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.
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.
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.
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.
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!