Travel Managers Are Taking Traveler-Considerate Approach to Policy

Travel managers around the world are more often taking into account the needs and desires of their travelers when developing policies, according to new research from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. "Managing the Modern Business Traveler," a study underwritten by American Express Global Business Travel, reveals that travel managers are addressing their travelers' expectations to design policies that retain and improve levels of compliance. 

To influence traveler behavior, 87 percent of the 174 respondents said they either use or are considering using "visual guilt" -- in other words, prompting users to reconsider their choices when more cost-effective options are available. Eighty-five percent rely on peer pressure and corporate culture to guide travelers.

"Business travelers have come to expect a personalized experience when they're on the road," said Greeley Koch, executive director, ACTE. "While travel polices absolutely need to change to take individual needs into account, travel managers can -- and should -- tap into travelers' point of view to encourage them to do the right thing. After all, managers are on the hook for not only the safety of their travelers, but also the cost of doing business." 

Traditional methods of ensuring policy compliance continue to be popular. An overwhelming majority (93 percent) of travel managers say they use education, and just over three-quarters (77 percent) mandate compliance. Other approaches include rewards and incentives -- both nonmonetary (20 percent) and monetary (17 percent). 

"The needs of the business and the desires of today's business traveler are often different, but we have to quickly rise to the challenge of finding a program balance that supports both," said Philip Haxne, regional director, EMEA, Global Business Consulting, for American Express Global Business Travel. "Advances in technology and the managed travel toolset make matching individual needs with the business policy more efficient, and there is great opportunity to better personalize traveler experiences, ease anxieties about safety and simultaneously encourage policy compliance."

Travelers are continuing to voice their desires when it comes to quality-of-life issues, the survey revealed. Nearly one-third of respondents (31 percent) said they've received more inquiries over the past year from travlers about work/life balance, and 30 percent said more travelers have asked about adding a leisure element to business trips. While the numbers have increased year-over-year, the rise wasn't as sharp as discovered in last year's study -- when work/life and leisure questions jumped by 48 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Such concerns and expectations are rising along with use of alternative travel and accommodations -- which, in some cases, might be out of policy. Last year, 79 percent of travel managers saw an increase in use of alternative ground-transportation services like Uber and Lyft, and this year, 50 percent noted an increase. Four out of 10 travel managers reported increased use of alternative lodging such as Airbnb last year, and 20 percent saw an increase in this year's study.

Travel managers continue to respond by providing more tools and options that travelers are accustomed to in their leisure travel. In last year's study, just 9 percent of travel managers included sharing-economy lodging options within policy; this year, that number has jumped to 22 percent. The vast majority (93 percent) are providing or planning to provide trip-information apps, 89 percent are providing booking apps and 81 percent offer T&E apps. All of those numbers represent year-over-year increases.

The full study may be downloaded here.