Today’s travel managers are balancing the need to influence behaviour with attracting talent, in a challenging environment of ‘consumer-like’ expectations – according to research by American Express GBT and ACTE.
A study of more than 170 travel managers around the world found that 87 per cent say they use (or are considering using) ‘visual guilt’ to prompt travellers to make better booking decisions, while 85 per cent cited using ‘peer pressure’ and ‘corporate culture’ to influence travellers. However, traditional methods of control have not been abandoned: 62 per cent use mandatory compliance and another 15 per cent are considering it. Incentives to comply with policy are not popular with travel managers – just 17 per cent use (or are considering) monetary rewards for compliant travellers.
The research indicates a growing consideration for attracting and retaining good employees as one of the KPIs for a successful travel policy: one-third of respondents reported a growth in enquiries from candidates about travel policy in the past 12 months, while 28 per cent said satisfaction with travel policy is now a ‘significant’ or ‘growing’ factor in employee retention.
Safety & technology
While some 31 per cent of travel managers are seeing more enquiries related to work-life balance, personal safety and security remains a key concern: more than half of travel managers saw growth in enquiries about personal safety in the past 12 months. And it seems travel buyers have been responding to this; 74 per cent now have stricter safety policies in place. Another response may reflect the current geopolitical landscape – 41 per cent of travel buyers report an increase in enquiries about border controls and immigration requirements.
Technology continues to be a key issue for business travellers – 37 per cent of managers report a rise in enquiries about on-trip connectivity and communication, and 50 per cent saw an increase in travellers using app-based ground transport services such as Uber and Lyft.
Lifestyle & data
The research also finds companies attempting to meet the ‘consumer-grade’ and lifestyle expectations of their travellers: 89 per cent offer (or plan to offer) mobile apps for travel booking, compared to 67 per cent in 2016; and 66 per cent allow/plan to allow ‘bleisure’ extensions to work trips (up from 42 per cent last year) – with 26 per cent offering bleisure insurance, compared to 14 per cent last year.
While the vast majority of travel buyers use TMC and card payment data to help guide and improve travel policy, ACTE's executive director pointed out that “it’s not enough to gather the data; managers must actually analyse it and translate it into action. A successful, data-driven travel programme can achieve any corporate travel executive’s core objectives – positioning their travellers for success, while also demonstrating the travel manager’s value as a business leader.”
Philip Haxne, global consulting director at American Express GBT, added: “Advances in technology and the managed travel toolset make matching individual needs with the business policy more efficient. And there is great opportunity to better personalise traveller experiences, ease anxieties about safety and simultaneously encourage policy compliance.”