In the travel industry we have recently been spending a lot of time talking about the fact that you, the traveler, are gaining more power over travel purchasing. While it’s not what many in managed travel like to hear, I can attest that these statements are true – I’ve been observing this trend among many of the clients with whom my team and I interact every day.
Not only do you have more access to travel-related information than ever before, with the ability to make actual bookings instantly through mobile applications (apps), but you also have access to more choices from an ever-expanding field of non-traditional suppliers. In stark contrast is the traditional travel policy, which applies one set of rules regardless of the situation and doesn’t proactively share contextual information with you the way mobile apps do. No wonder the travel policy has been getting challenged! That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place. It will likely always be a foundational element to support the travel program, but it cannot be relied upon as the “be all, end all.”
I tend to believe the most effective approach to the travel policy lies somewhere in between controlling access to information, which often pushes compliance to a lengthy travel policy document, and allowing a total “free for all,” letting you book whatever and however you want. Rather than attempting to control behavior, I believe it would be most effective to let you make smart decisions while on the road. This would require you to have a general understanding of the process so you are aware of the impacts to the organization of both good and bad decisions.
We’ve all likely received a message telling us that we’ve booked a non-preferred airline and that we should go change our reservation, but beyond the fact that our booking is out of policy, do we really understand why? Even though the bottom-line ticket prices may look similar to you, your company may have negotiated with a specific airline to make the total cost of flying much lower than other options, or may be approaching its annual deadline to meet a market share agreement with the preferred carrier, and missing it could cost the company, say, $1 million in discounts next year. Imagine what the impact could be if you and your colleagues booked out of policy!
What if your organization provided more education around the impacts of booking outside of the travel policy, and what if they even took it a step further and offered a tool allowing you to better understand the overall impact your travel has on the organization as a whole based on each and every decision you make? Companies recognize that they need to continue driving cost savings in corporate travel, while the most forward thinking organizations are also considering how they can simultaneously enable travelers access to information and the ability to make decisions that benefit their comfort and convenience while on the road. What suggestions do you have?