The cost of an average domestic trip will increase 1.2 percent to $1,002 in 2009, according to the American Express (AmEx) Global Business Travel Forecast. The report was released a month later than planned due to the volatility of the market. On Oct. 22, Hervé Sedky, vice president and general manager of Global Advisory Services, and Frank Schnur, vice president of Global Advisory Services, held a press conference to discuss AmEx’s findings.
According to the report, the number of attendees at regional events will decrease and more meetings will take place in drive-in destinations in 2009. Companies also are expected to use virtual meeting technology to supplement meeting and event schedules and replace some events.
Planners should expect to see airlines cut capacity and increase minimum stay requirements. Fuel costs will remain volatile and demand for air travel may decrease, lowering rates superficially. If they do, Sedky and Schnur warned, travelers might see airlines increase fees to cover the costs. Uncertainty about the economy was reflected in AmEx’s global airfare forecast, which predicted a -5 to +5 percent increase.
The global hotel forecast also reflected the unpredictable economic environment, projecting a -1 to +5.5 percent increase in mid- and upper-range property room rates. Planners may have increased power to negotiate attrition and cancellation clauses in 2009, as the hotel market is expected to favor the buyer.
“[Overall,] 2009 will see a halt in a steady upward climb we’ve seen in recent years” Sedky said.
In addition to releasing the Global Business Travel Forecast, American Express issued 10 tips travel planners can use to save money:
- Plan twice, book once – Double check and confirm appointments before booking in order to avoid unnecessary fees.
- Pack light – Check the least number of bags possible to avoid extra fees.
- Check your paperwork – Make sure all of your documentation is current to avoid travel delays and other fees.
- Be flexible to find savings – Look at alternative airports to find the cheapest route.
- Watch for waste – Keep track of unused tickets; most are valid for up to a year.
- Employees that stay together, save together – Have attendees share rooms, shuttles/limos and rental cars to save money.
- Big-ticket items can mean big savings – Travel counselors can save you time and money on international itineraries.
- Plan ahead and stay in touch – The earlier you book, the more you’ll save.
- Stretch your stay to stretch your dollar – “Minimum stay requirements” might make it more economical to extend business trips.
- Oldies but goodies – Look for “classic” deals (e.g., getting “bumped” for a free voucher and “off-season” travel dates).