New GBTA study finds surprising insights into booking behaviours of business travellers

Baby-Boomer and Millennial booking habits differ greatly

Business travellers have diverse priorities when booking hotels and two of the top three rated factors focus on the outcome of the booking rather than the process, according to new research from the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). Surprisingly, 56 per cent of business travellers rank “finding the right price” among their top three booking priorities showing they may be receptive to travel buyers’ efforts to convince them to book using methods that yield the greatest savings.

The study, Booking Behaviours: Helping Business Travellers Book Smarter, conducted in partnership with Carlson Wagonlit Travel, surveyed more than 500 North American business travellers. The study examined how travellers make bookings for business trips with a focus on hotel bookings revealing differences between types of travellers based on their age and the size of their organization.

Employees from large organizations were more likely to use a corporate online booking tool (OBT) than those at smaller organizations who are more likely not to have OBTs. When it comes to booking through alternative channels for hotel accommodations, 54 per cent used a direct channel, 41 per cent used a third-party website and five per cent used an event registration site. Interestingly, 42 per cent who used an alternative channel said they are not required to share their travel information with their company. This hampers a travel buyers’ ability to monitor and enforce policy compliance and also means they may not be able to locate their traveller in an emergency.

“In identifying the booking habits of business travellers, the study revealed several ways companies can improve their travel policies,” said Joseph Bates, GBTA Foundation vice president of research. “By meeting traveller expectations with corporate booking tools, travel buyers can encourage travellers to stay within the system and not seek out alternative methods. Travel buyers also have an opportunity to influence what travel apps are downloaded and used bringing consistency to the use of travel apps within their travel programs.”

“CWT is pleased to sponsor the excellent research conducted by GBTA and this year’s ‘Buyer Behavior’s Study’ is a great example of the insightful, deeply researched content we have come to expect,” said Ben Scott, Vice President of Americas Marketing for CWT. “There are many surprises in the data. One of the major surprises in the research is adaption of technology. Another is the rate of direct booking.”

Additional key findings

  • Four in ten (39 per cent) business travellers have used a smart phone to book a hotel for a business trip in the past six months compared to 58 per cent using laptops and 43 per cent using desktop computers. Only 25 per cent have used a tablet while almost half (47 per cent) have booked hotel accommodations for a business trip using at least two of the devices listed.
  • Millennials book their own trip less often than older travellers. When they did book their own trip, Millennials also communicated more often with others, such as a hotel representative or travel counselor, prior to booking. This is surprising given Millennials’ reputation as a tech-savvy generation accustomed to having choices, but may also reflect their inexperience travelling for business.
  • While smart phones are practically universal among business travellers, adoption of travel apps is not. Less than half of the business travellers surveyed have downloaded airline, hotel, travel reservation or general travel apps. Both Millennials and Gen-X travellers are more likely than Baby Boomers to have downloaded each of four types of travel apps (hotel, travel reservation, general travel and review) on their smart phones. Millennials and Gen-X travellers have similar adoption rates with the exception of ground transportation apps, downloaded by Millennials at a higher rate.
  • When it comes to how the apps are used, Millennials are more likely than Baby Boomers to use apps for booking hotels, hotel check-in, booking car rentals, checking reviews and online translation. Gen-X travellers are more likely than Baby Boomers to use travel apps for navigation, hotel check-in, tracking expenses, booking car rentals and online translation.


This study is based on an online survey conducted of business travellers (including those from companies that both have and do not have managed travel programs) in the United States and Canada. The survey was conducted by the GBTA Foundation using a business travel panel from the company Lightspeed GMI. Fielding took place in April 2015. Respondents qualified if they were employed (full-time or part-time) and had travelled at least once for business in the past year. 521 respondents completed at least one question in the survey.

The study, Booking Behaviors: Helping Business Travellers Book Smarter, is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing [email protected].

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