FRANKFURT, GERMANY – 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:
According to travel professionals, one-half (54 percent) hold in-person meetings to communicate travel policy, but travellers have a different impression (20 percent).
There are huge gaps between how often travel professionals think their travellers use approved booking channels to make arrangements for flights (90 percent) and rental cars (81 percent) and what business travellers 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 travellers 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 travellers to out of policy booking, one in five (20 percent) say they never receive these types of alerts.
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.