Business travelers in KSA prefer agent advice, digital solutions, hybrid support


RIYADH — Tech savvy business travellers in Saudi Arabia now want agent advice, digital solutions and hybrid support delivered throughout their travel experience, according to Travelport’s Digital Business Traveller Research 2019.

In the planning and booking phase, the study highlighted that over two thirds (77 percent) of business travellers in Saudi Arabia feel recommendations from travel agents carry the greatest influence over their travel choices. However, almost two thirds have both used voice search to investigate flight times, hotel options and local activities (63 percent), and researched and booked business trips entirely on their smartphone (58 per cent). 57 percent of business travellers in Saudi Arabia now also want hybrid support delivered through Live Chat functions on smartphone apps.

The research was carried out by Toluna Research on behalf of Travelport, the leading travel commerce platform, and based on responses from 8,100 business travellers across 25 countries. The study also revealed that in the transit phase, 39 per cent of business travellers in Saudi Arabia find it ‘very painful’ when they are unable to access their booking information on all of their devices and nearly all (80 per cent) are open to providing biometric data if it can reduce

waiting times.

When travel is disrupted, the research revealed 35 percent of business travellers in Saudi Arabia like to have face-to-face conversations or phone calls with a person to find solutions. Interestingly, however, one third (32 percent) would now be happy to be serviced through a chat service such as WhatsApp on their smartphone.

Once they have reached their destination, over half of business travellers in Saudi Arabia now prefer concierge services delivered through their smartphone (59 percent), rather than face-to-face, and 54 percent prefer a digital room key to unlock their hotel room door.

Mohammed Khair, Travelport’s Country Manager for Saudi Arabia, said: “Demand from business travellers in Saudi Arabia for seamless omni-channel support throughout their journey is rising rapidly. Our study clearly shows the need today for a true blend of digital and offline solutions, as travellers increasingly turn to travel agents to solve complex issues and real-time digital solutions for more straight-forward or immediate support. This emphasizes the importance of meeting a growing desire for support that spans multiple devices, allowing travelers to access information and support on their terms. This is going to grow in importance as business travellers seek ever more convenient ways to improve their travel experiences.”

Business travel spending generated 22.5% of direct travel and tourism GDP in 2017. It is expected to grow by 7.1% in 2018 to reach $1.4 trillion and further expand to $ 1.7 trillion in 2022.

This growth is being experienced post an era of uncertainty in business travel spending.

Early 2000s witnessed an upswing in business travel expenditure but the great recession of 2008 saw many companies cutting their travel expenses. This period witnessed erratically changing travel spends by businesses.

Between 2010 and 2016 there was moderate growth in business travel spending, which was roughly in the rage 3-5% annually2.

Business travel spend has now been able to reach the pre-recession levels and it seems to have embarked on an unprecedented growth trajectory in recent years. This has predominantly been driven by strong growth in emerging markets and modest growth in North America and Europe.

The two-year period of 2017-2018 is estimated to be the strongest for business travel since the initial recovery from the Great Recession in 2010 and 2011. In 2018, eighteen out of the top twenty business travel markets are expected to outpace their growth average of the past five years. On an average, global business travel is projected to expand by 5.2% over the next five years. — SG