Concerns over personal safety while on the road, as well as frustration that some companies seemingly put self-interests ahead of employee needs, are some of the challenges employees face while on business trips, revealed a new SAP Concur survey.
Highlights of the responding 7,850 business travellers in 19 global markets, including 2,500 respondents in Asia Pacific (APAC), include:
Safety above all else for Asia Pacific travellers
Safety is the top propriety for APAC business travellers when they are on the road. Nearly one-third (32%) of business travellers in the region prioritise 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) prioritise 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%) prioritised 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%).
Sixty-three per cent of respondents in APAC 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.
Business travel isnâ€™t getting easier or less stressful
Seventy per cent 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 personalisation of their business travel experience, which is telling in an age of data privacy concerns.
For business travellers which agreed that their company is behind in adopting the latest technology, 64% say that booking and expense reporting tools is the area that their employersâ€™ tech lags behind in. With safety as the top priority for APAC business travellers, it comes with no surprise that 61% are hoping to see their employer improve the travel safety tools they offer.
Thirty-five per cent of APAC business travellers feel the most stress before a trip, during the planning, booking and organising phase. On the flip side, 33% feel stress after the trip with emails to catch up on and expenses reports to fill â€“ one in five (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.
APAC business travellers embrace online booking tools and services
More than three in five (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. Seventy-three per cent 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%).
â€śSocietal issues and employee experiences are increasingly impacting the way we travel. With these shifts come new expectations from travelling staff that shouldnâ€™t go unnoticed,â€ť said Andy Watson, senior vice president & general manager for Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China, SAP Concur.
â€śEmployees 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.”
Additional findings from the study include:
Female travellers report high levels of harassment and sexism on the road
More than three in four female APAC business travellers (76%) have experienced some sort of harassment or mistreatment while travelling. They are also often asked if theyâ€™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%).
Delays in getting reimbursed for expenses are affecting business travellersâ€™ trust in their companies
Forty-three per cent 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 werenâ€™t reimbursed by their employers in the past year.
The full report can be found here.