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LAS VEGAS, Nev. — LCT Publisher and Show Chair Sara Eastwood-McLean gave her annual State of the Industry presentation during the International LCT Show last week, with plenty of helpful stats and insights for limousine operators worldwide. Below is an edited version of her remarks:
Carlson Wagonlit Travel recently published a white paper on Business Travel Trends for 2013 and those that are relevant to our industry include:
- Brazil, India and China will continue driving growth in business travel spend at almost twice the world average.
- 2013 is presenting a foggy outlook — helped by the European debt crisis, the fiscal cliff looming over us here in the states and downgraded global growth. Business travel budgets are expected to rise only slightly over last year to account for increased prices, not increase volume.
- In 2012, business travelers spent $254.9 billion, up 1.6% from the prior year. This year, the travel association expects another 4.6% increase to $266.7 billion.
- Fewer business travelers are likely to hit the road this year as the travel industry is challenged by corporate America's persistent economic fears.
- Fewer people traveling do not mean lower costs. Airfare, hotel rooms, meals and car rentals have helped to push up the overall price of business travel. Limousine service is lagging behind the entire travel pricing structure.
- Business travelers are expected to take 431.8 million trips in 2013, the Global Business Travel Association said. The latest estimate would mean a 1.1% decline from the 436.5 million trips taken in 2012.
- Service reviews will play a key role in travel negotiations. One in two business travelers already posts reviews online. These reviews will hold more sway in the business travel program with the adoption of new corporate review sites.
- New virtual agents that add a personal touch to assist travelers will become more popular.
- Online booking will continue its growth momentum across all travel sectors.
- The top travel management priority is deriving air and ground transportation savings.
- Social media strategies will be implemented by two-thirds of the global travel managers as a key action to improve the traveler experience.
- Technology will be the traveler’s best friend with mobile/WiFi connectivity and a growing range of business travel apps.
- Unmanaged travel programs will tempt companies with a low-control culture. The Gen Y business travelers are by nature social, mobile and keen to manage their own travel and expenses while on the go.
- Wellbeing: Increased awareness of traveler stress is leading companies to review their travel policies to improve the work-life balance.
- Worries over the tax and budget battle in Washington were blamed for some of the 2012 declines. Now that tax changes have been approved, the business travel group is cautiously optimistic that travel will improve. “'Even with an agreement to avert the fiscal cliff in the near-term, there are still many issues that need to be addressed; however, companies should now have somewhat greater confidence in their spending decisions,”' Michael W. McCormick, executive director of the group said in a statement. He expects conditions to improve in the second half of the year, when “pent-up demand to get back on the road should hopefully fuel accelerating growth in business travel spending.”'