Research shows that SME buyers are increasingly leveraging technology and tools to add value to their business by saving money, managing travel expenses and understanding their travel patterns.

A study by Egencia, the business travel arm of Expedia, reveals that 85 per cent of SME clients were focused on increased cost savings as one of the most important areas for the year ahead. Of those, 60 per cent labelled it as the most important focus.

The next two items identified in the survey were increased traveller productivity (50 per cent) and improved transparency on travel expenses (40 per cent).

Egencia says this is a change from past surveys, where SME buyers were more concerned with improving or expanding travel policy, improving risk management and redefining hotel and airline agreements.

Virginie Pouget, head of global consulting at Egencia, said smaller businesses are increasingly expecting “detailed reports, thorough cost analyses and well documented returns on what they spend on their travel activities”.

She added that TMCs such as Egencia can offer comprehensive tools that are easy to use and won’t break the bank. “Even though [buyers] report to finance or procurement, it’s important that we, as their travel advisors, understand that the quality of the travel experience is closely linked to controlling the costs. Travel administration is about understanding the human factor.”

However, travellers still have strong opinions about which airline they fly with and in which hotel they stay, saying these factors are crucial to their productivity on the road.

“The buyer needs to understand this and handle both the culture of the company and the staff,” said Pouget. “Otherwise, cost-saving initiatives could be met with resistance and potentially affect the bottom line negatively.”

Pouget commented that technology can help strike a balance between savings and traveller experience. “Booking a business trip should be just as simple as it is to book your weekend getaway. Today’s best sites for business travel offer just that. And in addition, the company gets all the data the leisure travel sites will not give you.

“Needless to say, the process must be equally smooth when the traveller is on the go on her mobile phone.”