When it comes to adhering to corporate travel policies, employees want to follow the rules.
This may come as a surprise but is found to be true, according to a recent study conducted by GBTA and HRS Global Hotel Solutions, where 79 per cent of business traveller respondents indicated that the company’s travel policy plays the largest role when deciding bookings.
Convenience (71 per cent) and cost (70 per cent) are close contenders for the traveller’s priority, but the results are painted on the wall: nothing is perceived more importantly in the decision-making process of the corporate traveller than the company’s travel policy.
This is good news for travel managers, who want nothing more than for the policies to be adhered to. However, the study also found that non-adherence is prevalent.
Roughly one-half of travellers report receiving an alert when a hotel (52 per cent) or airline (45 per cent) selection they have made is above the policy’s rate cap or seat class specifications, while 41 per cent get a similar message if they are booking with a non-preferred supplier.
But a significant number of respondents (20 per cent) say they never get these types of alerts at all when making an erroneous booking. It is also within reason to think that many more cases might have gone undetected due to lack of early-warning technology.
On why this happens, what our research has found is that there are a number of disconnects between travel managers and the travellers for whom they are responsible for.
Closing these gaps are not just paramount because of compliance, but because doing so could result in saving not just time spent on enforcement, but on real dollars as well.
Our findings show that major gaps exist between what amenities are valued by travellers and what they actually use; the use of amenities and what is frequently built into preferred vendor contracts; and the frequency which travellers are reimbursed for ancillary expenses and the amenity being pre-negotiated by the company.
What happens then is that certain pre-negotiated amenities between the travel manager and the supplier (hotel, airline, car rental etc.) becomes unknown to the business traveller.
For instance, some companies have negotiated for fee waivers when changing names on air tickets, but an employee may not be aware of this and purchases a new ticket instead. This can cost a company thousands of dollars per ticket booked even though it is easily remedied.
Another frequently cited case of what our industry terms as “leakage” is the payment of pre-negotiated Wi-Fi. Travel managers often find reimbursement requests for Wi-Fi use at a hotel even though there is already an agreement for its waiver or that it is already included in the booking cost.
This boils down to effective communication to the end-user what a company’s travel policy already entails. It is not always the travel manager’s responsibility to communicate such details either, but this depends on who you ask.
About one-third of business travellers say someone from the human resource department is responsible for communicating the company’s travel policy (36 per cent), followed by travel managers (26 per cent), direct supervisors (26 per cent), and department heads (26 per cent).
According to them, such information is most often disseminated by email (49 per cent) or a company’s intranet (48 per cent), followed by in-person meetings (40 per cent) and via the employee handbook (39 per cent).
But according to travel managers, one-half (54 per cent) say they hold an annual, in-person meeting to educate travellers on their travel policy and any updates to it, while only one-fifth (20 per cent) of those surveyed indicate that this was the case.
Whether they didn’t attend, don’t remember, or something else altogether is irrelevant – the communication strategy put forth by the travel manager was not effective.
Likewise, if travellers feel their travel managers are sending emails about their travel policy every time a trip is booked (41 per cent) – even though one-fourth as many travel professionals report doing this (12 per cent) – the reality is that travellers report they didn’t see them, probably because of the inundating volume of emails they receive, exacerbated by the prevalence of auto-response emails that often go ignored.
Business traveller perception is business traveller reality and as illustrated by our findings, disconnects between the travel manager and the traveller is happening too often to ignore.
Closing these gaps presents an opportunity to increase compliance and save money while doing so. Companies must take stock of their own programmes and traveller behaviour in order to devise customised, realistic approaches to improving their practices in a way that works for them.
This article is based on a white paper study conducted by HRS Global Hotel Solutions through conversations with corporate travel managers.
Emmanuel Ebray is the managing director of HRS Global Hotel Solutions, taking charge of South-east Asia, South Korea and India. HRS is a global hotel solutions provider with more than 40,000 corporate customers worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies. Ebray's core responsibilities include setting the business direction, driving organic growth with new and existing customers across the markets, establishing strategic partnerships, and talent development.