34% of UK SME business travellers reliant on assistants to book for them

With the SME travel market still thriving despite falling budgets, many SME business travellers look to assistants to book business travel

  • 34% of SME business travellers rely on PAs, office managers or team assistants to book their business travel
  • 17% of SME business travellers use apps to book business travel
  • Over a quarter of SME business travellers book business travel between three weeks and one month in advance

London, UK, 25th October 2017 – An SME business travel trends report from Trainline for Business, the B2B arm of Europe’s leading independent train ticket retailer and travel app Trainline, has today revealed the reliance SMEs place on assistants when booking travel.

Based on data from over 1,000 business travellers at SMEs across the UK, the report also revealed the resilience of the UK SME business travel market in the face of increased pressure for many to cut costs.

34% of SME business travellers turn to their secretary (16%), their office manager (10%) or their team assistant (8%) to book business travel for them. The main method SMEs use to book travel is through a desktop computer (76%), with the phone being the second most popular option (18%). The SME Business Travel Index also revealed the extent that modern technology is influencing booking behaviours with 17% now using an app on their phone.

The most common means SME business travellers use to pay for business travel is to pay themselves and claim the money back (38%). The traditional corporate credit card is used by just a third (although this rises to 52% for board level / MDs), while a monthly invoice is adopted by 17%. Just 7% use petty cash, which is then reclaimed.

Reassuringly, business travellers are adapting to increasing pressure to drive cost efficiency on business trips by choosing cheaper options of travel, rather than restricting travel altogether. Nearly two-thirds of business travellers choose to travel on Off-Peak trains, with 65% citing ‘cost-saving’ as the key driver. This trend is being led from the top, with owners or proprietors of SMEs the most likely group to travel Off-Peak (at 74%) – higher than any other level.

Ananth Ramanathan, Head of SME at Trainline, said: “Face to face meetings are undoubtedly the best way to build relationships and, for this reason, business travel remains as important as ever. Rail continues to prove a popular mode of transport for business travellers because of the convenience and increased productivity time it offers.

“Our research shows that SMEs are adapting to budgetary pressure by choosing cheaper options of travel rather than reducing the number of trips they’re having to make. The Trainline for Business SME rail travel dashboard is designed to help small businesses manage their budgets easily so that they can focus on closing the deal rather than fretting about travel costs”.

The frequency of business travel shows no signs of letting up, with the average SME business traveller making four business trips in the UK each month as well as over two trips internationally – averaging 6.4 business trips per month. Furthermore, 8% of travellers have travelled internationally four or more times each month over the last year – meaning nearly one in 10 SME business travellers potentially travels abroad 48 times a year.


‘Travelling by train’ and ‘driving in their own car’ were ranked as the most popular methods of business travel for SMEs, with both being used by over two-thirds (68%) of business travellers in the last 12 months. Close behind was ‘travelling by plane’ (46%) and ‘driving in a company car’ (39%).


The UK Government’s recent announcement to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040 looks set to have a huge impact on business travel. 37% of SME diesel or petrol car drivers who drive for work said the proposed ban would make them consider using a different form of transport.


The Index also revealed that the most popular destination for SME business travel was London, with 58% of business travellers having visited the city in the last month. Hot on its heels were Birmingham and Manchester at 36% each, Leeds and Liverpool at 25% and Cardiff and Edinburgh at 23%.


The Trainline business account for SMEs is a desktop and mobile solution that allows businesses to manage all rail travel in one place with central payments and reporting tools. It provides business administrators full visibility of all company rail spend, while enabling travel bookers and travellers to easily book and manage their travel with innovative features such as Price Prediction, mobile tickets, auto refunds, easy journey changes, and much more. There is no charge for using the SME rail travel dashboard


About Trainline for Business

Trainline for Business is the B2B arm of Trainline, Europe’s leading independent retailer of train tickets and train travel app. It provides rail booking solutions for over 20,000 large corporate entities, SMEs and Travel Management Companies, offering self-service & account managed products.

Opinium Research conducted an online survey of 1,004 UK SME workers who travel for business between 18-25 August 2017 and a nationally representative survey of UK adults between 15-18 September