Small businesses struggle with staff travel policies

23 June 2004
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24 June 2004 | Eloise Seddon

Nine out of 10 medium-sized companies have travel and expense (T&E) policies in place but they struggle to make staff comply with them.

According to the latest American Express survey, only 4 per cent of smaller businesses were happy with how their policies were implemented.

Only four out of 10 companies issued corporate T&E cards, hindering the gathering and management of data which in turn hampered buyers in negotiations with suppliers, said Karen Penny, head of corporate card UK at American Express.

Less than a third of companies think they get the best deal from their travel suppliers, according to the suvey of companies with T&E budgets of between £50,000 and £5 million.

"Medium-sized companies need better management of information in order not to miss savings and information to negotiate lower prices," said Penny.

"There needs to be a cultural change in companies to take this forward and also a defined policy that needs to be strictly adhered to," she said.

"However, I don't believe that companies need more skilled staff to implement the changes. What you really need is a willingness and awareness to look at where and how you are spending money and where you are negotiating."

David Randall, senior partner at travel consultancy the Corporate Travel Partnership, said the key to success lay more in the staff themselves.

"Companies must take infringements of travel policies seriously. Employees must learn to accept that if they don't comply there will be a disciplinary process that will be followed."

He said travel buyers should have a wide range of interpersonal and analytical skills

"Travel a very emotive subject that tends to be left to the traveller's discretion. Benefits such as frequent flyer programmes, air miles and favourite airlines are often chosen instead of company considerations and savings."

The survey covered senior executives at 76 UK companies with turnovers of between £7 million and £350 million and with fewer than 250 staff.


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