Managed travel at turning point: Corporate travel managers focus on compliance and employee experience to drive wider business objectives

Eighty four per cent of corporate travel managers will target traveller behaviour to achieve savings

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) recently launched The Evolution of Travel Policy: A Global View on the Future. Created in partnership with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), the report surveyed over 350 Corporate Travel Managers around the world to explore the future of travel policy.

A key question for The Evolution of Travel Policy is the balance between savings and service in policy. Over the last one to two years, 52 per cent of respondents say savings was the primary driver of their managed travel program, followed by duty of care (23 per cent) and traveller service (16 per cent).

Looking ahead, the balance between savings and service is expected to change significantly as Corporate Travel Managers look to traveller behaviour, rather than supplier cost reductions, to drive savings. Eighty-four per cent of respondents say savings will be achieved through demand management and compliance in the next 1 – 2 years. However, the research suggests the communications tools to drive compliance are often missing: 44 per cent of respondents say they have no formal systems in place for gathering feedback from their travellers.

While 75 per cent of corporate travel managers surveyed see improved traveller service as a route to savings, few organizations have measures in place to justify these improvements to procurement or finance leaders. Twenty-one per cent of respondents today use traveller productivity metrics, nine per cent use work-life balance metrics and just 5 per cent use stress reduction metrics. However, 12 per cent of Corporate Travel Managers say they plan to introduce stress reduction metrics in the next one to two years.

Commenting on the findings, Caroline Strachan, Vice President of Global Business Consulting at American Express Global Business Travel, said: “Demand management is the bedrock of a strong managed program, so it’s hugely significant to see that travel managers are embracing the traveller and traveller service. Clearly, they understand the future’s going to be traveller-centric. What’s less clear, is whether travel managers feel they have the right technology and tools needed to deliver this future.”

Strachan continued: “Communication is critical for building relationships, engagement and compliance. The research suggests there’s scope for travel managers to upgrade their communications systems and practice.”

Metrics are another area for attention identified by Strachan:  “Traveller-centric metrics help travel managers convince their colleagues about the value of service improvements. The research shows progress here – but travel managers should consider how they can better capture the impact of travel on their travellers.”

Greeley Koch, Executive Director at the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, said, “The Evolution of Travel Policy study confirms a major shift among business travel managers, identifying a stronger emphasis on supporting the traveller in meeting corporate objectives, as opposed to savings alone. The report’s findings are consistent with ACTE’s Traveller Centricity education pillar, which puts the traveller and the traveller’s needs at the heart of policy.”

Koch pointed out that influencing traveller behaviour and supporting the traveller in the field is far more conducive to meeting the primary objective — raising corporate revenue — than savings alone. “While savings remain a key driver, profitability is the objective of business travel,” says Koch.

Among the traveller considerations featured in The Evolution of Travel Policy are initiatives for improved traveller service. Highlights include:

  • Pre-trip messaging: 30 per cent of organizations have already deployed these services, and 27 per cent aim to introduce them in the next one to two years.
  • Mobile booking: 29 per cent of organizations have mobile booking today. A further 30 per cent of corporate travel managers plan to implement within one to two years
  • Mobile Apps for in-trip changes: deployed in just 16 per cent of organizations today, over the next one to two years 31 per cent of corporate travel managers plan to implement

With sharing economy travel options a focus of interest across the travel industry, the research finds lukewarm attitudes among corporate travel managers. While 13 per cent have included ground transportation sharing options, and a further 13 per cent plan to implement in the next one to two years, 39 per cent say these options are not even on the agenda. With accommodation sharing options, 13 per cent have implemented policy, 8 per cent plan to introduce policy in the next one to two years and over half (56 per cent) rule them out altogether.

“These figures may be more indicative of a mindset than practical application,” said Koch. He added that ground transportation decisions are often made in the moment by travellers on the road, not by travel managers based in corporate headquarters. “Accommodation decisions are a different and more complex story,” said Koch.

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