Industry Research

Travel Policies Affect Booking More Than Cost, Convenience

Posted on November 17, 2016

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FRANKFURT, Germany — Four out of five (79%) business travelers report their company’s travel policy has the greatest impact on their decision when booking travel for work, ahead of convenience (71%) and cost (70%), according to a new report out today from the GBTA Foundation in partnership with HRS. Flexible change (58%) and cancellation (56%) policies are also important, and one-half say automated expense reporting (52%) and membership in a loyalty or rewards program (50%) play a large role as well.

The report, Travel Policy Communication: Understanding Disconnects and Increasing Compliance, also reveals email is both the most often (49%) and most desired (56%) way company travel policy is communicated to travelers.

A one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer, however, as it is important to understand one’s company, its demographics and culture. Unexpectedly, a majority of Millennials (18-34) prefer to learn about company polices at an in-person meeting (51%). This is likely because they are newer to the workforce and business travel and prefer a more detailed briefing with the opportunity to ask questions. Those in Generation X (35-54) and Baby Boomers (55+) likely already more familiar with company travel policy prefer electronic methods like email (52% and 69%, respectively) and company intranet postings (47% and 53%, respectively).

Regional differences exist as well. Europeans have a slightly stronger preference than their North American counterparts for email as the ideal method for communicating travel policy (60% vs. 53%), and a much stronger preference for using the company Intranet (51% vs. 34%). Conversely the employee handbook is used in nearly half of North American companies (49%), but only in less than a third (29%) of European companies.

“While the travel professional’s account may be more reliable in determining how travel policy is communicated, what matters is the traveller perception and recollection since their actions can have duty of care and cost implications for the company,” said Kate Vasiloff, GBTA Foundation director or research. “It is not a lack of desire or willingness to follow company guidelines that drives out-of-policy booking, it is a lack of understanding caused by a breakdown in communication between the travel professionals and the traveller.”

“The study results show travelers want to do the right thing. Communicating the travel policy through the right channels at the right time and listening to your travelers’ feedback is key. The results also highlight convenience and ease of use are crucial in keeping corporate travelers compliant to the travel program, said Tobias Ragge, CEO of HRS. “This goes beyond the usability of individual tools. A travel program which meets the needs of the travelers is the foundation, but corporates need to take the whole end-to-end process into account to provide additional value to their travelers. From the search and booking process to comprehensive automated payment and expense solutions.”

In comparing results to a previous GBTA Foundation study examining the ways travel professionals communicate their travel policy and the success of these efforts, this report found significant differences between the perceptions and recollections of the business travelers and the travel professionals:

  • According to travel professionals, one-half (54 percent) hold in-person meetings to communicate travel policy, but travelers have a different impression (20 percent).
  • There are huge gaps between how often travel professionals think their travelers use approved booking channels to make arrangements for flights (90 percent) and rental cars (81 percent) and what business travelers are actually doing (63 percent and 57 percent, respectively).
  • The importance of closing the gap becomes increasingly clear when addressing travel to high-risk locations. One of six business travelers say they do not receive any additional information before going to high-risk areas – a clear risk factor considering the corporate’s duty of care.
  • While available technology exists to alert business travelers to out of policy booking, one in five (20%) say they never receive these types of alerts.

Valued Amenities
An important responsibility for travel professionals involves negotiating services and amenities most valued and relevant to their travelers into air, hotel and ground contracts in the most cost-effective way possible. These add-ons mean very little however, if the traveller is unaware of such included benefits. The study showed major gaps exist between valued amenities by travelers and what they actually use; traveller use of amenities and how often it is built into contracts; and the frequency with which travelers are reimbursed for an amenity or ancillary expense that was already included in pre-negotiated deals.

The study is based on an online survey of 492 North American (50%) and European (50%) business travelers, all of whom are employed by a company, must adhere to their company’s travel policy or stated guidelines and have traveled at least four times in the past year for business. The survey was fielded from May 26 – June 14, 2016.

Source: GBTA and HRS-Global Hotel Solutions press release

Related Topics: business travel, corporate travel, GBTA, procurement, research and trends

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