How gender does (or doesn't) play a role in traveller happiness

Travel News 18 Nov 2017

Men may be from Mars and women from Venus, but the sexes are not so different when it comes to what they value in business travel.

According to BTN's research, female travellers are the more content of the two; the segment scored 59 on a 100-point scale for overall happiness, three points higher than men. But on certain factors, the distance between the scores narrows.

Both male and female travellers placed a premium on personal safety support; convenient flight times, hotel locations and the like; ease of expense reporting; and access to reliable Internet and data connections. Other factors, such as empowerment to attend to health and wellness, may not be among the top five concerns of either segment, but the gap between how important each is and how effectively the company is delivering represents a significant opportunity for travel managers to improve traveller happiness overall.

The Safety & Security Myth
There's a myth that women are much more concerned about personal safety when traveling on business. In BTN's research, the male traveling population actually ranked personal safety support as its No. 1 concern. For women, it ranked No. 2. However, on a five-point-scale for importance, women ranked it higher than men did.

Digging in further, women said companies were more effective at supporting personal safety, rating it 3.85 out of 5, while men rated their companies' effectiveness slightly lower, at 3.8. "We get lots of training before we go into a dangerous environment," said one female traveller who works as a media producer and travels 10 times a year in the U.S., Canada and Europe. "There are safety protocols and things [my company does] to mitigate dangerous situations. I feel like they have a lot of safety checks in place and they try to keep that top of mind."

An added layer to the security piece of the travel puzzle is communication. Female travellers placed a premium on receiving pre-trip travel advisories about serious incidents, ranking it No. 5 in importance. For women, there's a significant gap between how important this factor is and how effectively companies are meeting expectations.

One female traveller who worked for a pharmaceutical company told BTN about a trip to Mexico City she felt was ill advised. "I don't feel like they really prepared those of us going on that trip for what the atmosphere there would be like," she said. "We did actually have somebody meet us when we got off the plane to get us through customs, but then, on the way back, we were kind of just dropped off at the airport. It was kind of hit or miss. It was just like, 'Here, go to Mexico City!'"

Though men ranked pre-trip travel advisories about serious incidents lower in importance, a similar importance-effectiveness gap still exists, which means this still could be a worthwhile area for travel managers to explore to boost happiness for both segments.

Time & Convenience Rule
Both men and women want travel to be more convenient, but they prioritize it differently. Female travellers ranked convenient flight times, hotel locations and the like as the most important factor for traveller happiness, at 4.6, while male travellers ranked it third, at 4.4. Similarly, women considered tools and memberships that would allow them to skip lines or bypass typical travel processes important, scoring it 4.2, while men scored it 3.9. Women also scored ease of expense reporting slightly higher in terms of importance, 4.5, than men did, 4.4.

Why do women place a premium on convenience and time-saving measures? The answer likely points to childcare, which, despite recent progress, still falls largely on mothers. In a 2013 study called Work Life Balance Up in the Air: Does Gender Make a difference Between Female and Male International Business Travellers?, which was published in the German Journal of Human Resource Management, Iris Kollinger-Santer and Iris Fischlmayr found that gender plays no role in work-life balance, unless of course those travellers have children.

Having children places "additional burden on female travellers and does not allow any, or at least not enough, time to deal with stress," Kollinger-Santer and Fischlmayr wrote. "Apart from the high stress levels due to organizing family life, childcare and household, women are confronted with a lack of understanding from the society which might even end up in accusations."

All that is to say that female travellers with children often deal with an added level of stress for the reasons Kollinger-Santer and Fischlmayr mention. So when women have to travel, they want to know they're going to be able to catch a flight at a reasonable time and won't have to wait in long lines at each stage of the journey. Women, too, ranked reasonable downtime before returning to the office as more important than men did. The gap between importance and effectiveness was almost a full point, at 0.9. For men it was 0.7.

But even travellers without children said the hassle of things like booking through a corporate tool, going through airport security, waiting in a rental car line or at a hotel check-in desk and filing an expense report make travel feel like a necessary evil. "Seventy-five percent of the time, I like [traveling]," said one woman who flies domestically 20 times or more a year. "The 25 percent [I don't like], it's not even because of my work. It's just bad timing that makes me stress."
In terms of convenient flight times and hotel locations, the gap between importance and effectiveness was almost a full point for both the female and male segments. For tools and memberships that allow travellers to bypass lines, the gap was one point for men and 1.3 points for women. For ease of expense reporting, the gap was nearly a full point for both

Shrinking the Wellness Gap
Even factors that ranked middle of the road for both women and men can play an important part in traveller happiness. Under this umbrella are empowerment to attend to health and wellness and a feeling that the company supports the traveller's well-being and productivity.
Female travellers ranked the traveller's ability to attend to their health and the company's support for the traveller's well-being as more important than male travellers did. Yet both found their companies lacking in effectiveness in this area. That suggests this is an area where travel managers could work with HR to improve travellers' happiness.

When it comes to differences between male and female business travellers, however, it should be noted exactly what is being studied: the people who continue to travel on business. What about those who dropped out of the game? Only one-third of travellers who participated in the survey were women. What talent and what business is lost to lack of travel support on the road?

Source: Business Travel News (