male and female business travellers
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Did you know that 89% of businesses in Africa have at least one woman on their senior management teams, as compared to 75% of businesses worldwide?

This goes to show that emerging economies such as Africa are definitely not lagging behind when it comes to transforming the workplace. In fact, FCM Travel Solutions shows in its latest report, Women in Business Travel, that emerging economies are leading the way in terms of transformation and equality.

As women are climbing the corporate ladder, they are also travelling more. Nearly two-thirds of all travellers today are women, with women making 80% of all travel decisions . That means 670 million women around the world control $15 trillion in spending power, making female travellers a market twice the size of China and India’s markets combined.

For travel agents, it is important to understand this important and growing market segment to ensure they can provide the ultimate personalised experience.

But before you break out the stereotypical – pink versus blue – corporate gifts and gadgets, you should know that male and female business travellers are not as different as you might think. Barring a few exceptions, their tastes and habits are actually mostly the same.

A perhaps surprising finding is that both men and women really enjoy travelling for business. Forty five per cent of women in the report said that they enjoy travelling on business in comparison with 39 per cent of men. Both said they enjoy face-to-face interaction most (60 per cent), followed by meeting colleagues and the experience of travel.

Both genders also dislike the same aspects of business travel. Top of the list is being away from family or partner (72 per cent), followed by disruption to work, (38 per cent) and disliking having to travel alone (14 per cent).

Men and women share the same frustrations when it comes to flying. Time spent waiting and queuing at airport are female travellers’ biggest bug-bears, compared to delays and cancellations for men.

Also duty of care is currently not gender-specific. For example, most business travellers reach their hotels or meetings by official taxi or pre-arranged transfer.

One notable gender difference which emerged however is the reason for business travel. Meeting clients is the single biggest reason for men (22 per cent) but is only true for 12 per cent of women, whose main reason is internal meetings (13 per cent) against 10 per cent for men.

Loyalty schemes are a more powerful pull for men, with 10% citing rewards as a key factor in airline choice, compared to 6.7% of women, even though 70% of female travellers belong to an airline loyalty programme, compared to 37.2% of men.

Other findings of the FCM survey include:

  • nearly equal proportions of men and women travel by air.
  • use of airport lounges makes only a minor contribution to the enjoyment of travel with 23 per cent of respondents using one every trip. In fact, 25 per cent of women say they never use a lounge.
  • hotel restaurants and bars are equally popular among men and women, although 42 per cent of men drink alone in the bar compared with 32 per cent of women
  • men are more likely to use hotel body-wash, shampoo and conditioner, in-room kettle and iron than women
  • more than half of business travellers would stay in an Airbnb, although fewer women are willing to do so than men

Although the report is based on findings in the UK, we can see very similar trends in South Africa. Also in our country, male and female business travellers are more similar than ever before. With just a few exceptions, the tastes and habits of both genders are the same.