Here are six key areas to focus on when creating, running or reviewing a business travel programme, according to speakers at the Business Travel Show 2019.
1. Know your suppliers and the market
In order to ensure the best travel programme you must have the knowledge to guide you, from suppliers to travel management companies (TMCs) to providers. Simone Buckley, CEO of Fello, a TMC, advised looking into all the suppliers in the category. For example, ground transportation includes rail services, car hire, taxi providers, as well as shared economy options. Buckley said: “The supply chain involved in ground transportation is very large so get to know them. Understand what services they provide, as what is on offer can vary.”
Networking with other procurement teams and TMCs can provide market insight and inform against common travel buyer mistakes. There are “showcase” events which feature a variety of TMCs in a pitching environment presenting to a range of buyers, giving access to insider information on the suppliers, prices, and an up-front view of the current climate.
2. Top-down strategy
The best strategy for establishing a new travel policy is a top-down approach. If a travel policy has not been implemented effectively, operational issues such as non-compliance and additional costs could arise consistently. How do travel buyers create a programme that ensures compliance overall and aligns with company goals and objectives?
Audrey Muir, corporate travel manager at Baille Gifford, said: “If you have a policy in place and you expect employees to follow, then it has to be enforced from above.” But she said as the travel policy can vary dependent on seniority or country it’s sometimes necessary to have adjustable areas.
3. Risk mitigation
There are four main areas that contribute towards risk mitigation: duty of care procedures, communication, keeping written itineraries or tracking travellers, and risk scenario training. Buckley said this was basically “ensuring our travellers safety”. Duty of care has become a hot topic as the travel market has grown and alternative, shared economy suppliers such as Airbnb and Uber have come into play.
While procurement professionals lead with duty of care, it is also vital to take into consideration needs of different types of traveller and how services can address these. With the evolution of travel services comes tools for tracking where your travellers are in case of emergencies or for informing others.
Muir also recommended further risk training for travel bookers such as “scenario simulations, including different travel obstacles that test what they would do to resolve incidents” to bring continuous improvements.
4. Strategic partnerships
Choosing long-term or short-term partnerships depends on the culture of your company, because alignment with company objectives and goals is key. Buckley said: “Create a partnership that can grow with you and make policies alongside yours. Identify what you will need in the future and what they can provide for you in the future.” Regular programme reports and assessments can help review whether partnerships are still working effectively, and if contracts need updating.
Muir added: “See the TMC as an extension of your company – exceptional out-of-hours service is crucial as it is an extension of your team.”
5. Money, money, money
Identify the different ways you can pay, such as to sub-suppliers directly, or through a corporate card programme, and whether it will be transactional or annual payments. Buckley recommended checking online cost models and benchmark fees to see what you pay for and what you don’t have to pay for.
Muir warned everything counts and to watch out for non-compliance leading to additional expenses. She said: “Take a holistic view at an end-to-end solution to the trip and comb through total trip costs. Look at the return on investment; are the travel expenses worthwhile?”
6. Talk more
Communication is key in several areas for creating and managing a travel programme. Buckley said it was important to have a thorough process during the early stages of implementation, and “the biggest thing in implementation is communication so everybody understands the roles they need to do”.
One of the main aims for companies is to ensure travellers comply with the travel policy and Muir and Buckley insisted that often this is down to clear, effective communication and understanding. TMCs will know when to communicate information to travellers at the right times, and working with them to help travellers will increase satisfaction and therefore compliance.
Surveying travellers is recommended in order to stay on top of issues. Muir said: “The critical reaction is when procurement programmes or suppliers haven’t met expectations. Also, ask suppliers on how they think you're doing, take advantage of experience they've had with other clients and what resolutions they came to that you can learn from.”