UK SMEs are reaping the benefits of going on international business trips and winning new business as a result. New research from the British Airways American Express® Accelerating Business Card has found nearly two thirds (62%) of UK SME leaders have taken international business trips in the past two years and more than a quarter (27%) of these leaders have won a new contract on their trip.
SME leaders are prioritising building relationships with overseas contacts that could potentially grow revenue. The top three reasons for UK SME leaders to take part in an international business trip are attending an industry event or networking (38%), meeting an existing client face-to-face (38%) and meeting a prospective client face-to-face (35%).
Overseas travel is paying dividends for many of the companies surveyed. 43% of companies said they made a new business contact as a result of an international trip, with more than a quarter (28%) securing a new business lead.
Company leaders recognise there are some barriers to overseas business travel. A quarter (25%) suggest that overseas travel can be too time-consuming and a very small number (6%) do not see the value of face-to-face meetings. However, this is in stark contrast with the lead findings of the study which clearly demonstrate that face-to-face meetings can help win new business.
Maximising travel time
There is opportunity for business leaders to do more to maximise their time when travelling for work. The research found the top three activities SME leaders undertake when they are in transit:
1. Answering emails (53%)
2. Relaxing (watching a film, reading a book) (42%)
3. Doing day-to-day work (writing documents and presentations) (40%)
Less than a third (30%) of the SME leaders who attend international business trips maximise their travel time to think about the bigger picture and plan their company strategy.
Investing in international business trips
The research found less than a quarter (23%) of UK SME leaders use a business credit card which offers rewards or points to pay for international travel. A similar amount (22%) of company leaders miss out on rewards by opting for business cards which offer limited benefits. One in 10 (13%) use a personal credit card and 11% of UK SMEs use a personal debit card.
Colin O’Flaherty, general manager, Global Commercial Services, UK at American Express said, “In a world of virtual working, UK SMEs are demonstrating a clear return by investing in face-to-face meetings and attending international business trips, securing new business wins as a result. Our study found that 32% of UK SME leaders believe overseas business travel can be too expensive. However shrewd company owners are maximising rewards and points offered on business credit cards, meaning they can redeem flights or upgrades for future international business trips.”
Ailis Gavan, on business manager at British Airways, said: “The power of a business trip cannot be underestimated for UK SMEs. At British Airways we offer a network that covers business hubs across the world. And getting there needn’t break the bank. Affordable fares alongside our On Business programme means businesses can attend important global meetings while earning free flights and upgrades at the same time.”