Business travel and expense is back—and TripActions has the data to prove it.
In fact, the first quarter of 2022 saw the kind of hyper-growth more familiar pre-pandemic. Once Omicron cases dipped and restrictions dropped, February’s rebound resulted in TripActions’ biggest month ever. Biggest, that is, until March.
That’s when travel offices reopened and companies—now confident in the safety of their travelers—dropped the approval requirement that had been one of the biggest factors limiting the business travel recovery. The result? TripActions travel bookings and spend levels grew with a vengeance (#revengebusinesstravel, anyone?) and set a new company record. Team travel, super- and quarterly commuters, and traditional road warriors all surged in March, with employees eager to meet their coworkers, go to a conference, visit their company headquarters, and meet with customers—many for the first time face-to-face.
And those meetings are essential. A just-published study from San Diego State found that a quick return to travel is likely to give companies a competitive advantage over businesses that are not traveling, thanks to in-person benefits like facilitating productivity, building organizational strength, and fostering collaboration.
The numbers tell the story. Let’s go.
Total spend value processed via TripActions Liquid™ grew 114% from January 2022 through March 2022. March 2022 saw a 1681% YoY increase in spend.
“TripActions Liquid was already on its way to leaving the atmosphere on its current trajectory of recurring and spot purchases,” says Michael Sindicich, GM of TripActions Liquid. “This strong return to travel has only added more fuel to the rocket powering the product’s growth. And as more employees hit the road and see the real value of automating and reconciling expenses, the TripActions effect will only grow.”
No question: Business travel is back.
TripActions has seen travel spend increase a whopping 220% from January through March 2022, jumping 1650% YoY in March 2022.
Non-travel spend continues to climb, as well:
Here’s what that growth looks like by month and spend type:
Transaction volume processed via TripActions Liquid has more than doubled (107%) from January 2022 through March 2022, increasing 1231% YoY.
In Q1 of 2021 analysis of TripActions Liquid data ranked airlines as No. 14 in the top business spend categories. This year, airlines have returned to their pre-pandemic No. 1 spot, with airline spend increasing 240% from January 2022 to the end of March 2022.
Here’s a look at the Top 10 spend categories, with the percentage change in spend from January to March 2022:
With the increase in spend, TripActions Liquid has been working to help finance teams keep pace, creating features designed to save time and money. Auto-itemization, for example, categorizes and assigns individual line items on a receipt, removing a once-manual task from the finance workflow. And an integration with Slack further streamlines the finance team’s process. In addition, the recently launched self-signup process for small businesses means that new customers can be up and running with TripActions Liquid within minutes.
In Q1 2022, TripActions recorded more than half of the total volume (54%) of travel bookings for the entire year of 2021. Global bookings on TripActions grew 125% from January through March, with an 875% YoY increase in bookings.
Here’s how that looks broken down by month, with the MoM percentage change:
Based on data from early in the pandemic, TripActions projected that a distributed workforce could create a new category of travelers: “supercommuters” and quarterly commuters — essentially, employees who travel to their own offices to meet with coworkers to build in-person relationships.
Now, with restrictions dropped, the data bear this hypothesis out: Engineers, who made up just 7% of travelers by job function pre-pandemic, are now at a 12% share. Marketing and Product teams have similarly increased their respective share of travelers.
Meanwhile, Operations, HR, and Finance & Administrative departments, which continued to travel during the peak of the pandemic, have settled back into their pre-pandemic share.
The base booking price for U.S. domestic flights increased 55% — or about $150 — over the course of Q1 2022, from a low of $298 the second week of January and peaking the second to last week of March at $462. That price appears to be leveling off, dropping slightly to $457 the last week of the quarter.
That’s a big jump — but when we step back and take a look at flight prices pre-COVID, it’s only about $30 more than in March 2019.
“What we're seeing now is a confluence of rising business demand and somewhat limited capacity,” says Daniel Finkel, TripActions Chief Commercial Officer. “Airlines are reporting 70% recovery of business travel, yet there are pilot and staffing shortages and supply chain issues with plane deliveries. And while rising fuel prices have not affected fares just yet, that could be on the horizon. In general, airlines are starting to substantially reduce their lowest fare/advanced purchase inventory in favor of higher fares and last-minute pricing.”
As confidence in the long-term viability in air travel increases (a recent survey of TripActions customers found that 84% are more confident that their summer travel plans won’t be disrupted as compared to last year), so too does trip length and the median booking window.
The share of one-day trips has decreased 6pp in share YoY; two-to-three-day trips have increased 4pp in share; and four-to-seven-day trips are up 3pp.
During the initial travel shutdown, the lead time for flights dropped to just 2.7 days; now, it’s up to 15.8—actually exceeding the pre-pandemic booking window.
TripActions launched its Team Travel platform in June of 2021—a self-serve solution to help companies with a distributed workforce bring their teams together to foster in-person relationship-building.
With offices reopening, this solution has found even more traction. Bookings on the TripActions’ Team Travel platform jumped in March, increasing 662% from January 2022. More than half (53%) of all active TripActions customers have either searched, created an event, or booked travel on the platform.
So where did global teams meet in Q1 2022? A combination of urban, convention and resort destinations, from SF, NYC, and LA to Vegas, Scottsdale, and Miami. International destinations such as Barcelona, London, Berlin and Lisbon also cracked the top 25.
While TripActions users always had the ability to book personal travel, Lemonade — a separate and distinct booking platform from the Business Travel platform — was launched in 2020 as an employee perk and the platform averaged 22% monthly growth in Q1 2022.
“With a heightened focus on wellness in the wake of the Great Resignation/ Great Reshuffle, personal travel-as-a-perk has garnered increased interest for companies looking for consumer-grade solutions to differentiate themselves as potential employers,” says Head of Travel, EVP Nina Herold.
Since the pandemic, TripActions has seen a marked shift in business trips that contain a weekend since 2019; then, 31% of business trips included a weekend. Now, that share has grown to 38% — a 23% increase from 2019.
On the flip side, travelers are extending personal trips and working from their vacation destination. TripActions has seen there has been 3pp loss of a Friday dep date for personal trips booked via Lemonade, with the share of weekend departures decreasing, indicative that travelers are able to be more flexible about personal travel during the week.
Business travel is back, with a slightly different look. Today’s hybrid workforce has created new categories of business travel and new reasons for travel, as well as a different look to spending. As companies determine which work model best supports their respective visions of success, optimizing productivity and modernizing tech stacks has been a top priority for businesses of all types and sizes. And in an an increasingly global workforce, the ability to support international teams with localized solutions has become a requirement.
A new analysis commissioned from Forrester Consulting projects that travel managers can improve productivity by 20%, which gives those leaders back critical time for strategic work such as supplier negotiation and team enablement.
Employees, too, see direct improvements in their day-to-day operations, saving about 30 minutes per eliminated/reduced expense report as a result of the streamlined policy and expense management process afforded by TripActions Liquid.
According to the study, a typical company can see a return on investment of 153% when adopting the TripActions Liquid approach. And companies can realize even more benefits in both time and cost savings, thanks to the efficiencies that come from streamlining the expense management process and providing a simple, user-friendly travel booking and management solution.