< PrevNext > Trend: Changing Worplace Will Transform Travel Management The Dawn of Travel as a Strategy By tClara CEO Scott Gillespie / January 24, 2022 Share Scott Gillespie, CEO, tClara In 2022 we will see more forward-thinking companies rethink how to use business travel. For two decades this expense category has been managed by setting travel program goals. These goals typically relate to cost control, compliance, duty of care and traveler satisfaction. Note that these are inward-facing goals, ones that require management of the main ingredients of a travel program. If a program’s goal is not met, the travel manager knows what levers need to be pulled, and likely has the responsibility for pulling them. Now, courtesy of the Covid crisis and climate change, companies are struggling with big questions about employee retention, health, and mobility; carbon reduction goals, supply chain fragility, and the impact of digital communication. Companies are asking “Where should our people work? How, and how often should they meet? How do we recruit and retain the best talent? How do we stay connected with our customers and suppliers? How will we innovate and grow while being carbon-responsible?” Companies answer these questions by looking at their strategic business goals and working out the trade-offs, the sacrifices, the risks, and the benefits of doing business one way or the other. They develop a core set of strategies for achieving their key goals. As they consider their strategic options, some will realize that a common thread is the issue of business travel. Which problems need to be solved with more in-person meetings? Who should travel when, how, where, and how often? Which meetings justify business travel? How can we be sure we’re traveling for the right reasons? Note these travel-related questions are outward-facing. Their answers won't be found inside today’s typical travel program; they must be answered by linking travel’s impact—its cost, risks, and benefits—to the company’s larger strategic business goals. In 2022 more senior executives will begin grasping that travel should be used as a strategy—one that will enable the achievement of their bigger, outward-facing goals. Some will see travel as a scarce, carbon-intensive resource to be used only for the most pressing issues; others will see it as a competitive advantage to be used to outflank competitors; yet others will use it as an enabler of better employee mobility, recruiting and retention. What will a strategically valuable travel program look like? Senior management will see it as a key enabler of business goals, constantly aligned with corporate strategy, a source of competitive advantage, and a catalyst for building creativity, culture and teamwork across the organization. It will take years for companies to maximize their use of travel as a strategy. Here are 10 early markers for judging any program’s progress:In the last 12 months has senior management clearly prioritized the travel program's top goals, i.e., chosen between strategic goals such as lower costs, better traveler health and safety, more successful trips, less travel-related CO2 emissions and longer road warrior retention?Is the travel policy intentionally designed to reduce lower-value trips and improve the likelihood of success for each higher-value trip?Do travel professionals actively contribute to the Work From Anywhere and Return to Office policy decisions?Are the travel program and policy viewed as a competitive advantage when recruiting and retaining frequent travelers?Do managers require an unbiased pre-trip assessment of each trip's justifiability?Is each trip linked to a strategically important goal, e.g., "Win revenue", or "Improve our workforce"?Does the company track and report indicators of traveling too much or too little for each strategic goal?Can the executive sponsors for strategically important goals quickly change the criteria for justifying trips linked to their goals?Are there specific goals, strategies, and KPIs for improving the health, safety, and wellbeing of frequent travelers?Are there specific goals, strategies, and KPIs for reducing travel-related carbon emissions?I estimate the average mid-to-large travel program would claim fewer than three of the above markers. Six markers would be very good; nine would be excellent; 10 is entirely possible for many, many travel programs.Framing travel as a strategy will open a vitally important frontier for travel managers. Let’s watch those companies willing to forge this trail in 2022.