Social media becomes purchasing tool for travel buyers

23 July 2010

23 July 2010 | Angeline Albert

Business travel buyers are increasingly using social media to keep abreast of the latest industry information, research by American Express has found.

The company’s online survey Social media in business travel management outlines the evolution of social media tools such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and blogs from consumer to business-to-business use.

Half said they use social media to support travel management, and usage is highest (59 per cent) among firms that spend more than $3 million (£1.9 million) annually on airline travel.

Some 42 per cent use social networking to look for preferred vendors and services for travellers. Thirty-four per cent seek to uncover travel patterns that could lead to better vendor rates and services, while 18 per cent network with travel manager or procurement officer peers. The study also found, however, that of the 90 respondents responsible for corporate travel management, less than a quarter had procurement or sourcing as job functions

The top priority for 48 per cent of travel management departments was incremental cost savings, while 14 per cent thought identifying new or competitively priced vendors and services was most important. Only 3 per cent believed improving supplier relationships was most important in travel management.

“It is encouraging to see corporate travel departments becoming more comfortable with this form of collaboration,” said Alicia Tillman, vice-president, corporate affairs and marketing services, American Express Business Travel.

The most significant barrier to adoption of social media has been the lack of awareness of direct benefits. Some 20 per cent found the business case for social media tools and usage within travel management programmes unclear. Lack of support from upper management (15 per cent) was another obstacle.

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