Now in its fifth year, the “SAP Concur Global Business Travel Survey” explores some of the most pressing challenges facing business travelers today, including remote work and equal opportunity to travel. It also revisits a few key themes from the past to gauge where things now stand, including duty of care and LGBTQ+ traveler experiences. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of global business travelers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity to travel for business compared to their coworkers, and they attribute this primarily to their age, accent or gender.
- Their age (global: 21 percent; U.S.: 27 percent)
- Their accent (17 percent; 23 percent)
- Their gender (17 percent; 26 percent)
- Their physical appearance (16 percent; 25 percent)
- Their ethnicity or race (15 percent; 22 percent)
- Being a parent or caretaker (13 percent; 18 percent)
- Their sexual orientation (8 percent; 17 percent)
- Their disability (7 percent; 14 percent)
The Challanges for Remote Workers
Remote workers say business travel is critical for workplace relationships, yet more remote workers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity to take business trips because of where they live or how often they come into the office.
More than three in 10 remote workers recognize that business travel is critical to forming meaningful connections with co-workers (38 percent) and building stronger relationships with managers (37 percent), compared to in-office workers (27 percent and 24 percent, respectively); however, half of remote workers (50 percent) say they’re traveling more than they’d like, compared to hybrid (37 percent) and in-office (29 percent) workers.
At the same time, more remote workers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity for business travel—77 percent, compared to 61 percent of hybrid workers and 52 percent of in-office workers—because of where they live (20 percent, 13 percent and 13 percent, respectively) and how often they come into the office (17 percent, 11 percent and 8 percent, respectively). It is particularly challenging for remote workers who are parents or guardians: 16 percent say they haven’t had equal opportunity for business travel because of their status as a parent, compared to hybrid (12 percent) and in-office (11 percent) workers. Remote workers are also most likely to decline a business trip due to challenges finding childcare (19 percent, 14 percent and 14 percent, respectively).
More remote workers say the uncertain economy is affecting their company’s business travel than in-office workers (91 percent vs 80 percent), with noted changes including reducing overnight trips (36 percent vs. 27 percent), staying in lower quality accommodations (39 percent vs. 26 percent), requiring a minimal number of meetings per business trip (35 percent vs. 23 percent), and requiring more advance approvals (31 percent vs. 22 percent).
Health and Safety
Global business travelers still say that health and safety is the biggest threat to business travel (44 percent)—more so than international or local conflicts and tensions (34 percent), inflation (34 percent), budget cuts or travel freezes (31 percent), and remote work and virtual meeting options (28 percent).
That’s not to say that an uncertain economy isn’t having an impact: Travelers have observed budget cuts (40 percent), reduced overnight trips (32 percent), staying in lower quality accommodations (31 percent), emphasis on lower fares (31 percent), and a minimum number of meetings per business trip (28 percent) in their organization. Of note, more U.S. business travelers have observed these changes (44 percent, 36 percent, 39 percent, 42 percent and 36 percent, respectively).
Travelers expect their company to allow them to make out-of-policy bookings to ensure their safety (global: 48 percent; U.S.: 56 percent), support work-life balance (47 percent; 53 percent), book sustainable options (36 percent, 37 percent), take bleisure trips (34 percent; 41 percent), book for conferences (31 percent; 46 percent), and support ideological or lifestyle differences with travel destination (30 percent; 41 percent). Along those lines, safety (44 percent) and health (41 percent) are still the biggest reasons to decline a business trip, more so than feeling burnt out on travel (27 percent) and challenges finding childcare (15 percent).
In the past 12 months, more than half of global business travelers have had to change their accommodations because they felt unsafe. Fifty-three percent of global business travelers have had to change their accommodations in the past 12 months because they felt unsafe, and more than a quarter (28 percent) have had to change more than once. It’s even higher in the U.S., where more than two-thirds of business travelers (70 percent) have had to change their accommodations because they felt unsafe, and nearly half (47 percent) have had to change more than once.
Business travelers, particularly those in the U.S., have experienced unfair treatment on their trips, including:
- Being ignored by service workers (global: 31 percent ; U.S.: 41 percent).
- Unfair or improper security screening (26 percent; 32 percent).
- Being asked if they are traveling with their spouse (25 percent; 34 percent).
- Feeling in immediate danger (23 percent; 31 percent).
- Being the target of unwanted sexual advances or comments (22 percent; 36 percent).
- Derogatory language directed at them (20 percent; 27 percent).
- Fellow travelers assuming they work at the hotel (19 percent; 29 percent).
- Globally, younger generations also feel more uncomfortable. In the past 12 months, almost two-thirds of Gen Z (64 percent) and millennials (61 percent) have changed their accommodations for a business trip because they felt unsafe. That’s compared to 40 percent of Gen X and 15 percent of baby boomers. In fact, 85 percent of baby boomers say they’ve never had to use this practice.
LGBTQ+ Business Travelers
The majority of global LGBTQ+ travelers have hidden their sexual identity on a business trip, and more than a third have attributed it to anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the region. More than half (54 percent) of global LGBTQ+ business travelers say the biggest threats to business travel are health and safety concerns, and 45 percent would decline a business trip due to safety or social concerns for traveling to certain parts of the world.
That said, most global LGBTQ+ business travelers (90 percent) have hidden their sexual identity on their business trip, with the top reason being safety and privacy issues (55 percent). Just under half (46 percent) hid their orientation for business reasons, meaning they felt that their business goals had a better chance of success if they hid their identity. More than a third (38 percent) were forced to hide their identity due to anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the region.
In the past 12 months, 82 percent of LGBTQ+ business travelers have had to change their accommodations because they felt unsafe. Nearly all (94 percent ) have experienced unfair treatment on a business trip, including being ignored by service workers (45 percent ), being the target of unwanted sexual advances or comments (40 percent), and unfair or improper security screening (33 percent ). Ninety-two percent of LGBTQ+ business travelers feel they haven’t had equal opportunity to take business trips compared to their co-workers due to their age (38 percent), gender (34 percent), and sexual orientation (31 percent).
The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research between April 7-28, 2023, among 3,850 business travelers in 25 markets: The U.S., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Argentina, the U.K., France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Italy, Spain, Dubai, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, South Africa, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland.