“Global travel needs the framework, but must have the flexibility for local differences.” © iStock/Getty Images
“Global travel needs the framework, but must have the flexibility for local differences.” © iStock/Getty Images

Flexibility key to effective global travel programme

25 February 2019

A flexible and simplified approach is the key to a successful global travel programme.

During a discussion at the Business Travel Show, manufacturing company Hilti Corporation, brewers Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), and financial consultancy Zeb explored what makes an effective travel programme on a multinational scale.

1. Streamline operations

Streamlining the operation is important as this enables increased efficiency and reduces the complexities involved for travel buyers or TMCs. Christian Spieker, head of corporate services at Zeb, said as the company’s strategy developed they had “switched to one consolidated supplier in each country”.

Ana Gibson, head of travel at Hilti, had a similar experience and explained: “As travelling in businesses in GB grows by about 10% year-on-year we looked at simplifying by categorising the travel into regional areas around the world.”

Gibson underlined that a “global programme is different due to the synergy that is needed”. “GB is head for Northern Europe, and having synergies in the policy and knowing the drive for the policy makes it easier,” she said.

Spieker also emphasised the usefulness of technology to simplify the travel booking process and integrate operations for reduced cost and to enable real-time results. He said: “We use apps to cover end-to-end solutions. Everything that can be done online is done online, so we don’t need extra people. Then, everyone from the MD to the office worker is using the same tool.”

Hilti also incorporates tools from their TMC to bring together coordinated solutions and increase compliance from an early stage. Gibson said: “When employees have their induction we introduce them to Egencia so that they are used to using it like a habit.”

2. Flexibility

A global travel programme involves more factors than a travel programme on a national level. This makes it a multifaceted operation, and experts recommend that it is best to take a flexible approach to many areas in order to take into consideration the different factors, including the local market and accommodating travellers’ needs.

Gibson said: “Global travel needs the framework, but must have the flexibility for local differences.” This points to implementing a strong, well-defined policy with boundaries that align with the company culture, while also leaving space to make changes to meet the varying standards in different countries. For this reason, it is recommended to partner with TMCs and suppliers that are flexible enough to adjust to your needs.

Cyrill Ting, global category manager at AB InBev, agreed. “Procurement is always focused on cost. Get procurement teams to adjust the travel policy for local areas as different countries may have certain requirements,” he said.

The speakers agreed that often individual country bases want to do their own programme and therefore it is vital to secure the CEO and board executives’ support in rolling out the global travel programme, as this will ensure compliance and increased communication. When making adjustments to country/regional policies, obtain local input and take it into account because this will reduce issues further down the line.

In addition, flexibility around the traveller’s needs is equally important. Spieker said: “Use a bit of trial and error and adjust to ensure travellers are happy. Ensure the travel programme reflects the type and age of travellers. For example, Germans are crazy about cars so they want the BMW or Mercedes; anticipate these needs in the policy.”

Ting advises on balancing the policy with trust in company travellers. “There is a fine line of how far you can drive policy and put boundaries in place. We have expectations that our travellers act as owners of the company. We have strict policies such as meals caps, but we try to give responsibility to the traveller,” he said.

3. Keeping in line

Travellers are expected to stay within a certain percentage of travel expenses allowed, and be aware that their travel costs have to align with return on investment from the business trip. Reports and traveller surveys are often carried out to regulate the global travel programme and assess its success.

Gibson said: “Performance of the programme is measured through costs and savings. Cost measures looks at spending per employee.”

Ting highlighted the use of reports to ensure the optimum benchmark fees. “Use global TMCs or several local TMCs to ensure the right pricing is in place.”

Spieker added: “Due to the fact that sometimes businesses need to travel last minute, we use reports to ensure travellers have been responsible and not overspent. The managing director calls travellers that are overdoing it to encourage responsible travel.”

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