Now is an opportune moment for corporate travel teams to get their travel programs ready for the future. Here are seven areas to assess in the travel industry:
- Shore up duty of care gaps for travel management.
In 2020, some companies discovered weak spots in their duty of care traveler safety programs, while executives recognized the importance of having one. Travel managers and security teams should review what worked and what didn’t before deciding how to build a stronger program and travel management strategy.
Start by looking at traveler locating: How well did the process and technology work? Were there any challenges contacting travelers and maintaining traveler safety? Was it easy to communicate with corporate travelers? How did the company support stranded travelers and what can be done to improve the experience in the future? Were travelers kept aware of the situation with updates on travel and health advisories?
For deeper insights, travel managers can survey travelers to help identify any gaps involving employee safety and travel restrictions. It’s also a good time to prioritize tasks for a travel management strategy that often get overlooked, such as making sure travelers’ profile information is up to date or making sure employees understand why a travel policy exists and how it protects them.
- Create a policy fit for the future.
Companies need to know where employees are when they’re traveling on business. Monitoring where they plan to go in the future is also needed to strengthen traveler safety and curtail unnecessary trips to high-risk destinations. Using pre-trip approval technology, organizations can review employees’ itineraries before they have been ticketed. Travel to high-risk destinations can be flagged automatically.
Organizations should now be planning how they’ll manage business travel once countries and carriers begin easing restrictions. Employees will also need to know how supplier refunds and tourism vouchers are managed. When repatriations efforts started, some companies had difficulties locating employees who booked outside the approved channels – policy compliance, and strategies to enforce it, will therefore take on renewed importance.
- Revisit your supplier engagement and strategy.
With changes to supplier capacity and availability, corporate travel programs will need to adapt their sourcing strategy, factoring in the fluctuating supply, demand, and pricing. Now is a good time to open up travel management discussions with suppliers to figure out a mutually beneficial path forward and earn traveler satisfaction.
Companies have an opportunity to lock in good pricing with rates having declined. According to The Dollar Flight Club, which analyzed airfare pricing after 9/11 and the global financial crash to help devise its forecast, predicted airfares would drop 35% in 2021. By way of comparison, airfare prices dropped 18% after 9/11 and 21% during the Great Recession. While hotels will likely reduce rates, too, they may be more willing to negotiate extras, such as flexible cancellation rules and complimentary amenities on future stays.
Companies also should evaluate what suppliers are doing to support any new priorities of the travel program, such as initiatives that foster traveler health and safety.
- . Prepare travelers for an increase in business travel.
As travel demand and travel booking increases, there will be a period of transition and adjustment. Countries will ease restrictions at different speeds. Suppliers guidelines may change more regularly. Health screenings and social distancing processes may differ by country, airport, hotel, or train station.
Corporate travel teams need to stay on top of developments and do what’s necessary to instill confidence in their people. This may entail proactively seeking feedback from travelers, educating them on the tools available to them that increase their safety, and have a smooth system for delivering travel updates and advisories. Booking channel strategies also should be evaluated with a safety-first mindset and well-being initiatives prioritized.
- Redesign service and technology around new needs.
With companies increasingly recognizing the risk of employees booking of outside company-approved channels, organizations are leaning into services and technology that can deliver greater visibility into where travelers are going, where they are coming from as well as solutions that can help drive policy compliance and program changes.
To get started, conduct an audit of current solutions to address any gaps or weaknesses with employee travel, particularly in the realm of duty of care. Educating travelers on the safety benefits of the tools as motivation to book all trip segments within company-approved channels also is critical.
When exploring options in the travel industry, we recommend diverse and integrated care offerings to deliver a consistent service and avoid a fragmented user experience. Corporate travel programs should also prepare to accommodate booking requests that include travelers seeking more hands-on assistance, especially during travel disruptions.
- Redefine program value.
The change in travel demand and tourism has upended budgets, prompting organizations to revisit their spend strategies involving travel costs to adapt to the new environment. With an increased emphasis on cost savings and efficiencies, there is a heightened focus on program optimization with some companies exploring supplier and TMC consolidation as an option.
Increasingly, program value will be defined by factors beyond cost savings and travel expenses. Companies are putting more weight on things like how much suppliers can support policy changes and duty of care initiatives and whether providers can deliver safety and connectivity throughout the entire journey.
- Evaluate your data and reporting capabilities.
Without the proper data and visibility into travel programs, it will be difficult to achieve any of the goals above. Organizations should do a thorough assessment of their reporting tools to make sure they support the objectives that recently have slid up in the priority list, such as gauging and benchmarking traveler confidence, compiling feedback, managing spend, and driving policy enforcement. Data analytics solutions will be heavily depended on to assess the shift in travel patterns and volumes, gain greater clarity into spend management, and drive program decisions.
Gathering personal information is necessary to support travelers. At the same time, how companies collect and process data for travel policies are under increased scrutiny with new regulations being implemented globally. When appraising data tools, companies should make sure solutions have data security built in and that they comply with new employee travel standards.