CWT Study: four in five Chinese business travelers prefer machines when booking flights
05/22/2019|11:15:08 AM|CWT

Research by CWT, the B2B4E travel management platform, shows that travelers prefer to manage their travel transactions digitally, via an app or browser.

Globally, 69% of business travelers prefer to book their flights digitally rather than have human interactions. That continues to rise for hotel reservations (78%), ground transportation (71%), and checking-in for flights (68%). However, travelers are more receptive speaking to a person face-to-face when checking into their hotel (46%) and checking out (51%).

“Technology is becoming more and more dominant in the travel ecosystem,” said Andrew Jordan, CWT’s Chief Product and Technology Officer. “Digital interactions are taking over, so the travel industry must keep evolving to offer companies and their employees the experience they want and expect.”

80% of Chinese business travelers surveyed said they prefer to book their flights digitally, versus 73% of travelers across Asia Pacific, 71% of Americas travelers and 61% of Europeans. Meanwhile, 90% of travelers from China prefer to book hotels digitally, compared to 84% of Asia Pacific travelers, 77% of those from the Americas, and 70% of Europeans.

When it comes to checking in for their flights, travelers from the Americas are most inclined to use technology over personal contact: 73% said they prefer technology, versus 66% of Europeans and 65% of Asia Pacific travelers. 63% of Chinese travelers expressed this preference.

Smartphones catching up with computer screens

CWT’s research also shows that a significant percentage of travel is still booked through a computer screen – 45% in 2019 versus 53% in 2018 and 52% in 2017. But smartphones are catching up: 41% in 2019 versus 34% in 2018 and 32% in 2017. Tablets rank third with 11%, while only 2% of business travelers claim to get help from a person.

The data reveals that European travelers are most inclined to book their travel on a desktop or laptop (55%), followed by travelers from the Americas (49%) and travelers from Asia Pacific (36%).

In contrast, 53% of travelers in Asia Pacific prefer to book travel on their smartphones, compared to 40% of Americas’ travelers and only 26% of Europeans. European travelers are most inclined to use their tablets (16%) or speak to a person (3%) than travelers from the Americas and Asia Pacific, who both scored 9% and 2% respectively.

Chinese travelers expressed a strong preference for using their mobile phones. More than three in five (62%) of those surveyed said they book business trips on their mobile phones, versus 29% who use their computers and 6% who use tablets. 4% also said they have someone help them book their travel – higher than the Asia Pacific average of 2%.

When asked how they prefer to deal with disruptions or changes, 33% of travelers overall say using a mobile app is the most effective way to do so – 37% of travelers from Asia Pacific feel that way, versus 31% of travelers from the Americas and 30% of Europeans.

Business travelers from China are the most likely in Asia Pacific to use a mobile app to deal with disruptions and changes – 43% said this was their preference. Other Chinese travelers prefer calling travel companies (22%) or speaking in-person with airline staff at the counter (20%).

The study also revealed that eight out of ten business travelers have used technology instead of physically traveling for business in the past year, with a quarter using technology five or more times instead of traveling. With 29% of travelers from the Americas answering “five times or more,” they beat Europeans (26%) and Asia Pacific travelers (22%).

“The modern business traveler wants to be able to make decisions immediately at their convenience,” said Jordan. “Companies need to empower their employees to have this control and give them the needed tools, such as mobile apps, to best equip them on their journey.”