Which brands do your travelers favor?

Part of having a good travel policy is setting guidelines around spending when on the road, but have you ever wondered where your travelers are spending? A review of last year’s business travel spending reveals which brands corporate travelers are favoring.

By analyzing the more than 50 million receipts and expense claims they processed last year, Certify’s annual report breaks down how and with whom business travelers choose to spend on the road. According to the report, U.S.-based business traveler spending grew by 13% last year, reaching $296 billion. Meanwhile, the average expense filed by travelers nearly doubled, from $59.44 in 2016 to $104.28 in 2017.

Travelers opted for quick and simple food options while on the go, with Starbucks, McDonalds and Panera Bread taking up the top three spots in terms of most-expensed restaurants. Starbucks alone accounted for over 5% of all meal expenses surveyed, with an average spend of $12.94. Interestingly, although coming in third overall in terms of expensing, Panera Bread had an average bill of $44, more than 4 times larger than McDonalds and more than 3 times the average spend at Starbucks, suggesting travelers may be using it for groups or catering.

Starbucks has been the leader in the expensed food and beverage category since the survey began in 2013, especially at breakfast time where they enjoy a 17.34% share of the expense dollars surveyed. Interestingly, while the number of transactions has remained roughly stable the average amount travelers spend per transaction at Starbucks has increased by $3.63 over five years to $12.94 at the end of 2017. 

In the airline category Delta was the leading expensed airline, with 20.32% of total spending and an average fare of $396.66, followed by American at 18% and United at 14%. In terms of accommodation, Hampton Inn was the most expensed hotel chain at 8.95% of total accommodation spending, with an average price of $240.59, followed by Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott on 8.48% and 7.4% respectively.

While average expense costs are up compared to 2016 data, there are exceptions. The average traveler paid less for car rental, cell phone service and general supplies. However, these categories represent a low percentage of total travel expenses, with the average business traveler spending only 5% on car rentals, 4% on cell phone coverage and 3% on other general supplies. All other categories, such as meals, airfares and hotels showed cost increases.

There’s no doubt business travelers are a big contributor to the rise of ride sharing services such as Lyft. In fact, Certify’s report shows ride sharing apps accounted for 68% of overall ground transportation spending. Meanwhile, taxis and traditional car rentals declined to 8% and 25% respectively in 2017.  This contrasts with alternative accommodation providers like Airbnb, which - although growing strongly - still represent under .5% of total accommodation spending.

Click here to see the full report from Certify.