Certify Releases its Annual SpendSmart™ Report on Business Travel Spending Trends for 2016

Certify Releases its Annual SpendSmart™ Report on Business Travel Spending Trends for 2016
Data highlights top trends in corporate travel from the past year including ride-hailing’s takeover in ground transportation, the most popular brands and T&E expense spending benchmarks
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Tim Wheatcroft
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PORTLAND, MAINE, January 26, 2017—Leading automated travel and entertainment expense management software provider Certify, today announced the results of its fourth annual SpendSmart™ report detailing the latest business travel and corporate T&E spending trends from the fourth quarter and throughout 2016. By far, the biggest story of the year was Uber and the rise of ride-hailing services among business travelers. With continued momentum in the fourth quarter, Uber now represents 52% of the ground transportation category. This marks a more than 4% increase from the previous quarter and the first time Uber surpassed 50% of the total category. The exploding popularity of Uber among business travelers also helped propel the company to the top spot for most expensed vendor overall, capturing 6% of all Certify receipts and expenses in 2016.

The Certify SpendSmart™ report tracks business travel expense spending across major categories such as food, airlines, lodging and car rental. The report highlights top vendors and emerging trends by analyzing data from millions of expenses and receipts processed through the Certify system. Data is compiled each quarter and at the close of each year to help CFOs, controllers, accountants and business travelers make more informed expense management choices.

Elsewhere in the sharing economy, alternative hotelier Airbnb has gained traction with business travelers in recent years, doubling its share of transactions each year since 2014. In 2016, Airbnb ended the year with .27% of expenses and receipts in the hotel category overall. While still under 1% of the total, Airbnb’s growth is significant in this context. For example, Certify reports on the top 15 hotels by expense percentage with Hampton Inn in the number one spot at 8.82% and Residence Inn in last place with 1.18%. Assuming a similar or slightly improved growth rate, Certify expects Airbnb could approach the top 15 most expensed hotels sometime late next year. Looking at average room nights, business travelers also stayed longer with Airbnb compared to traditional hotels; 4.51 to 2.58 nights, respectively.

Sharing economy original Craigslist.org also found new life in the 2016 Certfy SpendSmart™ Report. For the first time since Certify began reporting on business travel trends in 2013, data shows the venerable online marketplace made up .53% of the general cash expense category in Q4 2016. This is notable, as more common expenses like WiFi accounted for just .40% of the cash category in the same quarter. Analysis of the Certify SpendSmart user reviews shows many Craigslist expenses are for recruitment and classified advertising, some in temporary and remote location employment. In this way, companies are likely using Craigslist to fill project-based assignments similar to other “gig economy” services such as TaskRabbit and JobRunners (neither of which had a strong showing in the 2016 data).

“Business travel got a lot more personal in 2016,” said Robert Neveu, CEO, Certify. “The growing preference for sharing economy services like Uber and, to a lesser degree, Airbnb really underscores the trend toward consumerization of traditional corporate travel. Advances in personal technologies and travel-based smartphone apps have made it easier for business travelers to choose the experiences and vendors they prefer. And the companies they work for are following suit with expanded travel policy guidelines to accommodate new services and payment methods. More than a footnote in history, it’s the kind of transformational change that will continue to shape the industry for years to come.”

Certify also analyzed overall expense spending for 2016 to determine the average cost per transaction and percent of total T&E budget by expense category. This includes meals, airfare, lodging, gas, miscellaneous and eight other common expense categories. Additional analysis of the more than 10 million receipts and expenses logged by Certify in the fourth quarter of 2016 includes the most expensed and highest rated brands for business travelers such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway, Delta, United, Marriott, Hampton Inn, National Car Rental and more. User ratings and average expense amounts are broken out by category below.

The Certify SpendSmart™ Report provides analysis of vendors, expense amounts and satisfaction rating data from corporate expense reports collected directly from its customer base. Certify SpendSmart™ reports on millions of receipts and expense transactions every quarter, delivering valuable insights to Certify clients and the business travel and expense industry at large. Certify is a premier provider of integrated travel booking, travel and expense management, and reimbursement in one automated, cloud-based system. Previous quarterly reports are available here.

Fourth Quarter and FY 2016 Highlights:
Most-Expensed Restaurants:
Starbucks: 5.10% of expenses, averaging $12.62 per receipt
McDonald’s: 2.85%, averaging $9.76
Panera Bread: 1.68%, averaging $42.10
Subway: 1.53%, averaging $19.16
Dunkin’ Donuts: 1.36%, averaging $13.80

Most Expensed Restaurants by Meal
Breakfast: Starbucks 15.56%
Lunch: Subway 3.57%
Dinner: McDonald’s 1.89%

Top Rated Restaurants (On a scale from 1 to 5, as indicated by travelers)
Chick-Fil-A 4.4
Chipotle 4.3
Jimmy John’s 4.3
Olive Garden 4.3
Panera Bread 4.3

Most Expensed Airlines
Delta: 20.22%, averaging $416.98
American: 17.30%, averaging $319.81
United: 14.02%, averaging $374.66
Southwest: 11.15%, averaging $285.30
JetBlue: 1.49%, averaging $233.64

Top Rated Airlines
Alaska Airlines 4.6
Southwest 4.6
JetBlue 4.5
Delta 4.2
American 3.9

Most-Expensed Hotels
Hampton Inn: 8.82%, averaging $233.00
Marriott: 8.23% of expenses, averaging $261.09
Courtyard by Marriott: 7.20%, averaging $175.47
Holiday Inn Express: 4.67%, averaging $219.30
Hilton Garden Inn: 4.49%, averaging $210.17

Top Rated Hotels
Westin 4.6
Homewood Suites 4.4
Embassy Suites 4.3
Hilton Garden Inn 4.3
Hyatt 4.3

Most Expensed Car-Rental Services
National: 24.59%, averaging $181.69
Enterprise: 16.76%, averaging $181.92
Hertz: 14.40%, averaging $194.61
Avis: 12.42%, averaging $172.74
Budget: 3.79%, averaging $183.87

Top Rated Car-Rental Services
Enterprise: 4.3
National: 4.3
Avis: 4.1
Hertz: 4.0
Budget: 3.8

2016 T&E Expense Category Breakdown (% of total spending)
Meals 19%, averaging $27.02
Airfare 15%, averaging $316.17
Hotel 14%, averaging $210.19
Misc. 13%, averaging $68.20
Fuel 11%, averaging $29.77
Taxi 9%, averaging $27.90
Cell Phone 5%, averaging $89.00
Car Rental 5%, averaging $190.74
Supplies 5%, averaging$108.89
Shipping 2%, averaging $99.24
Tolls 1%, averaging $24.38
Parking 1%, averaging $34.10

For complete data and analysis from the Certify SpendSmart™ Report for Q4 2016, go to: https://www.certify.com/CertifySpendSmartReport.aspx.

About Certify
Certify is the leading online spend management solution for companies of all sizes. Organizations worldwide book travel, complete expense reports, and digitize the procure-to-pay process quickly and easily using Certify cloud and mobile applications. For more information about Certify, please call 1-207-773-6100 or visit www.certify.com.
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