More than three in four female business travellers have experienced harassment during work trips and more than half have changed their plans because of safety concerns, according to research.

A survey of nearly 8,000 business travellers carried out by Wakefield Research on behalf of SAP Concur has identified concerns for personal safety on the road and frustration that some employers are not listening to their needs.

Looking specifically at female travellers, 77 per cent said they have experienced some sort of harassment or mistreatment while on the road. Incidents include being asked if they are travelling with their husband (42 per cent), ignored by service workers (38 per cent) and ‘catcalled’ on the job (31 per cent).

Harassment appears to affect younger women more often; 46 per cent of Gen Z travellers said they have been asked if they are travelling with their husband compared to 31 per cent of Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, 41 per cent of Millennials have been ignored by service staff compared to 23 per cent of Boomers.

Overall, 58 per cent of travellers said they have changed their travel arrangements because they felt unsafe, while 52 per cent cite travel safety as the most valuable training their company could provide.

While a third of respondents said they prioritise their own safety as the most important factor during business trips, more than half (54 per cent) believe their safety is not at the top of their company’s agenda.

Millennials proved to be the most sensitive to current events, with 42 per cent reducing travel to a location because of political unrest or health hazards over the last 12 months. This is compared to 36 per cent of Gen X travellers and 23 per cent of Boomers. Forty per cent of younger employees selected a flight based on aircraft type, while 33 per cent of Gen Xers and 21 per cent of Boomers said the same.

The vast majority (94 per cent) of LGBTQ+ travellers surveyed revealed they have hidden their sexual orientation while on a business trip, with the most common reason for doing so being to protect their safety (57 per cent). An overwhelming 85 per cent of these travellers have changed their arrangements out of concern for their safety.

When it comes to technology, 67 per cent of respondents believe their employer lags behind when it comes to implementing tools to make business travel easier. Despite living in an age of data privacy concerns, 94 per cent of travellers said they are willing to share personal information to improve their experience during work trips.

More than a third (37 per cent) said they feel the most stress when they’re planning, booking and organising travel, while 24 per cent went so far as to say they would rather have a tooth cavity filled at the dentist than file an expense report.

“Societal issues and employee experiences are increasingly impacting the way we travel,” commented Mike Koetting, chief product officer at SAP Concur. “With these shifts come new expectations from travelling employees that shouldn’t go unnoticed. While companies continue to try and maximise traveller satisfaction, the reality is that employees are hungry for more empathy, guidance and better technology as they run into both common frustrations and unique individual concerns, leaving room for improvement among organisations of all sizes.”

Download a full copy of the report here

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