The question posed in the headline of a recent Telegraph article caught our attention: “The Death of Business Class? The Rise and Rise of Premium Economy,” it read.

Sure, premium economy, a fourth airline class that some consumers still don’t know about, is on the rise, becoming a popular solution for the widening gap between a more luxurious business class and a less spacious economy cabin for passengers who want more comfort and better service without paying a hefty price tag. But does it really spell the doom of business class? Will organizations en masse start booting their C-suite and long-haul travelers out of business class in an effort to save money?

According to Eric Olson, a senior consultant of air with Global Business Consulting, the advisory arm of American Express Global Business Travel, that’s highly doubtful, especially when you consider that the airlines are hoping this option encourages passengers to buy up, not down.

As Olson explains, even though premium economy has been around since 1992 when Virgin Airlines introduced it, it only started taking off in 2009 during the Great Recession. That’s when airlines were seeing that many companies were cutting costs by reducing their business class policy, so instead of having corporate travelers slide all the way down to economy, the airlines began pushing premium economy. But as it turns out, the demand for business class was pretty resilient, so the carriers began shifting gears, trying to entice the more frugal companies who buy strictly economy seats to give premium economy a try in the hopes they’ll move up incrementally.

Adoption through the years has been slow. As Olson explains, one reason is because it has been tricky presenting this new class in the GDSs and online travel agencies. Booking a premium economy seat was not a streamlined process and a lot of times manual lookups were required. That issue finally is getting resolved, but there are still some residual challenges around distribution and accessibility, he says.

Another hurdle has been inconsistency. While airlines increasingly are reconfiguring their aircrafts in order to offer this distinct cabin, there is not always a guarantee that the plane you’re flying on actually will have premium economy. You very well could be on a plane leaving from London to New York that has it, but the same carrier doesn’t have it available on the return flight. Or it may be that you’re booked on a flight with premium economy but then an equipment change, which happens quite regularly, forces you onto a new aircraft that doesn’t have it. Then where do you sit?

If you’re lucky, you get bumped up to business class, but more likely you’ll be sent down into economy ­— which is a problem since that’s not what the company has paid for.

“It’s this kind of inconsistency that has people worried,” Olson says.

Yet, it seems the issue of inconsistency will diminish with demand now rising.

From the conversations Olson has had lately with a number of clients about possibly implementing premium economy into their programs, many are intrigued, but when it comes down to execution, they realize it may not be worth it. This is especially true, Olson says, if the travel program is being run by a procurement team, which generally is more focused on showing senior management how they have controlled or cut costs.

“If you enter an RFP [request for proposal] or a sourcing agreement and you can demonstrate that you have saved money on a year-over-year basis through standard negotiations for economy and business cabins, then why go through all the effort to introduce this new cabin with a new policy to save money, especially when it could really have a certain amount of backlash from your travelers?” he asks.

Still, he says some companies may toy with the idea of adjusting their policy by increasing the number of hours necessary for their travelers to land a seat in business to reduce costs, especially now that the deep air discounts that corporate travel programs have been enjoying since the recession are starting to plateau.

“Cabins are getting full and so the airlines have had increased leverage during negotiations and have not been decreasing fares to the same degree that they have in the past,” Olson says. “What that means for the corporations is the savings that they’re so keen to earn on a year-over-year basis are starting to wither away, so they need to be a little bit more creative to find ways to save.”

Premium economy may be the solution, but it will require time-consuming policy revisions.

Olson says one of the “cleanest” ways to roll out a premium economy policy is to carve it up by flight duration, like how many companies treat their business/economy policies. For example, an organization that allows business class on flights over six hours may decide to bump it up to eight and then offer premium economy on flights between six and eight hours to reduce any resulting traveler friction.

Olson says another solution for long-haul flights may be to base it on the time of day in which travelers are allowed to fly business class at night (so they are well-rested and can hit the ground running when they land in the morning) and premium economy during the day. This option, he says, works out well especially for American business travelers heading to Europe since most transatlantic flights originating from the U.S. depart in the evening and most flights heading back home leave in the morning.

For any organizations who are considering buying up from economy in order to make their program more traveler centric, Olson encourages them to do so sooner rather than later since they are in a good position now to negotiate some sort of first-mover advantage with the airlines before premium economy really takes off.

 

 

Whether you review and edit yours like clockwork on an annual basis or the same old version has been collecting virtual dust on the company’s intranet since 2008, here are some industry trends that very well may have you revisiting and revising your travel policy.

Ancillary airline fees

While having travelers pay more for air ancillaries isn’t anything new, it’s become an even hotter topic since American and United introduced their basic economy fares in 2017 and as more airlines have become compliant with New Distribution Capability, a new standard that enables carriers to more easily sell and market their ancillaries than the traditional EDIFACT model.

Because airlines now are making passengers pay for certain features that used to be free (like seat selection, in-flight entertainment and checked luggage) as well as have been introducing more branded fares that bundle amenities, travel managers (TM) need to carefully outline in their policy what add-ons will and will not be covered by the company.

Unfortunately, these ancillary fees and new fares likely will add another layer of complexity to submitting and itemizing expenses, so that may require further explanation in the travel policy as well.

Hidden hotel fees

It’s also increasingly more difficult for travelers and TMs to project how much a night at a hotel will cost because of the add-ons the industry as a whole has been tacking onto the final bill.

From “destination” and early check-in/late fees to charging for that coffee pod in the room, hotel operators also have been finding ways to charge for amenities that previously were provided for free. A few major hotel chains also now require 48 hours (some 72) to cancel a reservation penalty-free.

All this means that TMs need to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry and provide travelers with guidelines on which hotel amenities will and won’t be reimbursable. It’s also something procurement managers should address and challenge when it’s negotiation time with preferred vendors.

Direct bookings

Convincing business travelers to book through the corporate booking tool always has been challenging but even more so since the hotel industry’s successful direct-bookings campaigns that were launched in 2016. Hotels are continuing to offer travelers incentives like room upgrades or late checkouts to get them to book on their websites directly. This is a problem for managed travel programs since it means travel departments cannot easily obtain the itinerary information that’s crucial for duty of care and expense reporting purposes.

That’s why we recommend clearly spelling out in the travel policy why employees should (or must) book in policy via the approved booking tool and educating them why it’s so important. (Here’s a guide that may help with this task.)

We also think it’s worth speaking to preferred suppliers about how your travelers, their VIP guests, can reap the same benefits as those booking directly even when they are not.

GDPR

Due to new rules laid out by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into full effect May 25, organizations need to know what data they and their third-party vendors hold on their employees based in the EU and how they’re using it.

“It’s in travel buyers’ best interest to be looking at all their contracts with TMCs and providers to ensure that within their contract the data controller has clearly stated that they offer protection,” Kasey Chappelle, former chief privacy officer at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), said during a media event on the topic.

To comply with the new rules, TMs might seek the counsel of their firm’s data protection officer, a role many companies are required to fill under the new law and whose primary job is to ensure GDPR compliance. They also might consider adding a new section to the travel policy explaining how the organization and third-party vendors are handling travelers’ information and what’s being done to protect it.

Personalization

With the travel industry investing heavily in newer technologies offering customization, corporate travelers have come to expect a leisure-like experience when booking their business trips. But much of this tech that delivers a more personalized experience requires collecting data on travelers and raises questions about GDPR compliance.

That’s why organizations should carefully vet what tech tools and apps, especially those built by younger startups, their traveling employees can use and to promote the preferred channels in the booking section of the travel policy.

By the way, you can have faith that the tools American Express GBT uses (many of which deliver a personalized experience to travelers) are fully compliant with GDPR privacy rules.

You also can rest assured that we’ve done our due diligence with the third-party tools we offer during the vendor onboarding process and that we’ve incorporated the same privacy risk assessments we’ve used with our product development process.

Sharing economy

As part of this wider demand for consumer-like experiences for business trips, corporate travelers are seeking more convenience and flexibility in where they can stay and how they get there. One way TMs are delivering upon this request? By opening up their program to include sharing economy services such as Airbnb and Lyft.

Whether you already have adopted such a policy or are considering one, it’s important to provide travelers with clear-cut guidelines on how they should book these alternative travel arrangements and what safety precautions they should take. To dive deeper into this topic, click here for more about adopting an Airbnb policy and here for tips on ride-hailing services.

By the way, American Express GBT has partnerships with both Airbnb and Lyft, making it a simple for our clients to use their services and seamlessly capture booking and expense details through our booking tool!

 

Using incentive trips not only can motivate employees to hit certain sales or service goals but also can boost a company’s brand and its recruitment and retention efforts. But what kind of rewards trip will spur employees to work harder — a long weekend to a beach destination they’ve likely visited before or being flown across the world to a magical place like New Zealand complete with other high-end experiences? It’s the never-been-to-before destination on their bucket lists, that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that really will galvanize them to work hard and fight for that vacation.

But how can you identify just the right destination that will be most appealing to employees? And how do you make such an extravagant trip fit within your budget? What other considerations should you take into account when organizing a rewards trip that’s to be remembered?

To help managers, directors and meeting and event planners organize extraordinary trips that employees will come back raving about — and, thus, incentivizing those stuck home to try harder next time — American Express Meetings & Events, a division of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), teamed up with the Auckland Convention Bureau to produce a white paper called “How to Take Incentives from Another Day at the Beach to a Bucket List–Worthy Experience —And Why It Matters.”

Some of the highlights in this report include:

  • Ways to identify yearn-worthy destinations employees will work hard to get to and how to make it a memorable trip they’ll gush about to their co-workers
  • Ideas on how to boost the perception and anticipation of a rewards trip to inspire employees even more
  • How to fund these extravagant incentive trips without breaking the budget as well as where you can find destinations with hidden value
  • Other factors to consider when planning the trip, such as travel time, extracurricular activities and safety

To access this white paper (as well as others by American Express Meetings & Events), click here. You then will need to scroll down and fill out the contact form before being able to download the report.

Now we’re not saying corporate travelers ever hope for a flight delay or layover, but there are a few airports they certainly wouldn’t mind being stuck in.

The airport-ranking site Skytrax recently came out with its annual World Airport Awards, dubbed the “Oscars of the aviation industry.” Here are its top 10 airports in the world for 2018, according to the votes it tallied from nearly 14 million passenger questionnaires.

1. Changi Airport

Airport code: SIN

Location: 12 miles from the center of Singapore

Yearly passengers: 62.2 million

Why it’s so awesome: It has two 24-hour movie theaters screening the latest blockbusters for free, an Xbox gaming area, a rooftop swimming pool, an open-air cactus park, an orchid garden and another garden with 1,000 butterflies fluttering around. Add to that the stunning, new extension being built known as “Jewel,” which will house the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, and it’s no wonder why Changi has been crowned the world’s best airport for the sixth consecutive year.

2. Incheon International Airport

Airport code: ICN

Location: 30 miles from Seoul, South Korea

Yearly passengers: 57.8 million

Why it’s so awesome: In addition to winning Skytrax’s “World’s Best Airport Staff” award, Incheon Airport has a reputation for being spic-and-span. Travelers, too, can clean up nicely themselves using the airport’s glistening shower facilities. There you can make a layover fly by taking in a live musical performance, touring its Korean culture museum or catching some shut-eye in a lie-down chair in the “rest and relax” area.

3. Haneda International Airport

Airport code: NHD

Location: 13.5 miles from Tokyo, Japan

Yearly passengers: 79.9 million

Modern and efficient. These are the adjectives repeatedly used to describe Haneda Airport. One other? Immaculate — which is why Haneda also earned Skytrax’s title of “World’s Cleanest Airport.” Despite its compact size, it has great food and shopping options and an extensive outdoor observation deck where you can watch the planes and catch some rays. Plus, travel analyst OAG just named it as the most punctual mega airport in the world for the third year in a row.

4. Hong Kong International Airport

Airport code: HKG

Location: 18.5 miles from the center of Hong Kong

Yearly passengers: 70.3 million

Why it’s so awesome: Skytrax named this airport the “World’s Best Transit Airport” and “Best Airport for Dining,” but it also ranks right up there for duty-free shopping, in case you forgot to buy that special someone a souvenir or wish to splurge on yourself in its high-end shops. Or you can kill time by catching an IMAX movie, playing indoor golf or visiting its Aviation Discovery Centre, a mini amusement park for flight enthusiasts.

5. Hamad International Airport

Airport code: DOH

Location: 10 miles from Doha, Qatar

Yearly passengers: 37.3 million

Why it’s so awesome: Voted the “Best Airport in the Middle East in 2018,” it’s one of, if not the most luxurious airport on the planet. It has stunning architecture inspired by its coastal location and Instagram-worthy artwork that makes people stop in their tracks, like its 23-foot-tall yellow teddy bear sitting under a black lamp by Swiss artist Urs Fischer. It also has a pool and two squash courts, hydrotherapy and spa treatments open to all passengers and even more special perks for Qatar’s business class customers.

6. Munich Airport

Airport code: MUC

Location: 22 miles from the center of Munich, Germany

Yearly passengers: 42.3 million

Why it’s so awesome: Nabbing the title of “Best Airport in Europe for 2018,” Munich has its own on-site brewery, Airbräu, with live music occasionally. For more child-like fun, play some mini-golf at its Visitors Park or enjoy some privacy and relaxation in one of its Napcabs, nifty cabins that contain a bed, desk and a music system that can be rented by the hour.

7. Chubu Centrair International Airport

Airport code: NGO

Location: 30 miles from Nagoya, Japan

Yearly passengers: 9.8 million

Why it’s so awesome: Centrair, named the “World’s Best Regional Airport in 2018,” has a sky deck that offers the best airplane-viewing spot in Japan. If you have time before your flight, take a guided Segway tour of the airport — with indoor and outdoor courses — or simply decompress in one of its Jacuzzis or saunas in its Japanese-style public bath.

8. Heathrow Airport

Airport code: LHR

Location: 16.5 miles from London, the United Kingdom

Yearly passengers: 75.7 million

Why it’s so awesome: Skytrax named Heathrow’s shiny new Terminal 2 — aka “The Queen’s Terminal”— as the best in the world with its Terminal 5 coming in fourth place. It also secured the title for “Best Airport for Shopping” for the ninth consecutive year (Bulgari, Burberry, Cartier and Tiffany are just some of the upscale shops you’ll find). If you have a number of hours before takeoff, consider treating your weary body to the “Jetlag Spa Day” experience at the Spa at Sofitel London Heathrow, located in Terminal 5.

9. Zurich Airport

Airport code: ZRH

Location: 7 miles from the center of Zurich, Switzerland

Yearly passengers: 27.7 million

Why it’s so awesome: Here you will find a wide spectrum of dining options, where you either can have a decadent meal sipping champagne with oysters and truffle pralines or avoid overpriced airport food entirely at Migros, an on-site supermarket where you stock up on snacks (Swiss chocolates, anyone?) for your next flight. And you must stop at the legendary Sprüngli Café for its signature Luxemburgerli macaron. And if you catch the Skymetro, listen out for the sounds of the Swiss Alps (think cowbells, Alp horns and classic Swiss yodeling).

10. Frankfurt Airport

Airport code: FRA

Location: 7.5 miles from the center of Frankfurt, Germany

Yearly passengers: 60.8 million

Why it’s so awesome: Despite its large size, Frankfurt Airport upholds Germany’s reputation for efficiency with its easy-to-navigate layout and attentive staff. Kill time before your flight by taking in a movie at one of two screening theaters with a comfortable living-room style setup or head to the Hilton or Sheraton’s on-site properties that offer daytime use of their rooms, where passengers can sleep, work in peace and freshen up before boarding their next flight.

 

When companies wish to squeeze more ROI out of a travel program, they often turn to a program optimization (PO) approach to unearth new cost-savings opportunities and understand where things can be managed more efficiently.

PO, an extension of sourcing and ongoing program management, is the process of scrutinizing program data to identify potential savings opportunities and, once the value of those initiatives are quantified and approved by senior management, going through the steps of implementing those changes, from rewriting policies to educating business travelers about the new guidelines and making sure they are receptive to the shifts.

Now the question is: Can a company really optimize their travel program, a strategy historically used to drive savings, while also balancing the needs of its travelers? With employee recruitment and retention key focuses in today’s competitive job market, it is an important factor to consider when undergoing PO.

On the surface, it may seem that a PO approach is at odds with traveler-centric goals, especially when considering the expectations modern business travelers have.

Because they have grown accustomed to the flexible, customizable experiences that the leisure travel industry offers, these hyper-connected travelers have developed consumer-like desires and demand exceptional user experiences. In turn, there is a growing gap in what the modern business traveler is seeking and what managed travel programs that operate under policy constraints and within an ecosystem of preferred suppliers — each with their own limited technological capabilities — actually can deliver at this point.

Despite this challenge, we firmly believe that through a PO approach, you can strike the right equilibrium between giving travelers a satisfying experience and reducing costs — it’s just a matter of figuring out the right initiatives to implement.

Of course, that can be an overwhelming process — which is why many companies lean on Global Business Consulting (GBC), the advisory arm of American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), to guide them through the journey.

The PO process with GBC

So how exactly does the PO process work? To give you an idea, let’s take a look at how we recently helped a pharmaceutical company based in the U.S. save millions by optimizing its $95 million global air program.

As with any of our PO projects, we first started by conducting a high-level review to pinpoint an area of the travel program that likely will generate significant savings. In this case, we targeted the company’s business class policy. Then using our proprietary evaluation criteria, we performed a more thorough analysis, diving deep into the data to assess its air program and identify current trends and greatest opportunities for savings. We also conducted peer benchmarking to determine best-in-class business class policy rules across the industry.

During this step of the PO process, both qualitative and quantitative methodologies are used to measure and define what actions will maximize savings. Qualitative research involves examining the processes of the program and making sure they are being run efficiently as well as taking a close look at the travel policy to ensure it is driving cost-savings while also meeting the culture of a company. It also can entail benchmarking to understand how the program compares to industry peers as well as looking at how successfully change management is being carried out.

Quantitative research, on the other hand, is driven by the numbers. It involves analyzing sourcing performance, behavioral and savings metrics as well as custom KPIs to understand how the program is performing and where it can do better.

To ensure any recommendations we ultimately suggest are in harmony with the needs of your travelers, we evaluate it through the lens of three criteria: the culture of your company, the objectives of your travel program and methods to engage travelers in order to drive compliance.

When optimizing a program that also meets travelers’ needs, on top of the more traditional KPIs used for cost-savings objectives — such as lowest logical airfare, how many travelers are booking with preferred suppliers as well as the demand for these suppliers — we also look at new-age metrics. These KPIs include ones that measure traveler engagement and satisfaction as well as travel spend per employee, travel spend vs. company revenue, and contract competitiveness and compliance.

Once we have all the data we need to fully assess a travel program’s processes and policies, we provide customized recommendations to boost program effectiveness through tighter controls, efficiency and savings. We then quantify both the value and challenges the shift can bring so that management can make a fully informed decision before the real execution work begins.

Before moving forward with the recommendation GBC had for the pharmaceutical company, we helped create materials to build the business case and also presented our findings to senior management. After multiple rounds of analysis of its air program and 100 percent of senior management buy-in was obtained, the decision was made to adjust the program’s business class policy allowance from flights that are eight hours or longer to flights 10+ hours.

As we do with other PO assignments, we then helped the company rewrite its travel policy so that travelers were fully informed of the new policy rule and there were absolutely no ambiguities.

To ensure a smooth transition, we also work with our clients on the change management process, working to inform travelers of the new policy guidelines, ramping up engagement efforts and helping to streamline communications with an emphasis on gaining traveler buy-in while taking into account regional nuances.

GBC sat down with the pharmaceutical company to develop a global communications plan that included timing, mediums, frequency, messages to specific audiences, etc. We then put the plan in action at the right times. While many companies overlook this step, it is a critical one for spurring compliance.

To lessen the sting of the policy shift and boost morale, the company also implemented a cash incentive program for travelers who were eligible to travel business class per the policy but opted to fly economy instead.

For the last step of the PO process — closing the feedback loop — GBC monitors how different initiatives are performing and reports back to the client to demonstrate that the desired results indeed are being achieved. In the case of the pharmaceutical company, we had great news to deliver: It had saved a total of $6.3 million in the first year alone! And because travelers were well aware of and prepared for the change, there was little “noise” post-implementation.

Back to traveler satisfaction

While we do believe companies can achieve value through PO while still satisfying travelers, it sometimes does require introducing a new traveler-friendly, cost-efficient initiative to help offset any friction resulting from the cost-savings push.

For instance, if a PO shift has more of your travelers flying coach, you may help them recover from long-haul flights with a compensated day off when they return or by encouraging them to extend their stay as part of a “workcation” or “bleisure” trip. Sometimes this also has the added benefit of triggering a less expensive airfare since the traveler may be departing during a nonpeak time or from a second-tier city.

Or you might consider providing your jet-setters with airport lounge access, the costs of which might be offset with the free food and Wi-Fi service that are made available.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As customization is the very nature of the PO process itself, each company must decide if such a strategy is the right choice for its travel program.

The good news is, you need not make such a momentous decision on your own. We are here to help. Through a high-level PO analysis, we can determine if the impact optimization will have on the program is worth the effort. Contact us at [email protected] to learn more about our program optimization services and to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Within the past three years, four of the five world’s largest hotels have been involved in a merger or acquisition. To refresh your memory:

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) acquired the boutique chain Kimpton Hotels for US$430 million in early 2015.

In 2016, Marriott paid a cool $13.6 billion to secure Starwood. Also that year, AccorHotels had a doubleheader, purchasing both Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (for $2.7 billion) and Onefinestay (for $170 million).

And just in May, Wyndham completed its purchase of La Quinta Hotels with a nearly $2 billion cash deal.

When news of these mergers and acquisitions hits, the first question travel buyers wonder is: “What will this mean for the travel program?” But business travelers? They’re more eager to know: “What will this mean for my loyalty points?”

Today we’ll be addressing the latter question. Bottom line: You’ll still get to earn those free nights and upgrades — at even more properties — but it may take some time for points to fully integrate across merged companies.

Q. Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood was finalized in September 2016. Have the accounts of their loyalty programs merged yet?

A. Right now the two loyalty programs are operating as separate entities. That means Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) accounts each still have their own login, points balance and associated hotels. However, the accounts now can be linked together in order for points to be transferred between the two, meaning travelers can enjoy member perks at 6,000 properties in 122 countries and territories.

Marriott International has developed a conversion rate that brings the value of the points in each program on par with the other, with one Starpoint totaling three Rewards Points and, conversely, three Rewards Points equaling one Starpoint. Points can be transferred instantaneously and be redeemed immediately. And don’t worry: Guests maintain the highest status level across both accounts.

So when will the two loyalty programs actually merge? It was recently announced that these programs will become one in August 2018 — two years after the deal was done.

That’s actually a pretty impressive timeline. In comparison, IHG required three years to integrate Kimpton’s program.

Q. Wait, is that true? IHG and Kimpton’s programs are now one and the same?

A. Yes, they are indeed. As of January 2018, the two programs have combined fully, with Kimpton Karma Rewards becoming a part of the IHG Rewards Club.

For Kimpton members, all their Kimpton Karma points accrued were converted to IHG points as of Dec. 31, 2017, and Kimpton elite members were given comparable elite status in the IHG Rewards Club membership structure. Here’s a glimpse at the new rewards chart, but basically travelers will earn 10 points for every U.S. dollar they spend at a Kimpton property (excluding food and beverage).

And rest assured, Kimpton loyalists, many of the personal touches the boutique offers to members — like its popular “Raid the Bar” perk for a credit toward a beverage in the hotel bar and invitations to exclusive parties — are still available. To see more of the rewards you can receive, click here.

Q. So any word about what’s going to happen with members’ loyalty points now that the Wyndham-La Quinta merger has been finalized?

A. As a just-released press release reveals, the 56 million members in Wyndham Rewards and the more than 13 million members in La Quinta Returns now can link accounts and transfer points between the two programs. There is a one-to-one point transfer between the two programs and a complimentary status match. The move enables members of both programs to take advantage of a wide range of benefits at a combined portfolio of nearly 9,000 hotels around the world.

Q. Hey, what about Hyatt? It acquired the wellness brand Miraval Group in 2017. Can World of Hyatt points be used for stays at Miraval properties?

A. Members can earn and redeem points for stays at the flagship Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, a five-star property considered to be one of the country’s top wellness resorts with more than 120 wellness activities and classes each week. World of Hyatt loyalty program members can redeem points at Miraval for free nights in a standard room or suite. Members will need 45,000 points per night for a single occupancy room and 75,000 points for a suite.

Meanwhile, registered Miraval guests can earn five base points per each U.S. dollar spent on eligible room rates and incidental charges.

For more information, click here.

Q. When making corporate travel bookings through American Express Global Business Travel’s (GBT) online booking tool, do travelers still earn loyalty points?

A. Yes, absolutely! When travelers book through GBT channels, travelers certainly can and will receive points. Because their loyalty number is tied to the reservation in the GDS, their points automatically will go into their account. The only time this wouldn’t be true is if a traveler selects a hotel rate that specifically does not include loyalty points.

And on that note, it’s time to book your next work trip, so you can rack up more points!

Whether travel managers are aware of it or not, their travel program has a reputation that shapes employees’ behaviors.

It may be that your travelers see the program as overly strict and not offering enough supplier flexibility. In that case, they may rationalize to themselves that because it’s too stringent, it’s necessary for them to stray from the policy.

Or perhaps they perceive it as lax and recognize there is little oversight. Therefore, they may test to see just what kind of luxuries they can get away with.

Maybe they are content to follow along because they see the travel department’s management style as firm but fair and that it works toward balancing the company’s cost-savings objectives with their own satisfaction.

How about the travel risk management aspect of the program? Do travelers feel confident the company will be available to assist them during an emergency? And do they feel that all the time they are spending on the road is appreciated and that their well-being is a company priority?

Knowing what an impact these factors can have on how the travel program is perceived, we were curious about these questions ourselves and took it a step further. To understand what corporate travelers’ think about their programs, American Express Global Business Travel teamed up with the research firm GfK to conduct an international survey spanning seven countries. Travelers from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India and Singapore were polled about everything from policy compliance to travel benefits and challenges as well as their views on topics like traveler-monitoring technologies and bleisure travel for our “Traveler 360°” report.

From our findings, it appears companies across the world are doing a fine job of making their traveling employees feel supported during their trips. Three-quarters or more of each group said their programs offered enough choices and flexibility for their travel arrangements. And 80 percent or more were confident that their company could offer reliable assistance when a travel disruption occurs.

But there are a few areas where companies may need to work on boosting their travelers’ perceptions. For instance, when asked if their company has their safety in mind when they travel for business, only 59 percent of Singaporeans, 70 percent of Brits and 73 percent of Germans and Australians answered in the affirmative. Companies ranked even lower when it came to travelers’ personal welfare, with only 51 percent of respondents from Singapore, 62 percent from Australia and the United Kingdom and 63 percent from the United States saying their workplace cares about their well-being. And you don’t even want to know how poorly organizations in all countries scored on work-life balance.

A majority of travelers in France, Germany, the U.K., India and Singapore also gave low marks when it came to the clarity of their travel policies, noting that the guidelines for booking business travel and the expense reporting process are not clear.

Another gripe many participants had about their programs? That the process of putting together expense reports is time-consuming, with Indians feeling that the most (79 percent) and Americans the least (57 percent). A majority of respondents in all countries except the U.S. also say the process to get reimbursed takes too long.

Finally, a significant percentage of survey respondents outside the U.S. see obstacles to companies enhancing business travel, saying that such changes may be difficult to implement considering how current booking and expense systems are set up. This seems to suggest that travelers don’t have much hope that their experience will be improved upon.

So how can these findings help you in developing your own program’s brand? They help you to see things from a traveler’s perspective.

Of course, not all of the findings in our report will apply to your travel program. Ultimately, you may consider doing your own poll to learn your travelers’ unique impressions of the program and figure out if their opinions fit in with what you want the travel program to be known for.

But if you wish to take a closer look at the results of the “Traveler 360°” report for inspiration on what areas to focus on during your own (re)branding efforts, fill out the form below and then click on the “Submit” button. You then will be redirected to a new screen where you can download a copy.

* Champs obligatoires.

It can seem like a cycle stuck on repeat — onboarding new employees entering the travel program. In order to help reduce the time and effort that goes into training each new traveler, here are ways to streamline the process.

Enlist help from other departments

Whether your travel department is comprised of a single travel manager or an entire team, some duties can be shifted to other departments.

HR can become your biggest ally in disseminating information to new recruits by slipping materials about the travel program in with other new-hire paperwork.

You also may lean on HR (or the accounting and finance department) to train new employees on corporate credits cards and the reimbursement process for T&E expenses.

Take up space on the company’s intranet site

Actually, you may want to claim your own intranet page or portal for travel-related content. This way, you can house all those important documents and links, including the corporate travel policy, emergency contact information, links to the online booking tool (OBT), training videos, etc., without distractions from other departments. To make it more engaging, put thought into the design and include some fun elements, like travel trivia or quizzes.

Make your travel policy a must-read

If your policy reads like a legal textbook, you may want to edit it to make it more busy-traveler-friendly. Aim for clear, simple language — to the point yet comprehensive enough that it thoroughly covers the essentials (i.e., company objectives, guidelines on bookings, preferred suppliers, spend limits as well as penalties for noncompliance).

Use a tracking tool that confirms that the document has been opened and requires users to click and confirm that they have read the policy.

Create an FAQ

Feel like you’re playing the same game of 21 questions with different people every week? Instead of addressing each query individually, create an FAQ to plaster onto the intranet page and keep directing travelers there when they pose the same questions. You can begin simply by keeping track of the frequently asked questions, then set aside time to draft the answers. Like with the travel policy, use clear and succinct language. Make the FAQ easy to scan by breaking the content out into categories and putting thought into how you order the questions.

Another idea? Let travelers take the lead in responding to each other’s queries via a social media page.

Move away from the one-on-ones

While individual face-to-face meetings with every new traveler entering the program may seem like a lovely idea, they’re not always feasible. That’s when other training material travelers can digest on their own time, whether it’s an e-learning module or a series of videos, can come in handy for getting key messages out there.

You also may set up a group informational session every couple of months to meet new travelers face-to-face and answer their questions.

Or you may opt to lead more targeted seminars. For instance, to help travelers understand how to protect sensitive company data while on the road, the IT department may lead a webinar on cybersecurity measures. You also might like to invite your travel risk management provider to lead a discussion on general safety tips for travelers.

Lean on third-party suppliers

Some of your preferred suppliers may have training tools you can use as additional educational aids — we at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) certainly do.

For example, for clients onboarding our self-booking tool, Neo™, we offer a special WebEx seminar that shows travelers how to access and use the app.

GBT also launched the Business Travel Made Simple offer for new clients in the UK (and soon in France, Germany and the Nordics) to make things as quick and straightforward as possible for travel managers (TM) to deploy a managed program and for their travelers to get booking.

After the implementation process (which itself comes with a visual guide and a clear step-by-step checklist for TMs), additional onboarding information will be made available, including ready-made emails that TMs can personalize and send to their travelers that walks them through all the steps they need to get started, from logging onto the OBT to downloading the Amex GBT Mobile app. A template slide deck is also provided, fully scripted, for the TM to adapt using their company logo before presenting to senior management, travelers or posting on their intranet.

Printed passport-size booklets that display all GBT’s essential details — including customer service contact details and mobile app links — also are included and can be distributed to employees the day the program goes live.

Finally, an email is sent out every month with useful tips for both the TM (such as how to drive hotel attachment) and for the travelers (like new features in the mobile app), which they can refer back to using the handy online portal dedicated to Business Travel Made Simple.

And something that every one of our clients can enjoy? The Atlas™, which is chock-full of useful traveler information. All it takes is a simple “copy and paste” of the link in an email to make your travelers more informed on things like how to avoid hidden hotel fees or how to prevent cybersecurity issues.

To make it even easier, fill out the form below to get the content delivered to your email inbox automatically and then just click “forward” when there’s a relevant article.

 

There is so much talk these days about the importance of boosting traveler satisfaction, that an employee-friendly travel policy is essential for attracting and retaining talent in today’s competitive job market.

But does the traveler experience really have an impact on retention rates and employee satisfaction? Business travelers from across the globe believe so, according to an international survey conducted by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) and the German research firm GfK involving business travelers from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, Singapore and India.

The report, entitled “Traveler 360°,” found that at least 75 percent of travelers polled in each country believe that improving the business travel experience will have a positive impact on employees’ willingness to travel for business.

More than two-thirds also agree if companies work to make business travel more enjoyable, the potential outcomes would be improved morale, professional development, a renewed commitment to the job as well as better work-life balance, improved focus and feeling rewarded for their hard work.

So what exactly are employees seeking to make their travels enjoyable?

First, let’s start with what’s working. The survey found that 90 percent or more of business travelers across all seven countries are satisfied with the amount of time they spend traveling for their organizations. Three-quarters or more from each country also regard business travel as a welcome company perk.

But, as the survey indicates, business travel does take a toll on employees. When returning home from a business trip, Germans, Brits, Singaporeans, Australians and Americans say they feel most relieved to be home. Also right up there? Exhaustion. Only French and Indian travelers return feeling motivated.

To find out what’s detracting from their experience, we had survey respondents rank a number of challenges they may encounter on the road.

Interestingly, even though 84 percent or more of travelers from each group said they were satisfied with the amount of time they spend with family and friends, time spent apart from them is the top-ranked complaint German and British travelers have and it’s second for Americans and Australians. To address this challenge, a company might decide to give travelers compensated time off after a trip that has eaten into their personal time or allowing them to bring a guest to take advantage of a paid hotel room, if they cover their own airfare.

Australians and American travelers, on the other hand, are most concerned with keeping their day-to-day workload and commitments on track before, during and after the trip. To satisfy this group, travel managers might look into boosting productivity by streamlining the booking process with cutting-edge technology, ensuring travelers have access to high-speed Wi-Fi during their journeys and offering access to airport lounges where they can get work done more easily.

Meanwhile, the French are most frustrated by potential duty of care issues that may arise during a trip, ranking international and domestic security concerns as their top issues, while Singaporeans and Indians are most annoyed with not being able to adjust travel arrangements when something unexpectedly happens during some point of the journey.

To deal with this set of gripes, companies may wish to review their travel risk management program to ensure it is meeting their travelers’ needs. American Express GBT offers a number of solutions that can complement your program, including Expert Care™, which helps clients pinpoint their travelers’ whereabouts and communicate with them during a crisis, as well as Proactive Traveler Care™, which offers around-the-clock support and proactive messaging during a travel delay, cancellation or misconnection to see if rebooking assistance is needed.

Another area that falls under the “needs improvement” department: expense-reporting systems. Apart from business travelers in the U.S., half or more agree that putting together expense reports is overly complicated. A majority outside the U.S. also believes the amount of time it takes to be reimbursed for travel expenses takes too long. If you find your own expense system is a sluggish process — whether from the tool’s setup, how receipts are recorded or the fact there are multiple layers of approval before travelers can get reimbursed — you may want to speak with your accounting/finance department or software provider about how to simplify the system while still obtaining the data you require.

Finally, one last topic the survey covered that may boost traveler satisfaction: bleisure travel.

While there have been numerous reports over the years citing how popular of a trend this is, according to our survey, a small percentage of travelers actually seize the opportunity — even though three-quarters or more say their company is supportive of them blending business and leisure travel.

Illustrating this point, 90 percent of Indian travelers surveyed have their corporation’s support, the highest among the countries, but only 45 percent took such a trip in the past year. Only a quarter of Germans, who have the least company support (77 percent), took a bleisure trip the year prior.

Two things may be going on here. It may be that the managers who are approving their trips are influencing the decision. Aside from the U.S., over two-thirds of those polled agree that at their company, “an employee’s ability to blend business travel and leisure travel or activities depends on who their approver of business travel and expense reports is.” If this is the case at your firm, you may try to persuade trip approvers’ thinking by explaining the benefits of bleisure travel.

Or perhaps it’s like what we stated above — that travelers are exhausted after a trip and just wish to get back home ASAP. In that case, it sounds like what they really want is a business class seat on the return flight.

To read the full “Traveler 360°” report, fill out the form below and then click on the “Submit” button. You then will be redirected to a new screen where you can download a copy.

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From flight cancellations due to severe weather to unforeseen emergencies, there are bound to be bumps in the road during business travelers’ journeys.

In fact, according to “Traveler 360°,” a research report from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) and the research firm GfK, roughly one in five corporate travelers in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Singapore and India have been forced to reschedule or postpone a business trip due to safety concerns in the past 12 months alone. This seems to be a less common occurrence in Australia and the United States, the other two countries represented in American Express GBT’s international survey, as only 10 percent of Australians and 4 percent of Americans were required to alter their plans because of a security concern within the last year.

With so few travel disruptions tainting their experience, it isn’t surprising that Americans also are the least worried about them occurring. When asked about a series of challenges they may face due to security-related aspects of travel and the uncertainties that can arise, Americans scored the lowest for each category. For instance, only 36 percent of Americans see international security as an issue. By comparison, 77 percent of both Indians and Singaporeans and 62 percent of Brits have concerns over such travel.

Furthermore, only 48 percent of Americans find not being able to adjust travel arrangements if something unexpectedly happens as a challenge, whereas 84 percent of Indian travelers, the highest among the seven countries, view it as a hurdle — which is strange since Indians also have very positive impressions of their company’s responses to disruptions. When asked about their organization’s ability to provide immediate assistance when a disruption occurs, Indians gave their companies top marks with 98 percent saying they are “very” or “extremely confident” that their employer can deliver that kind of support.

Meanwhile, only 81 percent of Americans expressed that level of confidence (perhaps because they haven’t experienced as many disruptions to see the system tested?), while 90 percent or more of the polled Brits, French, Germans, Australians and Singaporeans are convinced their companies can help them when they are facing some kind of trouble.

But do travelers know how to get help when needed? It seems companies still have some ways to go in educating their employees about the number(s) to call when seeking emergency assistance. Over eight in 10 business travelers do know who to contact, but since a crisis can happen to anybody at any time, that knowledge should be universally known and at travelers’ fingertips — otherwise it can cause problems at a time when things are chaotic enough.

It also seems companies can do a better job of conveying to travelers that their safety is a top priority. While most survey participants say their employer has their safety in mind when they travel, there is room to grow this perception, with only 59 percent of Singaporeans, 70 percent of Brits and 73 percent of Australians and Germans agreeing with that statement.

One way they can instill that type of message? By investing in technology and communications systems that support travelers in times of emergencies, an effort 90 percent or more of each group says their firms should make.

Apart from U.S. business travelers, most believe their employer should know where they are and how to reach them at all times, yet they are simultaneously sensitive to monitoring technology. When asked about traveler location technology, 77 percent of French travelers and 84 percent of Singaporeans, with all other groups falling somewhere in between, say they are satisfied with their employer’s ability to locate them via a cell phone and believe no other method for locating them is necessary, suggesting they want the reassurance their company can be in touch but do not want to feel as though their every action is being examined under a microscope.

This is where travel managers can have an impact, clearing up travelers’ misconceptions and demonstrating to employees how such monitoring technology works and that it’s only used when safety and security issues develop.

While travelers may fear that their company is monitoring their every move from the moment they leave their front door until they return home, this is simply not the case — at least not with the kind of technology that American Express GBT uses to pinpoint its travelers’ locations during times of crises.

Our location detection system, Expert Care™, does not “track” travelers in the strictest sense of the word. It allows users to request a traveler’s exact coordinates via the Amex GBT Mobile app. Because it is only with the traveler’s explicit consent that the location is returned to the platform and visualized on the map, travelers need not worry the slightest bit that their company is spying on them. And because permissions are only good for a single instance — not for the entire duration of the trip — they also can rest assured that the organization simply is checking in on them during that moment. And what traveler wouldn’t want that kind of additional support during an extreme circumstance?

Interested in reading more? To see the full findings of the “Traveler 360°” report — which also touches on policy compliance, traveler satisfaction and bleisure travel — fill out the form below and then click the “Submit” button. You then will be redirected to a “Download” link.

* Champs obligatoires.