The real costs of business travel

Despite the proliferation of communication technology, and despite the ever-present budget optimization, in-person business meetings not only remain the staple in most industries, but the volume of business travel keeps increasing.

The high-stake occasions like sales prospecting, final negotiations, or resolving critical technical issues still require employees to travel, because face-to-face meetings significantly increase the chances of success.

This is why companies spent $1.2 trillion for business travel annually, and the amount is likely to increase next year.

As companies try to get best Return On Investment on their travel budgets, they are mainly looking at optimizing the direct costs like transportation, accommodation or meals. But there’s much better opportunity than just these direct expenses.

Even larger hidden cost is related to decreased employee productivity, and impact of travel on their health and satisfaction. For example study by Airbus and reported 39% reduction in productivity due to business travel.


That means that the best employees have up to 39% lower chances of being successful when they travel for the most important meetings.


Business travel is doing more harm than just keeping your best people awake at night and sleepy during the day. It is making them less productive, less healthy and less happy.

Based on study by Sabre and GBTA [1], more than 90% of business travelers believe the quality of their business travel impacts their business results; and more than 85% of business travelers feel that their travel experience impacts their job satisfaction.

That is why you should focus on both direct and indirect costs when you are considering cost of business travel of your organization.

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Direct cost of business travel

  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • Salary + compensation
  • Other costs

Indirect costs of business travel

  • Lost time

    • Time spent with travel 
    • Additional lost time related to travel (6.9 hours on average, 15.6 hours for intercontinental trip[2]
    • Time spent on travel reporting
  • Impact on business outcomes and productivity

    • Reduced focus and creativity
    • Lower productivity
    • Increased risk of mistakes
    • Impaired social abilities needed for negotiation
  • Impact on employee health

    • Low energy
    • High stress
    • Significantly increased health risk and increased absence
    • Higher risk of workplace injuries
    • Higher risk of mental health issues
  • Impact on employee satisfaction

    • Higher risk of talent loss
    • Lower workplace attractiveness


[1] Sabre and GBTA – Frictionless Travel Report

[2] CWT STUDY, 2013

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