Certify Adds Up the Year in Business Travel and Entertainment Expense Spending

Fifth annual SpendSmart™ Report tracks changing traveler trends and benchmark spending averages with analysis of past four quarters of corporate travel and expense activity

PORTLAND, Maine, Jan. 30, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Leading automated travel and entertainment expense management software provider, Certify, today announced the results of its fifth, full-year SpendSmart™ Report with analysis of U.S. business travel and expense spending trends for 2017. Review of the past four quarters compared to 2016 data shows an accelerated shift in corporate travel expenses to ride-hailing services, underscoring the industry disruption and change in business traveler preference. Ride hailing picked up 68% of the overall ground transportation category last year led by Uber and rival Lyft, respectively with 56% and 12% of the total. Uber also claimed 9% of all expenses and receipts processed by Certify in 2017, a 3% increase over last year and 6% more than second place Starbucks.

While Uber leads on the ground and in 2017 expense count overall, data also shows how ride hailing in general is gaining momentum with corporate travelers faster than other innovations of the sharing economy age. For example, alternative accommodations with Airbnb have nearly doubled each year in the Certify data since 2014, yet it still represents just under .5% of the lodging category overall today. By contrast, 2017 data shows further signs of ride hailing’s strength and maturity in the business travel market with Uber picking up an additional 4% of ground transportation expenses and receipts, 52% to 56%, and competitor Lyft adding 8%, up from 4% in 2016 to finish with 12% of the total. Elsewhere in the category, taxi appears to have bottomed out with 7% of 2017 rides down from 11% in 2016, and car rental lost 8% over the last four quarters from 33% to end the year with 25% of ground transportation. 

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 with analysis of data from millions of expenses and receipts processed through the Certify system. Data is compiled each quarter and at the close of every year to help CFOs, controllers, accountants and business travelers make more informed expense management choices.

Of special interest to corporate accountants and travel managers, the year-end Certify SpendSmart™ Report also provides analysis of expense category spending benchmarks for 2017, both as a percent of total travel and entertainment spending and average cost per transaction by expense category. Cost averages for 12 expense categories were calculated based on the more than 50 million expenses and receipts Certify processed last year. Average costs are up for the most part compared to 2016 data, the exceptions being cell phone, supplies and car rental. In addition, the Certify SpendSmart™ Report ranks the year’s most expensed and highest-rated travel brands by category, as well as the year’s top five most expensed vendors overall.

“A healthy business travel market is a key driver of a strong economy, and year over year we are seeing a sharp increase in our business travel data,” said Robert Neveu, CEO, Certify. “Today, relatively new industries like ride hailing, room sharing, and meals management are maturing quickly as approved corporate suppliers at all levels of business. Coupled with leading class technology for ease and convenience, demand for traditional travel services also continues to grow. We see a number of legacy travel providers securing their market position by investing in, and adopting and partnering with best in class technology. Certify is pleased to share this travel and expense data with the industry and our customers to establish a true baseline cost comparison for business travel.”

Neveu cited Starbucks as an example of an established travel brand that has continued to win over business travelers despite growing competition. Starbucks accounts for 4% of all Certify meal expenses and receipts processed in 2017 and it has also been the number-one most expensed vendor in Certify SpendSmart data since the company began reporting on travel and expense spending in 2013. In addition to its growing expense count, Starbucks’ average transaction cost has also increased by $3.63 over the past 5 years ($9.03. to $12.94).

Along with analysis of the more than 50 million expenses and receipts for the 2017 full-year report, Certify also reviewed the more than 15 million receipts and expenses logged in the fourth quarter of 2017 to provide ongoing coverage of the most expensed and highest rated brands for business travelers. These category leaders include Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway, Delta, United, Marriott, Hampton Inn, National and Enterprise and more. User ratings and average expense amounts are broken out by category below. 

The Certify SpendSmart™ Report provides detailed 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 and automated expense management solutions. The current and previous quarterly and full-year SpendSmart™ reports are available here.

Fourth Quarter and FY 2017 Highlights: (% of category/average $ per expense): 
Most-Expensed Restaurants
Starbucks: 5.22%, averaging $12.94
McDonald’s: 2.91%, averaging $9.34
Panera Bread: 1.71%, averaging $44.35
Chick-Fil-A: 1.41%, averaging $26.63 
Subway: 1.4%, averaging $20.26

Most Expensed Restaurants by Meal
Breakfast: Starbucks 17.34%
Lunch: McDonald’s 3.38%
Dinner: McDonald’s 1.78%

Top Rated Restaurants (1 to 5 stars, as indicated by travelers)
Chick-Fil-A: 4.4
Jimmy John’s: 4.3
Panera Bread: 4.3
Starbucks: 4.3
Chipotle: 4.2

Most Expensed Airlines
Delta: 20.32%, averaging $396.66
American: 18.68%, averaging $316.55
United: 14.44%, averaging $369.67
Southwest: 11.42%, averaging $274.32
Alaska Airlines: 1.6%, averaging $253.14

Top Rated Airlines
JetBlue: 4.7
Southwest: 4.5
Alaska Airlines: 4.4
Delta: 4.3
American: 4.2

Most-Expensed Hotels
Hampton Inn: 8.95%, averaging $240.59
Marriott: 8.48%, averaging $272.15
Courtyard by Marriott: 7.4%, averaging $193.11
Holiday Inn Express: 4.63%, averaging $234.64
Hilton Garden Inn: 4.47%, averaging $227.87

Top Rated Hotels
Hyatt 4.4
Marriott: 4.4
Westin: 4.4
Hilton Garden Inn: 4.3
Homewood Suites 4.3

Most Expensed Car-Rental Services
National: 27.10%, averaging $185.61
Enterprise: 16.43%, averaging $199.17
Hertz: 13.95%, averaging $195.12
Avis: 11.97%, averaging $178.02
Budget: 3.72%, averaging $187.25

Top Rated Car-Rental Services
National: 4.4
Enterprise: 4.3
Hertz: 4.1
Avis: 4.0
Budget: 3.8

2017 T&E Expense Category Breakdown (% of total spending, benchmark average)
Meals 19%, averaging $31.48
Airfare 15%, averaging $318.74
Hotel 13%, averaging $250.09
Misc. 15%, averaging $71.19
Fuel 19%, averaging $46.90
Taxi 1%, averaging $38.48
Cell Phone 4%, averaging $51.71
Car Rental 5%, averaging $190.37
Supplies 3%, averaging $65.88
Shipping 2%, averaging $103.66
Tolls 1%, averaging $31.74
Parking 4%, averaging $106.08

For complete data and analysis from the Certify SpendSmart™ Report for Q4 and full-year 2017, go to: https://www.certify.com/CertifySpendSmartReport.aspx

About Certify
Certify is the leading online travel and expense management solution for companies of all sizes. Organizations worldwide book travel and complete expense reports quickly, easily, and cost-effectively using Certify cloud and mobile applications. For more information about Certify, please call 207.773.6100 or go to http://www.certify.com.

Media Contact
Kevin Wolf
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