Chinese business travel budgets to increase in 2019
CITS American Express Global Business Travel, a joint venture between American Express Global Business Travel and China International Travel Service, released its 2018 China Business Travel Barometer last week. The headline story was that 45% of Chinese companies expect business travel spending to increase over the next 12 months. The press release noted that this was one of the strongest signals of market confidence since the barometer launched 14 years ago and despite volatility and uncertainty in the global economy. This news is similar to data from the Global Business Travel Association’s Business Travel Index that annual business travel spend in China grew from $32 billion in 2000 to around $347 billion in 2017 and is tipped to grow another 6.5 percent annually until 2022.
This is great news for inter-China travel as the portion of business travel expenditure allocated to domestic China (versus international) trips has increased by 18% from last year. And less frequently visited Chinese cities can expect to be some of the biggest winners of this increased spending. Analysis by the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that that inland and emerging cities within China are set to outpace top-tier cities in annual GDP growth over the next three years. However, CITS American Express cautions that travel managers now need to ensure travel programs and policies adequately cover the needs of travelers and companies in these new geographies because emerging cities often lack the same level of infrastructure as more developed cities. There is also a need to train and educate Chinese business travelers in the nuances of travelling in different environments.
According to the barometer, the top priorities for travel programmes by Chinese companies are cost savings (reported by 62% of respondents) and compliance (57%), with safety and security dropping to third place from the top priority in 2017. The top three concerns on the minds of Chinese business travelers remain the same as last year: travel reimbursement processes being too complex (49%), pre-trip validation processes being too complex (37%), and travel conditions too strict in general (37%).
“These figures highlight a clear and exciting opportunity to develop simpler and leaner processes to increase business traveler satisfaction and boost efficiency within the company,”advised Kevin Tan, Vice President of CITS American Express Global Business Travel. “If a company’s travelers cannot understand or effectively navigate their company travel processes, there will be decreased compliance, leading to greater costs.”
And let’s not forget the international marketing. Skift stresses that major travel management companies need to service China if they want to win and retain global multinational accounts. Having a presence isn’t just necessary to service international clients. With Chinese companies becoming crucial investors and the drivers of growth across the world, understanding the needs of Chinese business travellers will become key to attracting this demographic.
We wholeheartedly agree with CITS American Express: “It’s critical that companies engage the right partners for their businesses in order to create a travel program that meets their evolving needs.” The Amistad team is happy to speak to independent hotels to see how they can ensure that their offering is meeting the expectations of corporate travel managers and Chinese business travellers.