Research: Aussie SME businesses value face-to-face interactions, pointing to a recovery of MICE industry

New research from small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) travel management company Corporate Traveller on travel habits of Aussie SME’s revealed businesses value face-to-face interactions, with conference attendance the key reason for travel.

The data also revealed the factors SMEs are placing a high value on and the areas their travel management industry has been excelling in, from an easy booking process to a high duty of care.

Corporate Traveller, the specialist SME travel provider of the Flight Centre Travel Group surveyed 535 businesses – mostly SMEs – to gain insight into the planning, booking and expense management habits of corporate travel customers as well as their views on travel management companies.

The results found that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of SMEs travel to attend conferences, indicating an appetite for events as the last remaining COVID restrictions are being removed.

Over half (54 per cent) of businesses travel to conduct sales or conduct or attend training (chosen by 51 per cent of respondents).

Despite the pandemic shifting ways of working, face-to-face meetings still prove to be valuable, with 44 per cent of respondents revealing they travel for board or executive meetings, while a third (36 per cent) travel for internal meetings.

Larger SME businesses are more likely to travel for meetings, with 53 per cent of respondents in companies with more than 200 employees travelling for board and executive meetings and 41 per cent travelling for internal stakeholder meetings.

This compares with 34 per cent and 18 per cent (respectively) of small businesses with 2-19 employees travelling for the same reasons.

With travel restrictions continuing to be eased and borders reopening around the world, the prospect of a reinvigorated domestic and international business travel market appears more promising than ever in 2022.

Tom Walley, global managing director at Corporate Traveller, said: “After prolonged periods of restrictions, and as we come out of two years of remote working and virtual meetings, face-to-face communication will be an important part of the recovery and growth of the business sector.

“An increasing proportion of businesses will gradually resume domestic, then international, travel for meetings and events. Corporate Traveller has seen a significant increase in domestic travel bookings in 2022, and we’re seeing a similar pattern now Australia is open for business once again. 

“The anticipated business appetite for events and conferences will give the events industry (who are SMEs themselves) the confidence it needs to recover, make networking possible again for businesses, boost business travel further and help economic growth.

“Business travel leads to significant incidental spending on accommodation, transport, and hospitality.”

Walley also stressed the importance of SMEs outsourcing travel to a specialist management company to help navigate the new complex travel environment.

The Corporate Traveller survey found that, for businesses, not all travel management companies were equal and there are some key attributes that make the best in the industry stand out.

Respondents were most satisfied with their travel management company’s responsiveness to requests and easy booking process (chosen by an equal 73 per cent of respondents), an understanding of the business’s travel needs (chosen by 70 per cent), a high duty of care (68 per cent), reputation (66 per cent) and 24/7 availability (63 per cent).

Conversely, a quarter (26 per cent) of SMEs are dissatisfied with their travel management company. Specifically, 34 per cent were not satisfied with their mobile app and 49 per cent said their provider did not offer easy reporting.

“Partnering with a good travel management company helps businesses navigate the complexity of the current travel environment, which we expect to continue through 2022,” Walley added.

“User-friendly technology that streamlines the travel journey, a prioritisation of duty of care, an always-on service, and sustainability in travel are key areas that travel management companies must offer in this current environment,” Walley concluded.