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There are more opportunities for corporate travelers to
become both connected and disconnected from their managed travel programs than
ever before. Advancing technology has brought new touchpoints to the travel
cycle, providing new opportunity for program managers, suppliers and travelers
themselves to exert influence. While it's obvious that an evolving mobile
culture is affecting travel management, the trick is determining what to do
The BTN Group conducted a comprehensive survey of travel
programs to assess how managers and buyers offer services and communicate
policies to corporate travelers, and the extent to which those travelers get
the message, comply with organizational rules or stray to external services and
[To view the digital
edition of the Connecting With Managed Travelers special research edition of
BTN, please click here].
This research examined many aspects of the business travel
experience, from guiding policies, supplier selection, booking and pre-trip
approvals to pre-departure communications and processes, en route components,
service recovery and crisis management and through to expense reporting and
collecting traveler feedback.
In each of these areas, there are instances when buyers and
travelers see eye to eye and share similar perceptions of organizational travel
programs. In other instances, the disconnects are clear.
In terms of policy, for example, 3 percent of polled buyers
said their organizations have no policy or preferred suppliers, while 18
percent of travelers—nearly one in five—said as much about their organizations.
That disparity, as well as others explored in this report, likely is the
product of several factors, including separate samples of surveyed
organizations for each of the two groups of respondents. Another possible, and
for buyers problematic, factor is that many travelers simply are not aware of
Younger travelers particularly seem unaware of policies or
unwilling to abide by them. According to traveler respondents under 35 years of
age, 55 percent of all 2010 transactions on average complied with overall
travel policies. That compared with 73 percent of transactions among those aged
35 to 54 and 86 percent of transactions among those over 55 years of age.
Similar splits were observed for a number of specific travel policies (see
Mandates also are a factor in policy compliance, of course,
but they are not necessarily as influential as program managers might expect.
For example, buyer respondents indicated that an average of 67 percent of 2010
airline transactions complied with company policies, while those who said such
policies are mandated indicated an average compliance of 75 percent. Higher,
yes, but not a magic bullet. Similar differentials are observed for car rental,
corporate card, hotel and booking channel.
At the same time, survey results show that for every medium
listed other than mobile apps, a much greater percentage of buyers than
travelers said that medium is used to communicate travel policies. For example,
74 percent of surveyed buyers said email is used to communicate company
policies versus only 31 percent of travelers. Similarly, 66 percent of buyers
said an intranet site is used to communicate travel policy versus only 25
percent of travelers.
The easily stated but not-so-easily executed solution is to
better communicate policies and processes to traveling populations. To do so,
program managers must consider traveler demographics and travelers' preferred
means of receiving information, and target messages based on those preferences.
Eighty-three percent of traveler respondents already use smartphones. About 40
percent use tablet devices, and nearly 30 percent more expect to do so within
Meanwhile, across all travel categories, the percentage of
buyers indicating their organizations have preferred agreements is far higher
than among traveler respondents. The largest disparity observed in the research
is for travel agencies, where 71 percent of buyers said their organizations
have a preferred relationship versus 35 percent of travelers.
Moreover, among the common channels used in managed travel
programs, a noticeably smaller percentage of travelers than buyers say such
channels are used for shopping and booking airfares, hotel rooms and rental
cars. Given the implication that the shopping and booking of fares and rates
may be more fragmented than travel program managers would like and spread
across more channels than some may even be aware, organizations must improve
traveler communications, not just about travel policies, but also the reasons
Managers also may consider developing flexible policies that
allow other channels to be integrated into the program.
In most tightly managed travel programs, travelers are told
to book through designated channels, usually the preferred travel agency, the
company's travel department or a designated online tool. But no amount of
reminding and prodding can force all travelers to recognize, understand and
follow every rule, even when their own safety may be at risk.
"We tell [travelers] every single time to book through
our sources, but we know some will not do that," said Rita Visser, Oracle
senior manager and global travel procurement lead, speaking about the
importance of traveler well-being during The Beat Live conference in September.
"When we send a letter to the top levels of the organization and say,
'Here's the issue, here's what happened, here's what we know,' we always have
to put in a disclaimer that there are [some travelers] that didn't follow
policy, and we can't help them. You reach out to all lines of management and
say, 'If you know someone is [potentially in danger], and they didn't book
through us, now it's your responsibility to make sure your employee is fine.'
Regarding crisis management, perhaps the most important
aspect of a travel program, the disparity in how travel program managers
provide information and how travelers receive information is stark and possibly
disturbing. For example, 63 percent of buyers said they use email to send out
crisis alerts but just 25 percent of travelers said they receive information in
Another disconnect relates to travel itineraries (67 percent
of surveyed buyers said email is used to provide itineraries to travelers but
only 42 percent of traveler respondents said they receive itineraries in that
way). At the same time, of course, a growing number of travelers use mobile
applications to organize travel reservations, receive trip information and
coordinate with colleagues. Travelers increasingly also are turning to provider
websites (and/or provider mobile apps) to pay for checked baggage, check in and
accomplish many other tasks.
All these developments again relate to exploding use of
smartphones, which are becoming the primary point of contact in the travel
process—if they haven't already. Though such issues as data privacy and direct
supplier marketing to travelers require attention, mobile technology, if not
yet integrated into a managed travel program, need not be seen as taboo.
Discussing her company's travelers' use of mobile apps at
The Beat Live, Hewlett-Packard global director of travel and meeting services
Maria Chevalier said, "They supplement, and do what we cannot do today,
outside that original booking. If you need to go to them to check in or get a
better seat, that's fine. That doesn't stop me from managing through a crisis.
We are working with mobile applications to try to bring them in-house and
enhance them, but today we look at them as a supplement and not in lieu of what
is done through the booking."
Meanwhile, as airlines develop unbundling and merchandizing
strategies, the types of expenses travelers may incur on the road consequently
is changing. Here, too, travel buyer and traveler perceptions vary. For
example, buyers are less likely to say their organizations will reimburse
travelers for inflight entertainment (6 percent of buyers said their
organizations would versus 22 percent of travelers) and priority boarding (13
percent versus 24 percent). The same is true in other areas of the travel
experience, including hotel room upgrades (8 percent of buyers said their
organizations would pay for them while 26 percent of travelers expect to get
reimbursed) and car rental class upgrade (11 percent versus 32 percent).
Younger travelers are more willing to pay for optional
services themselves. Twenty-six percent of those under 35 indicated they'd
personally pay to check a first bag for their air flight, compared with 15
percent across the full traveler survey base.
Younger travelers also are more willing to personally pay
for in-room hotel Internet access (24 percent versus 17 percent) and GPS
devices in rental cars (24 percent versus 14 percent). Considering all 13 air,
hotel and car optional services listed in the survey, 13 percent of travelers
under 35 said they wouldn't pay out of their own pocket for any, compared with
27 percent between 35 and 54 and 44 percent over 55.
Travel program managers, therefore, may need to find new
ways to ensure travelers understand reimbursement policies. In some cases, they
may consider altering their corporate policies or negotiating with suppliers to
provide travelers with the conveniences and travel amenities they seem to value
"The audience is changing, my travelers are changing,
the market is changing," said Jennifer Steinke, manager of corporate
travel, meetings and expense for US Foodservice. "I have a younger
audience coming in as corporate travelers that have seen and done everything on
the web, on tablets, on smartphones. When they see all the consumerization out
there, they expect that in their managed travel program, too. And we are still
doing things in this industry in very archaic ways, and that has to change. We
are no longer going to keep up with the new human element that is coming into
Based on The BTN Group's research, travel buyers have an
opportunity to create applications and map out processes that travelers want to
use. They need to do so before travelers deviate further from managed travel
programs, perhaps by adopting consumer solutions and allowing use of provider
websites and social networks in ways that are not detrimental to company goals.
Connecting managed travelers to a company program may be
difficult. Keeping them connected may be harder still. But travel managers can
convert the hurdles into program benefits if they take a holistic view and
better understand their travelers.
Survey Demographics & Methodology
This survey collected responses from 260 U.S. travel buyers
who subscribe to Business Travel News
or Travel Procurement and/or are
members of The BTN Group Research Council, and 502 U.S. business travelers who
are members of Equation Research panels.
For the purposes of this study, travel buyers are defined as
those involved in setting corporate travel policies, managing business travel
cost controls, negotiating rates for transient travelers, negotiating rates for
meetings and/or selecting/recommending meeting facilities and/or meeting
destinations. They represented companies across industry sectors and of all
sizes. Of the 260 respondents, 94 indicated their organizations' 2010
U.S.-booked air volume was under $1 million, 33 indicated between $1 million
and $2 million, 79 between $2 million and $12 million, 30 between $12 million
and $20 million and 24 more than $20 million.
Participating travelers indicated they fly for business at
least four times per year. In the past 12 months, they averaged 13 trips and 34
nights away (26 in the United States and 8 in other countries).
They also represented a cross-section of company sectors and
sizes (the median for total sales in the most recent fiscal year was about $527
million). Their average age was 42, with 30 percent below the age of 35, 52
percent between the ages of 35 and 54, and 18 percent at 55 or older.
The BTN Group conducted this research between May and June
Buyer and traveler respondents answered separate online
questionnaires. Unless otherwise noted, data presented in this issue is based
on multiple-choice questions.
Equation Research tabulated the results.
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