Survey: Business Travel Ahead of Other Industries on Payment Tech

The Global Business Travel Association reports in a new survey that many business travelers are using one or more forms of virtual payments—though there’s still plenty of room for growth.

If there’s an area where the travel world moves faster than the business world at large, it might just be payments.

That’s a new finding from survey results released by the Global Business Travel Association [registration], in partnership with AirPlus International. GBTA finds that more than half of U.S. travel buyers (56 percent) use central travel accounts, a form of virtual card that is used for multiple travel workers.

But there’s still plenty for more sophisticated travel card uses. Just 11 percent rely on single-use cards, a single-transaction card type that tends to be used for hotels and comes with spending limits. Despite the fact that the format is likely to grow in prominence in future years (with 23 percent of respondents saying they’re likely to adopt them), there are a number of concerns around administration, supplier acceptance, and control that have led travel programs to avoid their use.

Also growing in interest are mobile wallets, which differ from virtual cards by storing cards in smartphones. While support is still somewhat low—just 22 percent of respondents said they believed their card was compatible with mobile wallets—interest was high, with 28 percent claiming the were interested or very interested, and 44 percent saying they were somewhat interested.

In a news release, GBTA Director of Research Jessica Collison noted that the interest and uptake in forms of virtual payment spoke to the way that personal technology was influencing business travel.

“Mobile technology has become increasingly ubiquitous and business travelers are looking to use the same technology they use in their personal lives when they travel for business,” Collison said in the release. “Virtual payments are becoming more popular while offering increased levels of payment security.”

Some other highlights in the survey include:

Ridesharing’s growing normalization. The report found that 89 percent of travel programs allow for ridesharing tools such as Uber and Lyft, and just 1 percent explicitly prohibited it. (Compare this to home-rental services such as Airbnb, which 56 percent of programs explicitly don’t allow.) However, the use of such tools is not closely managed, with only 18 percent having formal vendor relationships, though 42 percent of respondents say they’re looking to build some in the future.

Expense reports are mobile, but receipts are still necessary. The survey found that more than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) had travel programs that offered expense-management apps. Uptake is still fairly slow, however, with 61 percent saying that at least a quarter of employees use an app, and 30 percent saying more than half did. But receipts, the bane of the expense report’s existence, remain, and likely won’t go away. Just 15 percent of travel managers said they’d reconsider the need for receipts for preauthorized expenses.

(martin-dm/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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