According to a survey of more than 220 travel managers conducted by the National Business Travel Association this month, 74 percent of the U.S. companies surveyed are continuing to seek out new travel cost-cutting measures for 2002. And the bad news for the hospitality industry is that the most-targeted areas include air (58 percent) and hotel expenditures (57 percent). Survey respondents also mentioned videoconferencing, an increased use of corporate and charter planes, and online booking as cost-reduction measures they plan to have in effect this year.

"In these uncertain economic times, American corporations are focused on the bottom line," says Marianne McInerney, NBTA’s executive director. "Meeting essential business objectives while keeping travel costs down will be a major priority in 2002."

Sixty percent of respondents said their firms would be reducing non-essential travel, and 52 percent are planning to hold fewer meetings at hotels. To bring down air costs, they are booking "discount" airlines (51 percent), booking flights more than a week ahead (61 percent), and using alternative airports (43 percent).

"Last year, we saw many corporations reducing their overall travel," says McInerney. "In 2002, they are getting back on the road by using more lower-priced travel options. Many corporations are choosing low-fare airlines and discount rather than full-service hotels this year as a way to meet their travel objectives for less money."

But what really gets travel managers hot under the collar, the survey found, was the disparities between leisure and business fares. Almost half of the respondents said that discounts intended to stimulate leisure travel had no visible impact on corporate travel purchases, because continued restrictions make these discounts impractical for business travel. "This is a clear indicator that travel companies’ current pricing strategies are not impacting corporate travel decisions," McInerney concludes.