New analysis by Collinson Group reveals that UK business travellers spent £1.05 billion on business travel trips to the US in 2015, the first time it has risen above the billion-pound mark and up 35% from 2014. Such is the value of the US market that the amount spent in 2015 was more than the combined value of the next two markets: Germany (£451 million, up 26%) and France (£408 million, up 1%).
However, continuing unrest in Germany and recent terrorist activity in France, together with the current flooding across both countries, highlights the need for employers to step up their duty of care levels for staff as they travel not just to Europe but to other countries across the globe that were formerly seen as low-risk.
Overall, total spend by UK business travellers was up 30% to £5.82 billion, with the number of individual visits up 7% against 2014 and the total number of nights spent on business travel up 17%. In terms of growth markets, the data showed a huge rise in the number of visits and money spent by UK business travellers to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Estonia tops the overall list in terms of growth, with visits in 2015 up 697% against 2014, with spend up 745%. Latvia saw a 541% rise in money spent and a 375% rise in the number of visits.
Despite a rise in global security risks and concerns around terrorism, the data shows that a number of countries in the Middle East and Asia saw a rise in business traffic and spend: a 995% rise in business spend to Pakistan, and a 197% rise to Tunisia, though both countries saw a drop in the number of visits (-13% and -26% respectively). Hong Kong saw a 35% drop in business travel visits in contrast to mainland China, which saw a 9% rise.
These figures reflect bigger global events with some airlines reducing the frequency of flights to certain destinations, which contributes to the drop in number of trips. But, those who still visited often spent more on security and additional travel services due to increased concern about their personal safety and security while there.
The rise in business travel traffic and spend – particularly to fast-developing and emerging economies – comes in the wake of research by Collinson Group which found that many firms are falling short on their duty of care responsibilities towards staff who travel abroad on business. The research was conducted among 103 HR professionals in December 2015; 52 respondents were from SMEs and 51 from larger corporates.
Just 44% of companies said they ensure that their staff are issued with company guidelines for travelling on business before they depart, and only 38% admitted that they conduct risk assessments if the employee is going to an area deemed as high risk. A fifth (19%) of HR professionals said their firm had no corporate travel risk partner or Travel Management Company in place.
Randall Gordon-Duff, Head of Product, Corporate Travel, Collinson Group, said: “The UK and the U.S. have a close economic relationship, underlined by the fact that British business travel there has surpassed the £1 billion mark for the first time. The $17.41 trillion U.S. economy equates to more than 22% of the gross world product(3) – so of course it is a vital destination for UK Plc, underlined by the vast amount of money UK businesses are spending to travel there.
“However, the world is a different place to what it was just a few years ago. Terrorist activity in countries that used to be perceived as low risk has completely transformed the Duty of Care levels that employers should now be routinely considering for their employees, no matter where their business travel takes them. Companies need to take a long, hard look at the cover they have in place. Many Travel Management Companies, for instance, do not offer a comprehensive security element in their service – and in today’s world, security is a critical element that a company needs to be considering for its staff.”