Agents losing out to Internet for business travel

Agents losing out to Internet for business travel

More than half of business travellers use the Internet as their primary means of arranging their business travel, a new poll shows.

The survey by management consulting group Accenture of more than 450 business travellers in the UK found that 53% book their business travel primarily online, up from 47% in 2003.

Only 27% said their preferred booking method is by telephone with a live agent, down from 41% in 2003. Additionally, 46% have used airport kiosks to check in, and almost three-quarters (72%) of those who have used kiosks said they did so largely for their convenience.

“We're witnessing a rapid uptake of technology use among business travellers,” said Alex Christou, a partner in Accenture’s transportation and travel services practice. “Since travellers clearly expect to use IT, travel and hospitality leaders are focusing on using these electronic channels as a means of enhancing both customer service and their bottom line.”

Respondents continue to prefer major network carriers for business travel (cited by 55%), and they use both major network carriers and low-cost airlines for personal travel (cited by 48% and 46%, respectively). These numbers have remained constant since last year, when 54% said they used major network carriers for business travel and 47% cited low cost carriers as their personal travel preference.

But almost two-thirds (63%) expect their use of low-cost carriers to increase or remain the same over the next six months. In addition, 46% said they would increasingly use low-cost carriers if the airlines offered more of the flights into main airports.

“Major network carriers and hotel companies should be keenly aware that aspects beyond price, such as convenient schedules, are deciding factors for many business travellers,” said Mr Christou. “We continue to see that service and convenience – from the Website to the aisle seat to the hotel room – remain top concerns for travellers. Companies that provide convenience, good prices and quality service on a consistent basis can win the lucrative business traveller.”

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