UK business travel remains resilient despite SMEs facing increasing pressure to cut costs

business travel

With over a quarter of SMEs seeing falling travel budgets over the past year, small businesses are feeling the pinch with many under pressure to save money on business trips.

Trainline for Business has today revealed the resilience of the UK SME business travel market in the face of increased pressure for many to cut costs.

While just over half of SME workers believe business travel budgets haven’t changed in the last year, there is increasing pressure on many to drive cost efficiency on business trips. Of the 26 per cent who thought business travel budgets have declined, 40 per cent felt increasing pressure to restrict the frequency of business travel whilst 37 per cent were increasingly expected to choose cheaper options of travel. 21 per cent were increasingly being asked to shorten the length of business trips.

Reassuringly, business travellers are adapting to this pressure by choosing cheaper options of travel, rather than restricting travel altogether. Nearly two-thirds of business travellers choose to travel on Off-Peak trains, with 65 per cent citing ‘cost-saving’ as the key driver. This trend is being led from the top, with owners or proprietors of SMEs the most likely group to travel Off-Peak – higher than any other level.

Ananth Ramanathan, Head of SME at Trainline, said: “Face to face meetings are undoubtedly the best way to build relationships and, for this reason, business travel remains as important as ever. Rail continues to prove a popular mode of transport for business travellers because of the convenience and increased productivity time it offers.

“Our research shows that SMEs are adapting to budgetary pressure by choosing cheaper options of travel rather than reducing the number of trips they’re having to make. The Trainline for Business SME rail travel dashboard is designed to help small businesses manage their budgets easily so that they can focus on closing the deal rather than fretting about travel costs”.

The frequency of business travel shows no signs of letting up, with the average SME business traveller making four business trips in the UK each month as well as over two trips internationally – averaging 6.4 business trips per month. Furthermore, 8 per cent of travellers have travelled internationally four or more times each month over the last year – meaning nearly one in 10 SME business travellers potentially travels abroad 48 times a year.

‘Travelling by train’ and ‘driving in their own car’ were ranked as the most popular methods of business travel for SMEs, with both being used by over two-thirds of business travellers in the last 12 months. Close behind was ‘travelling by plane’ and ‘driving in a company car’.

The UK Government’s recent announcement to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040 looks set to have a huge impact on business travel. 37 per cent of SME diesel or petrol car drivers, who drive for work said the proposed ban would make them consider using a different form of transport.

The Index also revealed that the most popular destination for SME business travel was London, with 58 per cent of business travellers having visited the city in the last month. Hot on its heels were Birmingham and Manchester at 36 per cent each, Leeds and Liverpool at 25 per cent and Cardiff and Edinburgh at 23 per cent.

63 per cent of those that travel for business tend to book their own travel, with 16 per cent looking to their secretary to do it for them. 10 per cent ask their office manager and 8 per cent ask a team assistant. The main method for booking business travel is through a desktop computer, with the phone being the second most popular option. However, the Index also revealed the extent that modern technology is influencing booking behaviours with 17 per cent now using an app on their phone. 

The Trainline business account for SMEs is a, desktop and mobile solution that allows businesses to manage all rail travel in one place with central payments and reporting tools. It provides business administrators full visibility of all company rail spend, while enabling travel bookers and travellers to easily book and manage their travel with innovative features such as Price Prediction, mobile tickets, auto refunds, easy journey changes, and much more.   There is no charge for using the SME rail travel dashboard.