Balancing Savings in a Travel-Centric Program

By knowing your travelers, a corporate travel program can generate travel cost savings while also improving the lives of its travelers. A travel-centric program is one that focuses on the needs of your company's travelers. Companies need their travelers to feel respected and valued while maintaining budgets. Finding the balance can be tricky.

Research shows that employees who are comfortable and well taken care of while on business trips feel they can deliver better results. In addition to improved performance, a travel-centric program can provide cost savings through a higher level of compliance with corporate policies and procedures.

Start by listening

It's essential to understand the cost of traveler friction. In addition to the overt costs of missed meetings or engagements, there's a hidden cost in fatigue and frustration. Even more so than personal travel, business travel is driven by schedules and obligations. Any delays can be ruinous to well-laid plans. The ease with which your travelers can rebook and get rerouted to their destination will play a large part in their perception of the travel experience. Corporate travelers save time and frustration by removing some of the hassles from the travel experience.

To create a travel-centric program, more companies are developing policies to permit mixing business and leisure trips, known as "bleisure" travel. This policy allows employees to spend leisure time while on a work assignment, such as traveling to a city the weekend before a meeting to go sightseeing. For long-term road warriors, allowing them to incorporate leisure travel into business trips is recognition of the time investment they're making in the company. Incentives such as gift cards or coupons, or extra time off, reward compliance and budget-saving behavior.

Be realistic

Companies with restrictive travel policies find a lot of bookings and expenses happen outside of approved channels, resulting in higher costs and a culture of non-compliance. Experts say one of the simplest ways to reduce corporate travel spend is to require pre-approval for every booking. Smart tools can incorporate business rules to automate the approval process, lowering the level of bureaucracy and giving employees more autonomy. Ancillary costs like resort fees or Wi-Fi charges can add up quickly, so help travelers make informed choices. Mid-range hotels offer many services for free, for which high-end hotels will charge an exorbitant amount. Flexible meal allowances give employees the choice of how much to spend daily or on each meal. The cost of local transport fees can be deceiving - saving a few budget dollars could cost the company a lost sale with a delayed journey.

A company's travel budget should reflect a significant return on investment. Sales calls are an obvious objective, as are consulting engagements and field service activities. Investments in conferences and workshops can also pay off through being exposed to innovation in the field. New predictive technology will estimate the cost of a trip before it happens. Armed with that information, management can decide if the trip has the potential for a return on investment, or at least build it into the budget. Developing predictable travel expenses increases the possibility for savings as well as decreasing the need for management oversight.

Look to technology

Technology developments allow more personalized, customized service for corporate travelers. A travel-centric program uses traveler patterns and preferences to customize service and recommendations for flights, hotels, rental cars and more. The New Distributions Capability (NDC) standard gives travel consumers more information at their fingertips. Rebooking tools that constantly shop for lower air and hotel fares continue to spark interest across the industry.

For most companies, employees represent a significant investment and the core of their competitive advantage. Employees require regular maintenance and downtime, just like any machinery. Ensuring that your employees have a safe and comfortable travel experience is a wise investment. If you build a genuinely travel-centric program, fears about compliance tend to diminish as employees engage with a better system.

To help your company find the balance between budget and travel experience, don't miss Procurecon Travel 2020.

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