Founding Pillars of Potent Business Travel Management
Business travel management refers to the premediated management of an organization’s approach to business travel. This includes vendor negotiations, daily operation of organization’s business travel program, safety and security in the air and on the ground. While it also includes travel-related expenses, and appropriate management.
An all-inclusive travel management program plans to integrate and fulfil the requirements of various stakeholders. While TMCs can cater the basic daily travel services to corporates, there are other crucial aspects that also needs to be considered.
Employees: It plays a role in keeping them safe and productive on business travel. It also arms them to make necessary choices through incorporation of relevant information.
Travel admins: It focuses around advising them on how to optimize the corporate travel program. All through with the help of in-depth analysis of travel spends and traveler behavior.
C-suite executives, It assures that the business travel program supports organizational objectives. All by empowering them to focus on their core business.
There are four key pillars that keep up a good business travel management program.
- Assuring safety of employees
- Raising cost effectiveness of the business travel program
- Increasing productivity of employees in business travel
- Increasing transparency within the organization
It is of utmost importance to consider each of these pillars while picking a travel management solution. Successful corporate travel management program is based on the following four pillars:
Safeguarding employee safety during corporate travel is the top concern for most of the companies. Irrespective of the sector they operate in or the scale of their operations. Growth in the business travel volumes changes due to several factors like climatic changes, natural disasters, terrorist activities, accidents, political unrest, etc. These factors have created a high need for companies to have a comprehensive and structured safety program for business travel.
As safety in travel gains momentum, business travel admins are well-positioned to fill travel policy gaps. They also prepare their companies for future safety challenges. Pre-emptive initiatives to facilitate employees like safety trainings, pre-trip documents, and more can drill a sense of security in employees. This may, in turn, result in increased productivity and loyalty among employees, thereby boosting the business.
Role of companies in Duty of Care
This addresses the moral and legal responsibilities of employers towards their employees in maintaining their well-being, security, and safety, during travel. This concept has evolved over the decades, with growing relevance in business travel.
As companies expand and explore new geographies, ‘Duty of Care’ has become a significant component of any corporate travel program. Under this, employers have the responsibility to implement appropriate travel policies and risk management to protect their employees from possible harm.
Travel Risk Management
A travel risk management program is a well-rehearsed plan that provides Duty of Care to employees. Various situations can arise while employees are on their business trip, ranging from natural disasters to civic unrest. A robust travel risk management program properly equips employees to handle such situations and complete their travel safely. It does not eliminate risks; it highlights them and mitigates them to some extent.
For an effective travel safety course, all aspects of travel risks, how to mitigate them, and how to react if they do happen must be understood by employers and conveyed to all employees.
As the number of women travelers in business increases, there are necessary adjustments that need to be made to travel policies. This in terms of safety and also to accommodate to their needs. Currently, 71% of female business travelers believe that they face greater safety risks than their male counterparts.
With these growing safety concerns, organizations need to revamp travel policies to ensure women’s safety in business travel.
Indian business travel market is highly fragmented. ~70% of corporates spends less than INR 10 million on business travel. The second highest operational cost for most organizations is that of the business travel.
Business travel is central to both maintaining business as well as expanding it. It is becoming mandatory for corporates to drive higher levels of efficiency in their managed travel program because of rising cost of travel.
The cost of travel for an organization encompasses much more than just the cost of air tickets. To account for the total financial impact, organizations need to consider all the costs associated with the procurement, management and use of travel. These include:
Front end costs
Costs surrounding Duty of Care, travel management administration, procurement, supplier and contract management fees.
Travel costs and expenses
Cost of travel including ticket purchase, parking fees, lease or hire costs of vehicles, or maintenance and fuel costs. Additional costs may also come from accommodation fees, travel expenses and insurance claims.
Back end costs
Costs associated with invoicing and expense processing, management and reporting, and possibly litigation costs. While traveling internationally, foreign exchange spending is another major cost incurred. The reason being the volatility in the exchange rates.
To control complex travel and entertainment costs of an organization, there are four main levers that demand constant coordinated interaction.
- Billing & Payments
- Expense Reporting
- Management Reporting
In the high-pressure work environment of today, 46% of the workforce in India suffers from some form of stress. Reasons such as tight deadlines, conflict among colleagues, long work hours, etc. contribute to the stress. High stress in employees adversely affects their performance. This is visible through lower engagement with their work, decline in productivity and higher absenteeism levels.
Business travel can expose employees to variables that are out of their control such as flight delays, thereby increasing chances of stress. It was observed that 87% of travelers feel that the quality of their business travel impacts their business results.
For the modern business traveler, access to certain facilities and Wi-Fi connectivity are crucial for a successful business trip. Other factors that cause stress in a business traveler include long transit times, hostile work environment, shady hotel locations, and meals.
For international travelers, availability of foreign exchange is a key concern. Because of the restrictions on the amount of forex that can be carried. This is especially accurate for long haul trips that span across multiple destinations. At times, business travelers also have to carry multiple currencies for such trips, which can be stressful. Having a forex travel card can mitigate these concerns to a high degree.
Performance Improvement in Business Travel Management
Stress-inducing elements can lead to a decrease in productivity for employees by disturbing their peace of mind and distracting them from business objectives. To maximize the purpose of a business trip, employees need to feel relaxed and refreshed, at all stages of travel. This allows them to focus solely on their work, leading to improved performance.
Over 90% of these travelers agreed that business travel impacts their overall job satisfaction and performance. This is especially accurate amongst millennials, who believe that business and pleasure go hand in hand to be productive.
Traveler-focused policies could help companies increase corporate productivity by up to 32%, while also improving traveler performance and well-being. Thus, organizations need to ensure proper systems are in place for a seamless employee travel experience.
The business travel industry, has buyers and sellers and a network of partners who ease the pain points between supply and demand. However, a travel buyer’s supply chain is very complex. With multiple stakeholders like airlines, hotels, transportation providers, technology companies, payment providers, global distribution systems (GDS), travel management companies (TMCs) and others in line.
Suppliers and partners don’t only have contracts with buyers but also with each other. This adds to the complexity of the supply chain. Airlines and hotels have agreements with GDSs. GDSs have agreements with TMCs. TMCs have agreements with airlines and hotels— independent from each party’s agreement with the buyer. These stakeholders are engaged in a many-to-many interaction web.
Consequently, there is a complex and invisible stream of payments, incentives, commissions, bonuses, overrides, discounts, waivers and favors flowing within the value chain. This poses a challenge to travel managers. With the advent of online booking combined with the rising importance of securing personal data, there is an increased need to ensure no leakages occur in terms of data of employees who are travelling for business.
Although agreements between third parties always contain confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses, corporates need to ensure its efficacy. Additionally, insightful data from booking systems such as number of employees booking out of policy, flouting advance booking guidelines, cancelling/modifying travel arrangements can help travel managers become savvier and maximize the return on trips for the corporation, while eliminating unnecessary travel costs.
Transparency with respect to traveler satisfaction can help corporates in not only attracting and retaining talent, but also in improving ROI of the travel. Travel managers can improve the effectiveness of their company’s travel by bringing in transparency in the aforementioned areas.
The Indian business travel market has grown significantly over the years, making India the 7th largest business travel market. The volume of travel is expected to grow further as companies expand their businesses in an increasingly connected World.
With a tech savvy and digitally inclined workforce, organizations need to be well equipped to address the needs of their employees while maintaining their business objectives. Thus, collaboration between companies and their travel partners is more important than ever.
The four pillars of corporate travel management serve as an underlying foundation for developing a comprehensive travel program that aims to integrate and fulfil the needs of all the stakeholders involved.