Industry Research

Flexible Policies Make Business Travelers More Productive

Tom Halligan
Posted on July 13, 2015
ACTE President Kurt Knackstedt

ACTE President Kurt Knackstedt

ACTE President Kurt Knackstedt

ACTE President Kurt Knackstedt

To present the perspective of corporate travel buyers and suppliers on business travel, LCT landed its first ever interview with a leader of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.

ACTE President Kurt Knackstedt works as the Global Category Leader for Travel and Expense Management at Rio Tinto Procurement Global Sourcing Services, based in London and Melbourne, Australia. Working out of the firm’s Singapore offices, Knackstedt led Rio Tinto’s global travel and expense strategy with key suppliers to improve the overall Rio Tinto travel experience. A dual U.S. and Australian citizen, Knackstedt holds a B.S. Degree from Indiana University. He became ACTE President in January 2014 and serves until the end of this year.

About ACTE (
ACTE is the primary resource for global corporate travel. Its international board (with more than 50% of its members from outside the U.S.) recommends an integrated cultural approach and common goals in proposing uniform corporate travel standards. ACTE was founded in 1988 by corporate travel suppliers and buyers seeking to establish equitable representation within the travel management profession. The ACTE founders foresaw a global organization in which corporate travel buyers and suppliers were treated equally and could work together in a mutual partnership, developing educational resources for business travel professionals.

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Question: What are some of the major trends changing corporate travel globally?
Answer: The biggest trend in the business travel industry today is “Traveler Centricity.” This is a baseline change that begins by acknowledging the business traveler is the primary source of corporate revenue through the sale of products or services. The role of the business travel manager then switches from bean-counting, with a focus on cost savings, to that of assisting the traveler in meeting the corporate objective: profitability. What is the point of saving $280 on a trip, if the traveler missed a $750,000 sale? Traveler Centricity imparts a higher level of responsibility to the business traveler, along with a stronger degree of independence, with the understanding that the overall good of the company is now the prevailing travel policy. The results are abbreviated travel policies, the fine tuning of electronic devices, greater traveler productivity while on the road, and a higher return on the business travel investment.
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Q: How is technology being applied for travel executives and their employees?
A: One of the most significant technological shifts regards the use of personal handheld devices for company business. Business travelers often carry two phones, plus a laptop and a personal tablet when on the road. Many companies now realize the substantial advantage in allowing business travelers to use their personal electronics for work. Many travelers are more proficient in communicating through their own smartphone or handheld. They prefer to use their own gear. The company gets out from under the cost of providing equipment and maintenance, while installing the appropriate software to disable or erase the device if it is lost or stolen.
The subject of travel apps is very pertinent at this point. There are dozens of apps that track flights, announce cancellations, detail traffic delays in and around airports, and allow the traveler to book or rebook arrangements while sitting in the limo, the airport lounge, or standing in line at security. According to ACTE’s most recent survey, 81% of travel managers now allow and encourage travelers to load travel apps on company equipment. 19% still do not. These figures were reversed three years ago.
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Q: How are travel executives dealing with transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft? Are they replacing rental cars for transportation? Black car and limousine companies? Has the ACTE weighed in on the duty of care?
A: TNCs are definitely on the rise. In New York City, Uber cabs outnumber yellow cabs by 14,088 to 13,605. Many executives like being able to summon an Uber cab from their cell phone, and have one arrive a minute or two later. To the executive standing on the corner, in the rain, late at night, or at the height of rush hour, the best solution is the one that gets him or her from point A to point B in the shortest time. Many executives claim a touch screen phone can get a ride faster than standing with your arm up in the street. The rental car and the limo still have their place. It is the convenience of the TNC that is giving it an edge against the industry standard. ACTE would not weigh in on a duty of care issue against a TNC, but ACTE members might, at some point, execute a surface transportation policy dealing with the issue.

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Q: What concerns do you have about TNCs not abiding by rules and regulations about proper registration, commercial liability insurance, background checks, and state and municipal laws?
A: There have been a few highly public incidents regarding TNC operators in various major cities, and in some locations, municipalities are seeking tighter TNC regulation. But there have also been two recent, highly-visible accidents with fatalities involving chauffeured ground transportation and properly licensed cabs. Having the paperwork is no guarantee of training or experience.
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Q: How is technology changing the way corporate travel executives manage business travel for employees? How are executives placing more arrangements in the hands of employees?
A: The response is not quite what you would think. While the age of the business traveler has dropped to a degree, it is not at the expense of the older executive. In fact, business travelers in their 50s and 60s are among the most computer savvy representatives in any company. If you are present at an airport when a flight cancelation is announced, you will see executives of all ages reaching for buzzing cell phones, as travel alerts come in through different apps. Most of these folks will be making alternate arrangements within seconds on their phones. Traveler Centricity acknowledges that the traveler may be the best judge of how to resolve a dramatic change in travel plans. The senior executive closing a multi-million dollar deal can usually work a handheld device to great advantage.
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Q: How do you foresee the so-called sharing economy, with TNCs and Airbnb, changing corporate travel procedures?
A: Companies like Airbnb are certainly making inroads with travelers, but the travel department is still very much involved with the choice of business destination. ACTE’s most recent survey indicates that 21% of travel managers do allow non-traditional service offerings such as Uber, Airbnb, and other emerging companies. Another 21% is considering this idea, and a certain percentage is likely to approve it in the future. However, 58% do not allow non-traditional service offerings. Will this change business travel in the future? To an extent.

Related Topics: business travel, corporate business, corporate travel, customer service, marketing to corporate travelers

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