An integrated travel programme offers better traveller experiences, efficiency and control
End-to-end travel management – where every step, from booking to payments, expense management and reporting, is integrated into a single seamless process – has long been a goal for corporate travel buyers.
For one, it supports the travel manager in their mission to keep business travellers productive. Bringing travel into one workflow makes life a lot simpler for the traveller: they don’t need to move between different tools, technologies and processes to plan their trip.
With end-to-end integration, information flows smoothly between different steps in the travel process. There’s greater visibility on the traveller, enabling travel managers to deliver consistent traveller care. And frictionless data sharing between processes makes travel management more efficient.
Clearly, implementing truly integrated travel would be a win for most organisations. However, for many companies, achieving end-to-end travel management is still an aspiration. New research by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (Association of Corporate Travel Executives: A non-profit association that represents the global business travel industry. It provides executive-level educational programmes and carries out independent...), in collaboration with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), examines how evolving technology and the varying needs of organisations’ stakeholders create barriers and gateways to true programme integration.
According to the report, The Journey to Integrated Travel Management, a large majority (72 per cent) of surveyed travel managers have programmes that are only somewhat integrated.
What do travel managers (or buyers) want to achieve?
Investigating travel buyers’ priorities for integration, the research found that online booking tools are the most commonly integrated element of respondents’ programmes (92 per cent), followed by corporate cards (74 per cent) and expense management platforms (60 pe cent).
In terms of drivers of integration, travel managers rank visibility and control of expenses (70 per cent), improved user experience (65 per cent) and duty of care (58 per cent) as their top three priorities.
What’s holding travel managers back?
Almost a quarter (22 per cent) of travel managers have no further plans to integrate. Respondents identify a number of barriers to progress, including lack of resources (25 per cent) and a perceived lack of internal and stakeholder support (30 per cent).
However, business travellers pose the biggest challenge to integration, with 37 per cent of respondents reporting traveller adoption and an unwillingness to change as their top barriers – despite the fact that travellers are also one of the main drivers for end-to-end integration, cited by more than a third (34 per cent) of respondents.
Who can help travel managers on their journey?
To make progress on their journey to integrated travel management, travel managers need to understand who could be their allies and champions. Internal stakeholders in procurement (53 per cent) and finance (45 per cent) are top drivers of change, with business travellers just behind.
Knowing that cost savings and compliance are key objectives for integration, it’s important for travel buyers to secure buy-in from these stakeholder groups.
The complexity of end-to-end integration demands not only internal advocacy but support from all partners in the travel workflow. Travel managers say that technology platform providers (62 per cent), travel management companies (59 per cent), payment providers (39 per cent) and suppliers (33 per cent) are instrumental in helping them achieve integration.
Keep asking questions
Most organisations have only made partial progress to end-to-end travel management, but it is not a pipe dream. Advances in technology and services mean this kind of integrated travel and expense management ecosystem is achievable, delivering a better user experience and efficiencies and oversight to buyers and their organisations.
Barriers to integration can be overcome with the right technologies and change management expertise, and The Journey to Integrated Travel Management offers advice on change management and getting the support and buy-in from the range of stakeholders and partners needed to implement more integrated travel programmes.
Above all, travel managers should be asking questions of their travel management company, challenging them to deliver truly integrated travel.
About the research
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (Association of Corporate Travel Executives: A non-profit association that represents the global business travel industry. It provides executive-level educational programmes and carries out independent...) polled 276 travel buyers around the world from 4-28 June 2019 for The Journey to Integrated Travel Management. The study asked travel buyers about their priorities, objectives, barriers, and gateways to end-to-end programme integration. The research was carried out with support from American Express Global Business Travel.