Carlson Wagonlit Travel surveyed 113 Chinese corporate travel managers and meetings & events (M&E) professionals. Conducted early this year, the survey captured the opinions of respondents in corporate travel-related roles, including purchasing & procurement, administration, business travel management, meetings & conventions, general management and human resources & training.
Respondents were from a diverse set of industries such as life sciences & healthcare, technology, IT & software services, engineering & manufacturing, energy, mining, chemicals & utilities, professional services, automotive, transport and logistics.
The survey respondents answered multiple questions, falling under two broad domains – Transient Travel, and Meetings and Events.
For the Transient Travel section of the survey, respondents were asked to evaluate and rate the importance of nine market trends that would impact their companies’ managed travel programs in 2016.
In the Meetings and Events section, they were asked to evaluate and rate the importance of six key trends in the meetings and events industry in China in 2016.
In both sections, the respondents also answered a series of follow up questions about their priorities, concerns, budgets and service expectations from travel management companies.
Transient Travel findings
The nine trends in this section that the respondents were asked to rate can be broadly grouped into three categories:
1. Technology trends: comprising “Data security”, “Big Data” and “Mobile technology”
2. Economic and political trends: comprising “Global economy”, “Corporate social responsibility” and “Political context”
3. Social trends: comprising “Millennials’ travel behavior”, “Sharing economy” and “Social media”
Technology trends were rated the highest in terms of their expected impact on business travel in China in 2016. These were followed by economic and political trends, and finally social trends that will have both a direct and indirect impact on business travel.
Compared with the 2015 survey results, the three technology trends retained their top spots and continue to be viewed as key drivers of the corporate travel industry in China. Interestingly, while “Data security” was rated the top trend in 2015 and 2016, “Big Data” moved up to number two and “Mobile technology” dropped a spot to number three in 2016. The economic and political trends, and the social trends ranked the same as they did in 2015.
There was some movement in the travel managers’ priorities for 2016, with promoting mobile apps to improve traveller efficiency moving up the ranks from number four in 2015 to number one in 2016. This comes as no surprise given the rapid adoption of smartphone usage in the travel industry.
Engaging and rewarding travellers for better compliance through gamification techniques was a less popular priority this year, as it dropped three spots from number nine to twelve.
Meetings and Events findings
In the meetings and events space, the development and use of technology was the trend that saw the biggest jump, ranked third in 2016, up three spots from last place in 2015.
Consolidation of meeting spend moved up a one place and replaced economic context as the top ranked driver, implying that there will be a much greater focus on managing costs this year.
The priorities of procurement teams in 2016 have also shifted when compared to 2015. Selecting and negotiating with suppliers moved up two spots to replace capturing and analysing spend as the top priority for procurement teams in 2016.
While capturing and analysing spend dropped three spots from last year to number four, consolidating meeting and event spend moved up two places to become the third most important priority for 2016.
The next few sections of this report present an understanding of the relevance of these trends to travel managers, and analyse their impact on managed travel programs, meetings and events and travel suppliers.