Corporate travel managers are doing a good job of putting together travel policies and negotiating savings. But once that’s in place, what’s next on the agenda?
The priority for corporate travel managers is shifting from supplier savings to servicing travelers, says a new report from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE) in partnership with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT).
Based on responses from 350 corporate travel managers around the world, “The Evolution of Travel Policy: A Global View on the Future” benchmarks how companies are addressing traveler considerations, and looks ahead to the changes companies will be making to their travel programs over the next two years.
Among the highlights:
- More than half (52%) of respondents said savings was the primary driver of their corporate travel program over the past two years, followed by duty of care (23%), and traveler service (16%).
- Looking ahead, though, the balance between savings and service seems to be changing significantly, as managers look to traveler behavior, rather than supplier cost reductions, to drive savings. More than 8 in 10 (84%) said savings will be achieved through demand management and policy compliance over the next two years, and 75% see improved traveler service as a route to savings.
To a large extent that’s because they already have pushed suppliers for every possible discount; 45% of respondents said there is no further scope for supplier-negotiated savings.
So “over the next few years the balance between savings and service is expected to change, as corporate travel managers focus on compliance and the employee experience in managing their travel programs,” Caroline Strachan, vice president of global business consulting for GBT, told TMR.
In other words, companies will need the right communication tools to get travelers to buy into the program and do the right thing.
The role of the corporate travel manager is evolving into what can best be described as “communicators,” Strachan said.
“I like to call them the ‘selling buyers.’ Once a manager has built a program and negotiated supplier contracts, he or she needs to manage the demand carefully to achieve the best results for the company, all the while focusing on employee well-being and productivity.”
The future, she said, is becoming “increasingly traveler-centric. We are seeing some early adopters shift toward traveler-centric metrics as they focus more on productivity, employee retention, and the well-being of their travelers.”
Using tech to talk to travelers
With technology, said Strachan, travel managers (like travel agents) can communicate better and more frequently with travelers at three key touch points: before, during, and after the trip. Some already have made progress in this area by incorporating mobile booking and pre-trip messaging into their roles.
Strachan said travel managers must always be sure their approaches align with what is in the best interests of the company and the travel program. It’s important to take a holistic view of the travel program and understand the habits and preferences of travelers in order to find the right balance between savings and service.
While inspiration and innovation can come from anywhere, she said, “the most important part of a manager’s role is to manage the programs in ways that best enable the company or association to drive its own objectives, including the growth of its business.”