Certify releases annual report on business travel spending trends for 2016

Data highlights top trends in corporate travel from the past year including ride-hailing’s takeover in ground transportation, the most popular brands and T&E expense spending benchmarks

Certify, an automated travel and expense management software provider, has announced the results of its fourth annual SpendSmart™ report detailing the latest business travel and corporate T&E spending trends from the fourth quarter and throughout 2016. By far, the biggest story of the year was Uber and the rise of ride-hailing services among business travellers. With continued momentum in the fourth quarter, Uber now represents 52 per cent of the ground transportation category. This marks a more than four per cent increase from the previous quarter and the first time Uber surpassed 50 per cent of the total category. The exploding popularity of Uber among business travellers also helped propel the company to the top spot for most expensed vendor overall, capturing six per cent of all Certify receipts and expenses in 2016.

The Certify SpendSmart™ report tracks business travel expense spending across major categories such as food, airlines, lodging and car rental. The report highlights top vendors and emerging trends by analyzing data from millions of expenses and receipts processed through the Certify system. Data is compiled each quarter and at the close of each year to help CFOs, controllers, accountants and business travellers make more informed expense management choices.

Elsewhere in the sharing economy, alternative hotelier Airbnb has gained traction with business travellers in recent years, doubling its share of transactions each year since 2014. In 2016, Airbnb ended the year with .27 per cent of expenses and receipts in the hotel category overall. While still under one per cent of the total, Airbnb’s growth is significant in this context. For example, Certify reports on the top 15 hotels by expense percentage with Hampton Inn in the number one spot at 8.82 per cent and Residence Inn in last place with 1.18 per cent. Assuming a similar or slightly improved growth rate, Certify expects Airbnb could approach the top 15 most expensed hotels sometime late next year. Looking at average room nights, business travellers also stayed longer with Airbnb compared to traditional hotels; 4.51 to 2.58 nights, respectively.

Sharing economy original Craigslist.org also found new life in the 2016 Certfy SpendSmart™ Report. For the first time since Certify began reporting on business travel trends in 2013, data shows the venerable online marketplace made up .53 per cent of the general cash expense category in Q4 2016. This is notable, as more common expenses like WiFi accounted for just .40 per cent of the cash category in the same quarter. Analysis of the Certify SpendSmart user reviews shows many Craigslist expenses are for recruitment and classified advertising, some in temporary and remote location employment. In this way, companies are likely using Craigslist to fill project-based assignments similar to other “gig economy” services such as TaskRabbit and JobRunners (neither of which had a strong showing in the 2016 data).

“Business travel got a lot more personal in 2016,” said Robert Neveu, CEO, Certify. “The growing preference for sharing economy services like Uber and, to a lesser degree, Airbnb really underscores the trend toward consumerization of traditional corporate travel. Advances in personal technologies and travel-based smartphone apps have made it easier for business travellers to choose the experiences and vendors they prefer. And the companies they work for are following suit with expanded travel policy guidelines to accommodate new services and payment methods. More than a footnote in history, it’s the kind of transformational change that will continue to shape the industry for years to come.”

Certify also analyzed overall expense spending for 2016 to determine the average cost per transaction and percent of total T&E budget by expense category. This includes meals, airfare, lodging, gas, miscellaneous and eight other common expense categories. Additional analysis of the more than 10 million receipts and expenses logged by Certify in the fourth quarter of 2016 includes the most expensed and highest rated brands for business travellers such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway, Delta, United, Marriott, Hampton Inn, National Car Rental and more.

For complete data and analysis from the SpendSmart Q4 2016 Report, go to: http://www.certify.com/CertifySpendSmartReport.aspx.

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