According to new research, business travellers are increasingly demanding to control their own travel experiences, with travel managers seeing the importance of balancing policy with quality of life and autonomy on the road.
The study by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), conducted in association with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) – entitled Balancing business travel tools and policy for the traveller experience – reveals that 37 per cent of travel managers report an increase in enquiries about work-life balance.
The options sought by travellers seem to present cost-saving opportunities – 32 per cent of managers saw growth in requests to use chain hotels, while 22 per cent saw more employees asking about sharing accommodation with colleagues. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds (61 per cent) say more of their travellers are asking for improved technology to manage travel.
Travel managers are also feeling inhibited by outdated policies and limited options; 38 per cent say their programmes suffer from limited content, while a fifth believe access to multiple booking channels can help improve choice.
However, nearly half worry that increasing options will make it harder for them to control their programme.
ACTE says that travel managers face the task of striking a balance between offering a retail-like experience for their travellers while maintaining a robust programme that deters off-channel bookings and rewarding conscientious budgeting.
Security remains a top priority for both travellers and managers, with 46 per cent of respondents receiving an increasing amount of enquires about personal safety – although this is down from 51 per cent in October 2017.
Greeley Koch, executive director of ACTE Global, said: “Business travel can be exhausting and stressful, but pursuing a collaborative process can go a long way towards supporting healthy, rested and productive employees. You never want to lock your travellers into strenuous itineraries and overly-strict policies. A two-way dialogue that addresses both employee and employer requirements, however, can actually help all parties meet their objectives. In this case, compromise need not leave both sides unhappy.
“The fact is, travel managers cannot afford to let their programmes stagnate. Personalised travel policies have become an important recruitment and retention tool, and job candidates are now going out of their way to ask about them and making decisions based on what they hear. Keeping up with the modern business traveller is an organisational imperative.”
Evan Konwiser, vice president of Digital Traveller at American Express GBT, added: “The entire business travel experience inherently takes people outside of their comfort zones by forcing travellers to relinquish some control, especially when compared to how people travel for leisure. This research reinforces the importance of travel managers having frequent interaction and communication with travellers to address company expectations and tools available, mitigating the risk of poor experiences and out-of-policy bookings.
“Traveller centricity doesn’t mean travellers can do whatever they want or that travel policies will become so flexible that they become detrimental to the bottom line. It’s about creating policies and deploying tools that improve the traveller experience. The compliance then comes naturally, as will the savings.”
Download the full report here.