Published on : Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Four out of five (79 percent) business travellers report their company’s travel policy has the greatest impact on their decision when booking travel for work, ahead of convenience (71 percent) and cost (70 percent), according to a new report out today from the GBTA Foundation in partnership with HRS. Flexible change (58 percent) and cancellation (56 percent) policies are also important, and one-half say automated expense reporting (52 percent) and membership in a loyalty or rewards program (50 percent) 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 percent) and most desired (56 percent) way company travel policy is communicated to travellers.
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 percent). 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 percent and 69 percent, respectively) and company intranet postings (47 percent and 53 percent, 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 percent vs. 53 percent), and a much stronger preference for using the company Intranet (51 percent vs. 34 percent). Conversely the employee handbook is used in nearly half of North American companies (49 percent), but only in less than a third (29 percent) 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 that 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 that 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 travellers and the travel professionals:
An important responsibility for travel professionals involves negotiating services and amenities most valued and relevant to their travellers 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 travellers and what they actually use; traveller use of amenities and how often it is built into contracts; and the frequency with which travellers 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 percent) and European (50 percent) business travellers, 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.