Corporate travel policy can only be effective at saving a business money if that policy is effectively communicated with a business traveler. According to new analysis from hotel solutions provider HRS and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Foundation, business travelers may have more influence on the shaping of corporate travel policy than a travel manager may want to admit.
In their recent whitepaper, “Travel Policy Communication: Understanding Disconnects and Increasing Compliance,” the companies introduce an important point about corporate travel policy: “Perception is more important than reality.”
What a corporate traveler perceives of his or her company’s policy is more important than the reality of that policy.
“If a business traveler doesn’t remember getting an email outlining the amenities afforded him or her when staying at a given hotel, whether the traveler manager sent the email or not is largely irrelevant,” GBTA Foundation and HRS concluded.
This point has significant impact on corporate spend: A travel manager may have told an employee that Wi-Fi is included in their hotel stay, for instance, but if they don’t remember, that traveler will make a separate purchase to access the internet, causing unnecessary costs for the corporation.
How Travelers Want To Be Informed
Less than half of corporate travelers responding to a survey by the companies said they obtain their company’s travel policies via email, despite the fact that 56 percent say they would prefer to receive this information in this way. Instead, business travelers receive this information through in-person meetings and an employee handbook, despite survey respondents largely reporting that they would prefer not to obtain this information through these channels.
“Interestingly,” the companies noted, “in most cases, the gaps between the current and desired communication methods are not very wide; however, the execution may be the cause of the disconnect.”
That disconnect between how travel managers and companies relay corporate travel policy to the employee and how that employee would actually like to see that information can lead to scenarios down the road like the aforementioned Wi-Fi mishap.
How Travelers Book
Corporate travel policy remains the top factor that plays a role in employee travel booking behavior, according to the research, and 79 percent of corporate travelers say it plays either a “large” or “very large” role in the matter.
But there are other factors that could pull a traveler away from that policy. For instance, 71 percent of survey respondents said convenience was a top factor, with 70 percent citing cost — two areas that may lead to bookings that clash with corporate policy. Roughly two-thirds of travelers say they book hotel, airline and ground transportation via approved channels as outlined under corporate travel policy.
Other data points underscore how corporate travelers’ priorities stray from those of their managers. For instance, the report highlighted, a corporate traveler may place importance on the ability to negotiate name change wavers for airline tickets, which could save a company thousands of dollars. However, this is something unlikely to be a priority for the individual employee in the booking process.
Further, the report noted, a travel manager may negotiate cheaper rates or more amenities for travelers, but the effort goes to waste if employees aren’t aware of these negotiations — and if these travelers pay out-of-pocket and ask their companies for reimbursement later on.
Less than a quarter of employees said they are required to report any ancillary expenses or traveler behavior — like whether they used a hotel’s Wi-Fi or ate breakfast there — and only 17 percent of travel managers ask these kinds of questions. Ways that companies require employees to build an expense report can also lead to missed opportunities for managers and companies to identify exactly where a traveler could have saved more money.
Collectively, this means gaps exist between what amenities travelers value and what they actually use, between what amenities travelers use and what amenities are negotiated in travel supplier contracts and between an employee being reimbursed for amenities and those amenities being covered by contracts.
Communication, concluded GBTA Foundation and HRS, is critical to filling these gaps and ensuring that travelers take full advantage of negotiated traveler supplier contracts — and ensuring that travel managers are able to efficiently negotiate those contracts with what their businesses need most.