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Guest column: hope is not a strategy

Cara Whitehill

It’s time for a practical approach to duty-of-care so put away the compliance stick and engage with your travellers, says Cara Whitehill from data firm Traxo

In every corporate travel manager’s perfect world, data management for duty-of-care would be a non-issue. The corporate booking tools offered would be so user-friendly that employees would not be tempted to book elsewhere.

TMCs would source the best rates and amenities for all types of content, so every type of travel service needed would be available within their tools. This comprehensive coverage and superior usability would drive 100 per cent compliance, which, in turn, would ensure that all the itinerary information and spend detail would flow seamlessly to the company’s preferred managed travel services, including expense applications and risk management providers.

Risk alerts, employee location updates and support requests based on this fully integrated booking data would happen automatically, in real-time. Corporate travel managers could rest easy with the confidence that their fully integrated, dynamically automated managed travel programme was essentially running itself, worry-free.

Reality check…
However, as compelling as that sounds, it won’t be reality any time soon. Achieving 100 per cent compliance will continue to be a challenge, particularly in the UK and Europe, given the amount of content that remains unavailable via the GDSs and TMCs, from rail services to Airbnb and Uber.

Furthermore, as suppliers, such as Lufthansa, IAG and others, continue to push for direct bookings, travellers will be enticed with offers and convenience to book via those direct channels. This has direct and profound implications on a company’s duty-of-care capabilities. And while you can hope your employees heed your pleas to follow proper booking protocol, as the saying goes: hope is not a strategy.

Trust in employees
So while we’re waiting for that perfect world to arrive, maybe it’s a good time to take a more practical approach to the issue. Acknowledging to employees that the company understands there are valid cases for booking off-platform could be a good place to begin.

By starting from a position of trust in employees to make smart decisions, companies can better engage with staff in managing their own travel risks so they feel safer on the road. Making it easier (and less threatening) for employees to share their travel plans when booked off-platform is the best place to start.

Facilitate and encourage employees to opt-in to automated services, such as Traxo Connect or other similar technologies, that import off-platform booking data – the most comprehensive and frictionless way to capture data.

Leverage solutions such as corporate email forwarding to enable employees to forward confirmation emails for their off-platform bookings to a company branded address, for example, ‘BizTravel@MyCompany.com’ – easy to remember and simple to do.

Educate employees on the importance of sharing this data – many employees, particularly those who travel infrequently, are often unaware of policy details, so closing the gap through basic training and information sharing can be an easy win.

Most importantly, put away the compliance stick – employees will be far more willing to share this valuable data and participate in the process if they aren’t afraid of being penalised.

A practical balance
None of this replaces the critical services provided by your preferred managed travel partners, of course, and companies should continue to encourage – or even incentivise – employees to use them as much as possible.

But, by recognising that a portion of your company travel activity will always remain outside the purview of your TMC, and by collaborating with your employees as trusted partners to ensure that their activity can still be trackable, smart companies can close the gaps that limit the effectiveness of their duty-of-care strategy today. Striking a practical balance between compliance and reality means everybody wins.

And this win-win scenario ensures travelling employees are safer, corporate travel programmes are more secure and, hopefully, there is greater sanity and a lot less worry for corporate travel managers.

Cara Whitehill is chief commercial officer for Traxo, which provides data aggregation and itinerary intelligence for the corporate travel sector. Previously, she led product management teams for Deem/Rearden Commerce and Travelocity. Whitehill is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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