CWT Survey: Travel Managers Prioritizing Policy Compliance, Savings - Business Travel News

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CWT Survey: Travel Managers Prioritizing Policy Compliance, Savings

January 30, 2013 - 12:30 PM ET

By David Jonas

Increasing both compliance to travel policies and savings on air and ground transportation top travel managers' 2013 priorities, both at large and midsize companies and in most regions of the world, according to a November survey of 706 travel managers around the world by Carlson Wagonlit Travel's CWT Travel Management Institute.

Noting in a report released this week that "companies of all profiles" this year also will focus on optimizing hotel expenditures, CWT wrote that "as can be expected, travel managers intend to focus most on areas representing the greatest savings opportunities rather than those linked more to the traveler experience," especially nowadays, "in these economically challenging times." Those areas also were listed as top priorities in a similar CWT study conducted a year earlier.

CWT indicated that it "asked travel managers to select their top five travel management priorities for 2013 and rank them in order of importance. The responses were weighted to take into account how often each priority was ranked" first, second, third, fourth or fifth.

With the exception of Asia/Pacific, lowest on the travel managers' priority list in all regions this year among the 11 categories included in the report was "environment," with meetings and events as second-lowest and safety and security as third-lowest.

The environment, identified by 8 percent of respondents as a 2013 priority, "has consistently ranked at the bottom of the list of traveler managers' priorities over the past few years," according to CWT. "One reason may be that the economic slowdown has naturally led to lower carbon emissions than expected and therefore less pressure to make improvements, but this situation will not last. Tighter regulation, combined with demand from stakeholders, will encourage more companies to track their carbon footprint from all areas of activity, including travel."

Regional Variances 

Though priorities among travel managers in different regions don't diverge all that much, some variances are evident, "reflecting the market conditions faced by respondents as well as program maturity," according to CWT. For example, about half of all respondents named travel policy optimization as a priority, "although the percentage per region varies quite considerably—from 32 percent in Latin America to 53 percent in North America."

In North America, 65 percent of the 253 travel manager respondents based in the region cited compliance as a top-five priority. "Compared with other regions, travel managers in North America intend to place more focus on negotiating multi-year contracts and implementing flexible, dynamic negotiations with suppliers throughout the year; extending the geographical scope of the travel program and standardizing processes; and leveraging technology (to tackle meetings and events)," according to the report. They indicated less of a focus than peers in other regions on "finding the right balance between negotiated and restricted fare usage; implementing advance booking rules (to optimize hotel spend); and defining criteria for using travel alternatives."

The 287 travel manager respondents in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in aggregate ranked online adoption third-most important (compared to fourth in the total sample). These respondents will focus comparatively more on tighter air and rail policy and advance purchasing, and comparatively less on "negotiating point-of-origin pricing," expense management tools and social media, according to CWT.

The 59 respondents in Asia/Pacific rated safety and security seventh versus the ninth spot it received from the total sample. According to CWT, they're also emphasizing "communicating/providing training on the travel policy and empowering travel counselors to enforce rules," as well as tighter air and rail policies, booking channel mandates, consolidated hotel spend and more online booking.

Developing key performance indicators ranked fourth among 44 respondents from Latin America but eighth among the entire survey base. Compared with other regions, travel managers in Latin America "intend to place more focus on implementing advance booking rules and tightening rental car policy; introducing mandates on preferred hotels; tracking changed/canceled bookings and related costs; and offering traveler profile management tools," according to survey results. Social media tools ranked comparatively lower in importance.

CWT also separated results for the 63 respondents it termed "global travel managers" by virtue of their global program responsibility. "As could be expected," CWT wrote, these respondents were more likely than the overall sample to cite as a priority further program consolidation (46 percent versus 33 percent). They also put greater emphasis on consolidated sourcing, point-of-origin pricing, new policy mandates and traveler messaging tools.

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