Travel buyers should avoid looking at business travel as a transaction and listen to employee needs to ensure wellbeing, productivity and retention.
Company cultures are beginning to change, and as a result employees are asking for better working environments, Katie Virtue, consultant at Festive Road travel management consultancy, told delegates at the Business Travel Show in London.
“When that starts to relate to travel, it changes the view from not just looking at it from a transactional standpoint, but thinking about your travellers as humans and considering their different needs,” she said.
“We’ve reached a crossroads as a lot of travel managers have traditionally been focused and looked at travel from a procurement standpoint, focusing on spend and compliance. But there’s an opportunity now to look at data, metrics and the policy and efforts within your programme around productivity and retention.”
Jonti Dalal-Small, head of behavioural science at Capita Travel and Events, a business processing outsourcing company, added travel managers should be demanding more from partners and travel management companies (TMC) to improve traveller well-being.
“We work with one company where a lot of its travellers work nights. They’re on the road, staying in hotels, they need to sleep during the day and eat their meals at different times. They don’t want housekeeping knocking on their door just after they’ve gone to bed in the morning,” he explained.
“At a very practical level, it illustrates how many different companies have different needs. You need to tailor your programme and tailor your policy accordingly. Every traveller will have requirements and needs which if we’re not listening to we can’t help them to make better decisions.”
According to Beth Sarmiento, global travel manager at payment technology provider Global Payments, a good travel programme is based on communication and support throughout the process.
“We have our corporate security teams who are looking after people from a duty of care perspective. We also have policies in place. We have a working committee to discuss the policy to make sure everybody is aware of it. We also have all the information available and in a way that people can easily access it. We do it online but we also do a lot of forums and drop-in sessions for people to be able to talk about it.”
Sarmiento explained: “There was someone travelling in the heat of last year. The in-policy hotels weren’t actually with air conditioning and it was quite unbearable. They wanted to be able to go out of policy and get the AC. Of course, we said yes but we also went through the booking to make sure they know how to book a hotel suitable the next time as well.
“There’s continuous communication that allows people to know that you’re there. I think knowing that there’s a person behind it all and it’s not just pure systems helps with the well-being aspect,” she said.