Business travel is on the rise once again, with more than half of companies reporting that they spent more on business travel last year than they did the previous year, according to a new survey.

The survey, by travel and expense management software provider Certify, polled finance executives and business travelers at companies of all sizes in North America. A 58 percent majority of respondents across all company sizes said they spent more on travel in 2013 compared with 2012, including 55 percent at small businesses, 52 percent at midsize companies and 70 percent at large enterprises.

In 2014, nearly half (49 percent) of all respondents said they expect to spend slightly more on T&E, while 30 percent say they will spend the same.

In 2014, 64 percent of midsize and 63 percent of large companies anticipate they will spend more on T&E compared with 2013. Meanwhile, 46 percent of small businesses said they will spend the same amount, but 42 percent said they will spend more.

More than half of the small businesses surveyed (54 percent) said they spend less than $50,000 annually on T&E, while 33 percent spend between $50,000 and $500,000 annually. In midsize businesses, spending was divided, with 35 percent spending $50,000 up to $500,000, 17 percent spending in the $500,000 to $1,000,000 range, and 24 percent spending $1,000,000 to $5,000,000.

More than half (52 percent) of large enterprises spent more than $5 million annually on T&E.

“If business travel is a barometer of the economy, these results are positive, showing that companies are loosening the reins on operational expenses,” said Certify CEO Robert Neveu in a statement. “Most surprising was the level of investment at SMB companies, in which one-third of small companies are spending more than $50,000 annually on T&E, while 41 percent of midsize companies are spending $500,000 and up. Despite the advent of widespread availability of remote collaboration and conferencing tools, companies still value face time when it comes to doing business.”

In terms of how they set up their travel plans, 80 percent of small businesses use travel Web sites for booking travel, while midsize and large companies used a combination of methods, including travel agencies, Web sites and software.

Companies admitted to a number of travel management headaches. The top pain point was employees failing to submit reports on time (46 percent), followed by employees losing receipts, the length of time to approve reports and the need to review T&E reports for policy violations. The top pressure for improving T&E management processes was cost reduction (48 percent) followed by improving visibility into spending (35 percent) and the frequency of noncompliant expenses (27 percent).

Among the areas in most dire need of improvement, the expense report creation and approval process was the top area cited for improvement (36 percent), followed by travel booking (21 percent), systems integration (20 percent) and mobility (19 percent).

For expense management software, 43 percent of the survey respondents indicated they are using Web-based systems, followed by spreadsheets (29 percent) and accounting and enterprise resource planning packages (18 percent).

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