Most travel managers "believe their travel policy is
effective today and will be equally effective two years from now" and that
"if they are going to make changes, it will be to make the policy tougher,
not more relaxed," according to a new study by the Association of
Corporate Travel Executives and AirPlus. The organizations conducted the study,
released this week and based on an August survey of 305 ACTE buyer members, to
gauge the perceived impact—or lack thereof—of trends some say will threaten
travel policy compliance.
Delving into dialogue on the so-called Travel Management 2.0 philosophy, the report's authors wrote that "according to this theory, mobile technology and social
media will make young, tech-savvy employees ignore the company travel program
to book trips through websites and tools of their own choosing." Collected
from buyers located predominantly in North America and Europe, the survey
results do not support that theory.
"In spite of all that has been said and written," the
authors wrote, travel buyers "see few signs of employee resistance. Far
more buyers expect to add more rules to their policy than those who expect to
reduce the number of rules."
But survey results also suggest that preferred methods for
improving policy compliance are "less authoritarian," focusing instead
on communicating policy benefits.
When asked about current policy compliance within their
organizations, 14 percent of all respondents stated dissatisfaction and an
additional 1 percent said they were "very dissatisfied." Among those
at organizations spending more than $100 million annually on travel, 6 percent
were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Overall, 53 percent of respondents
said their organizations have enjoyed improving compliance during the past two
years, while 8 percent were plagued by deteriorating compliance levels.
Moreover, 48 percent said they expect further compliance improvements during
the next two years versus 15 percent who expect lower compliance.
Looking specifically at the impact of mobile technology and social
media, however, 15 percent of respondents said such developments already have
made travelers less compliant. Another 26 percent expect compliance to suffer
as a result. On the flip side, 27 percent of those surveyed said they expect
mobile technology and social media to improve compliance.
To further improve employee adherence to policies, 32 percent said
they anticipate "more rules" in two years while 8 percent said they
expect fewer rules.
When asked how their organizations may seek to boost compliance
among six presented options, 43 percent indicated "punishing noncompliance
more heavily," followed by "making more rules/mandating recommended
rules" (38 percent); providing more flexibility in terms of suppliers (36
percent) and booking channels (25 percent); switching certain policy elements
to recommended from mandatory (18 percent); and providing payment method
flexibility (7 percent). "All the options suggested for liberalizing
policy receive less support," researchers concluded.
Buyers also were asked to note their own ideas for improving
compliance. "Most suggestions were neither revolutionary nor authoritarian
but intended to make existing policy more effective in a non-disciplinarian way,"
according to the report.
"It has been suggested that in the future, the only policy
rule will be that spend per trip must be within a set budget," the authors
added. "Given the overwhelmingly conservative views expressed so far, one
might expect this idea to be dismissed by survey respondents, but in fact their
opinions are mixed. While 43 percent believe the proposal would push up overall
costs, 34 percent think it would make no difference, while 23 percent expect
overall costs would fall."
Meanwhile, "communicative actions are much more common than directly
punitive actions" in response to policy noncompliance, according to the
ACTE/AirPlus report. The two most-cited actions, each
indicated by 58 percent of respondents, were warning travelers before their
trips of any noncompliant behavior and informing line managers. Twenty-six
percent of respondents said their organizations "refuse to reimburse
noncompliant spend," while 15 percent "block noncompliant
"Big spenders are much more likely to block bookings ... but
smaller spenders are more likely to refuse reimbursement," according to
researchers. Among all respondents, 3 percent indicated their organizations
"take no action against travelers who fail to comply with policy."
The study revealed disparities between policies used by
represented organizations headquartered in Europe (accounting for 25 percent of
the survey base) and those headquartered in North America (61 percent of the
survey base). For example, pre-trip approval is more popular among represented
companies in Europe, used by 59 percent of those covered in the survey compared
with 47 percent among those representing North American companies. European
respondents also were more likely than their North American counterparts to
indicate the use of price caps in each city (54 percent versus 35 percent) and
more likely to require travelers to consider or actually book such travel
alternatives as remote conferencing (66 percent versus 50 percent). The balance
tilts in the opposite direction for use of an automated expense reporting tool
(64 percent among North American companies versus 40 percent among European