Date
3 February 2012
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the One Business Resolution Companies Can’t Afford To Break: Updating Travel Policy

Less than One Third of Companies Have Updated their Travel Policies within the Last Year According to New Research from American Express Global Business Travel

New research by American Express Global Business Travel outlines gaps and opportunities for companies to strengthen managed travel programmes by focusing on their travel and expense policies early this year. Analysing nearly 100 travel policies of global, multinational, and mid-sized companies, the research shows less than one third of these companies overall have updated their travel policies within the last year. This oversight can leave companies exposed to losing hard-earned corporate negotiated rates, and more importantly, may put travellers at unnecessary risk.

Anthony Drury, Head of UK, American Express Global Business Travel, said: “With so many pressing concerns in the current financial climate, many corporate travel departments have the best of intentions to update their policies, but never quite find the time to do so. However, the world is changing at such speed that failing to review and revise policy regularly will undoubtedly prove to be an expensive mistake. From cost control to ‘duty of care’ and corporate social responsibility, the need for an up-to-date, best practice travel policy is simply too important to be neglected.”

This new Best Practice Roadmap report on Travel Policy, produced by the EXPERT INSIGHTS research division of American Express Global Business Travel, shows many organisations still need to close the gap between their policy content and emerging industry trends.

Highlights of the policy gaps exposed in this report, based on 100 corporate policies reviewed, include:

  • Only 12% addressed traveller security despite it being a critical issue for companies to consider as more and more employees embark on worldwide business travel today
  • 80% did not address reimbursement of ancillary fees such as checked bags, reservation change fees, or other for-purchase services offered at hotels and car rentals
  • Only 35% of smaller companies and large international organisations require an agency to book hotels, compared to 85% of global companies
  • None of the travel policies addressed the use of mobile applications or even referenced tools they may have available for travellers to use on the road or when working remotely
  • 70% of companies do not provide specific guidelines to travellers on when it makes sense to book airfares through a non-preferred supplier if the ticket price is less expensive

Helen Brough, Advisory Services Global Policy Practice Director, American Express Global Business Travel, said: “Policy is the foundation of a successful managed travel programme and maintaining this infrastructure by conducting regular check-ups is paramount. In our policy practice we have identified over 300 areas companies should be reviewing in their policy for the best outcomes – for the company, for the travelling employees, and for ultimate travel management programme success. Companies that are most successful are those that regularly review and update their travel policies based on changing market conditions as well as focus on communicating those policies to their travellers.”

FILLING THE GAPS

  • Security:Companies should provide guidance to their travellers for the range of areas associated with security, such as how to prepare for a trip, what to do during a trip, and after travel, particularly when travelling to high-risk destinations. Guidance around what to do during a travel emergency or disruption should also not go overlooked in policies, as well as information on security around company assets.
  • Fees:Addressing the various fees that travellers are confronted with while on the road remains a policy opportunity. It should be made easier on travellers in understanding what is reimbursable as well as being made aware of waived fees and other benefits associated with booking with preferred suppliers, such as free checked baggage on airlines or complimentary wi-fi as part of a hotel rate.
  • Hotel Compliance: Safety and security rank at the top of the list of reasons for traveller compliance to hotel policy. Knowing the city to which a traveller is headed is only half of the equation, particularly when locating travellers in an emergency. This area also poses the greatest area of leakage in travel policy, compromising negotiated rates when booking hotels outside of policy. Companies should communicate to travellers the reasons for booking hotels at the same time as air reservations.
  • Mobile Technology:There have been advancements in travel technology that can help business travellers manage trip details before, during and after travelling. Company supported mobile applications can be used to facilitate communication, both during critical issues like travel emergencies and for day-to-day support, including policy and traveller benefits notifications. A successful travel policy should include rules for these resources, and help travellers find and take advantage of them to save time and increase compliance.
  • Addressing Lowest Logical Airfare: Companies increasingly have introduced language instructing employees to find the lowest fare possible, regardless of whether or not a flight is with a preferred supplier. The reality of this practice is that the individual trip savings by booking cheaper fares with non-preferred airlines can jeopardise negotiated rates, unintentionally driving up overall travel costs over time. Guidelines should be established indicating when this practice should be used. Recent capacity constraints, merger and acquisition activity, and even low-cost carrier dynamics require that travel managers revisit this concept and communicate it appropriately in policy.

Tips for Making Policy Connect to Travellers

Brough continued: “As today’s global marketplace is constantly changing, and the logistics of capitalising on growth in emerging markets make travel more complex than ever before, it is not enough to just develop a travel policy and assume that employees know what to do with it. Companies should be actively leveraging and communicating their travel policy to employees and enlisting influencers within the company such as Human Resources, Security and Legal to support these efforts.”

  • Make it Accessible: There are many ways a company can address communicating to travellers and encouraging compliance, including using pre-trip tools, policy messages integrated at the point of sale and even prior to booking. Intranets and other portals can also provide a channel to communicate policy to help travellers make the right decisions.
  • Appeal to the Traveller: If travellers do not understand their travel policy or know where to find it, it is unlikely that it will be adhered to or that travellers will be able to benefit from the perks. Most employees want to do the right thing by the business, so businesses need to let employees know what is in it for the company and for them. That way the traveller can benefit from the perks of following the policy and the company can benefit from travel policy compliance.
  • Revisit for Relevancy:Establish a policy team with representatives from all stakeholders, including those that can represent the traveller, and charge them with the maintenance of the travel policy. Then communicate changes to travellers so everyone can stay current.
  • Eliminate Uncertainty:It has been reported that one in four expense reports is typically sent back to the traveller for clarification or additional documentation support. Travel policy should take into consideration the process for expense reimbursement. The better a traveller understands the reimbursement process, the less time will be spent on re-doing these reports.
Marc Cornelius

Managing Director & Founder

Marc has over 20 years’ international PR experience gained at leading agencies and in-house. He has specialised in aviation and travel for a decade, devising and overseeing successful international PR programmes and building 80:20 Communications into an acclaimed sector specialist.

Article Author Marc Cornelius