Travelers have good reasons to ignore travel policy and go rogue. Sometimes.
Nearly a third of business travelers who book outside travel policy do it to help the company. They go rogue because they can get a better price by breaking policy than by adhering to it.
Everyone loves a bargain
While “there is no doubt that managed travelers frequently go rogue to book a flight or a hotel that is more convenient, price sensitivity is also driving out-of-policy behavior,” said Carroll Rheem, director of research for market information provider PhoCusWright.
“It is instinctive for people to seek out the best bang or the buck, even if it isn’t their buck. Many perceive this simply as the right thing to do,” Rheem said.
Travelers who use bad behavior for good results is just one of the surprises in PhoCusWright’s latest business travel survey, U.S. Business Traveler: Managed, Unmanaged and Rogue.
The comprehensive survey of more than 2,000 U.S. business travelers also revealed that most travelers stay within policy most of the time.
On air, 47% of travelers reported they always complied with policy, and 40% said they were usually compliant. Just under 2% of travelers said they never complied with policy or were usually noncompliant.
When it came to using the appropriate booking channel, nearly 90% of travelers reported being always or usually compliant.
Compliance goes down as ladder goes up
Not surprisingly, compliance went down as travelers climbed the corporate ladder. Among associates and specialists, 45% said they were always compliant. Compliance fell to 34% at the manager and director levels and 34% for upper management.
Compliance was the worst at mid-sized companies with between 500 and 5,000 employees – just 33%.
Convenience is the top driver
Why do travelers go rogue? There’s that 30% who cited cost, even though it was the company’s dollars they were saving. But 47% of noncompliant travelers said they went rogue because of convenience in booking or convenience of the air, hotel or other service they were buying.
“Convenience is the top driver of rogue behavior,” Rheem said. “Convenience always trumps policy.”
Another 20% of rogue travelers ignore policy bounds in order to accumulate brand points or status that they would not achieve by following policy.
No easy solution
There is no easy solution to rogue behavior, Rheem said.
Only 10% of travelers said they were subject to penalties for violating guidelines on air travel, 12% for breaking the hotel rules and 13% for renting rogue.
It’s not that travel managers are wimps, Rheem said. The low penalty numbers are a recognition that most travelers simply won’t put up with being punished for traveling outside policy.
“Travelers say they want to understand policy,” Rheem said. “If they understand it, they can adhere to it — especially if policy includes products they would buy anyway. Defiance is not a widespread contributor to rogue behavior.”
Unmanaged travelers spend less
Another surprising finding: Managed travelers spend more than unmanaged travelers. The general assumption that unmanaged travelers are a more lucrative market just isn’t true.
Unmanaged travelers are sharper shoppers, Rheem said. They use a wider variety of websites in researching and booking travel than managed travelers.
Unmanaged travelers are also bigger users of online travel agencies – 70%, compared to 39% for managed travelers. Unmanaged travelers are also bigger users of provider websites – 61%, compared to 46% for managed travelers.