June 16, 2005--Almost 70% of small business travelers don't belong to a business travel club, according to a survey released yesterday by the American Small Business Travelers Alliance (ASBTA).
The results of the survey, which polled the organization's 200 members, left ASBTA executives shocked at the number of small businesses that don't take advantage of travel club benefits. Jim Van Orden, executive vice president of integrated communications for ASBTA, attributed the findings to small businesses' lack of awareness of a changing travel industry.
Large travel companies are now gearing more advertising to small business travelers, Van Orden said, though this wasn't the case one or two years ago when most ad dollars were spent on corporate travelers. ASBTA believes small business owners perceive travel clubs as caterers to corporate travel only.
"The amount of time small business employees are traveling by plane is increasing because small businesses are growing and succeeding in America," he says. "They're taking 10 or more trips each year, but not really looking at benefits they could accrue in being in a travel club."
Business travel clubs exist at companies ranging from National Car to American Airlines to Expedia.com. Members are offered discounted rates on airfares or hotels and can earn reward points, such as frequent flyer miles, that can even be offered to customers or clients. Some clubs also offer to book entire trips or send flight updates. The amount of savings usually depends on how much the company travels.
Marc Osborn, a spokesperson for Orbitz for Business, isn't surprised that most small businesses don't use travel club services. "It's easier for a small company to simply do what they can on the fly, to try to find the lowest deal as it is," he said. Even though Orbitz for Business's main market is mid-size to larger companies, Osborn admits he sees potential in small business travel. He believes more small companies will begin to adopt online travel clubs like Orbitz for Business because of their convenience and the consolidation of airline, hotel, and car rental.
Stephen Stroud, owner of Dallas-based Park Cities Event Planning Inc., said he belongs to a travel club for many reasons.
"Travel clubs make it a whole lot easier in terms of type of places, the amenities, how I like to travel, and the seating I prefer," Stroud says. "I don't have to deal with it."