The key to keeping travellers in check

Travel buyers often comment that one of the most difficult aspects of their job is to keep travellers booking within policy. The perception is that travellers are unwilling to co-operate or compromise their choices to remain within a meticulously designed policy. The GBTA Foundation, however, conducted a study which found that business travellers who booked out of policy tended to do so purely due to lack of understanding of the company’s travel policy.               

The survey found that 79% of business travellers were driven by policy when travelling for work, while convenience and cost came in at 71% and 70% respectively. But there were big gaps between what travel managers thought their travellers were doing, and what they actually were doing, and the reason for this essentially is lack of communication. Fortunately, this can be remedied.

Says Carole Graaff, category manager, Group Travel at Ericsson: “If you are expecting a certain behaviour then communicating your expectation is obviously key. The better we are at communicating the goal and show its benefits and logic, the better chance we have of obtaining compliance. Travel policy changes usually derive from a company’s general strategies. Whether it is customer driven, process efficiency or to contain costs, it is key to refer to these reasons when communicating the changes.” 

The essentials of travel policy are twofold – it must be a simple, easy-to-understand-and-comply policy, which is not overly long or complicated, but comprehensive enough to allow a traveller to know what to do in difficult, unexpected situations. It must also explain why certain behaviours are required.

Monique Swart, founder of ABTA believes getting travellers to see the bigger picture makes compliance easier. “For the most part, people want to do the right thing – if they know clearly what that thing is, and why they are expected to do it,” says Swart. “Often travellers see themselves in a bubble and don’t understand how their actions (even if they think they are saving the company money in the short term by booking somewhere out of policy cheaper) ultimately negatively impacts the company (diluting volumes on preferred agreements) or even putting their own safety at risk if they go off the grid using non-approved suppliers. Ultimately, education is key – what we need you to do, why we need you to do it and finally, what the consequences are if you don’t.”

Graaff adds: “A policy must be convenient, logical, and efficient. Keep it short, alive, and easily accessible.”

Most important of all, travellers need to feel supported. This stands true for in-company as well as on their travels. All tiers of management must comply with the same policy and demonstrate a culture of policy conformity in order for employees to feel that everyone is contributing to the greater good of the company, and that they aren’t the only ones expected to make sacrifices. As Dan Ruch, founder of Rocketrip says: “[Managers] too must be accountable for reducing business travel expenses…We have executives…who book an Airbnb, buy groceries and invite their teams over for a family-style dinner during business trips. As these stories spread through an organisation, they earn respect from employees who in turn emulate their leaders. Culture starts at the top.”

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