One in three UK business travellers are travelling less because of currency volatility; while Brexit uncertainty is also impacting business travel across Continental Europe

1 October, 2019

Business travellers have a significant impact on local economies around the world, but economic and political volatility is impacting the rate of travel in Europe, according to new research from by long-term accommodation booking platform Homelike.

Its survey of 2,000 business travellers in the UK, Germany, France and Spain found that a third of business travellers in the UK are travelling less due to fluctuations in the value of Sterling caused by Brexit uncertainty, with the latter also impacting travel from France and Spain.

The ‘State of Long-Term European Business Travel’ report, examines the evolving business trip, how much money business travellers spend abroad and how travel is being influenced by current socio-economic trends such as Brexit and volatile global economies.

It found that European business travellers make a significant contribution to the local economies they visit, with UK, French, German and Spanish travellers alone spending an estimated GBP91.45billion per year in local shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and gyms, an average weekly spend of GBP446 per person.

The French were found to be the biggest spenders - GBP561 per person per week when travelling for business – but, the British were the most prudent contributing GBP356 per person per week to the local economies they visit.

Brexit is clearly biting, according to the survey respondents with some Spanish and French firms found to have stopped business travel altogether since Brexit was announced. The majority of respondents from all countries remain uncertain of how Brexit would affect their business travel over the coming months.

In the UK specifically, it appears businesses are preparing for a slowdown in European relations as they are travelling less to the continent than before. Germans are still travelling frequently for business but many have stopped coming to the UK. A key factor causing a slowdown in British business travel is the volatile pound, with a third of UK residents saying that they are travelling less because of recent economic volatility.

More generally, the research highlights that whether they are travelling short or long-term, European business travellers all enjoy experiencing local cultures when they are working abroad and are generally increasingly looking to stay in a ‘home away from home’ when away.

The novelty of hotel stays are wearing thin as the luxury they used to be associated with is being replaced with a sentiment seeing them as expensive, cramped and uninspiring. The desire for more of a ‘home away from home’ when travelling both short- and long-term as well as a need for a better cost and an easier booking processes is seeing the furnished apartment continue to rise towards the top spot.

Over a third (35.5%) said they would prefer to stay in a furnished apartment over a hotel if away for a month or longer. Half of Europeans (49%), and the majority of Brits (51%) also prefer to travel for longer periods, staying in one location. The top features that all business travellers wanted from their accommodation were found to be a central city location, well kept, modern and high quality properties and an affordable cost.

The survey found that most European business travellers have stayed a maximum of two to six days abroad for business. Generally, men are more likely to travel long-term, for 1 month to 6+ months, but women are more likely to work abroad for 2-3 months specifically. Travellers from the UK are most likely to have stayed abroad for over six months, while Spaniards are most likely to go for over five business trips a year that last 30+ days. Business travellers aged 18-30 are travelling for 30+ days more than all other age groups.

Other key country observations comprise the view that short-term letting in France has both negative and positive effects on French communities: a third believe it has upped rent making it difficult for locals to continue to live in certain areas but others say that it has injected money into local economies.

In Germany, locals see massive value in encouraging more business travel to their country and see it as one way to help boost the faltering economy in the country. Respondents particularly see value in developing new trade relationships, especially with Chinese businesses.

Meanwhile, the majority of Spanish business travellers wouldn’t end the tourist tax, which is in place in certain parts of the country, because of the troubling effects of mass tourism. However one in five believe that it stops business travellers from visiting Spain.

There are other notable characteristics that differ between respondents from each of the countries. Brits are found to be the most likely to prefer long-term travel because they see it as better for the environment - but they are also most likely to prefer it because they like boasting about how much business travel they do in their role.

Meanwhile, Germans love staying long-term in another country to immerse themselves in a new culture and create a “home away from home” and the Spanish and French are more likely to prefer short term travel because they miss their family and friends.