GBTA Study Finds Corporate Travel Pros Gaining “Control” of Travel Policies
By James Shillinglaw
July 20, 2012 10:25 AM
On the eve of the Global Business Travel Association’s annual conference, set for Boston July 22-25, corporate travel professionals got some good news about their influence on business travel. According to a new study, those professionals are playing an increasingly influential role in shaping and controlling business travel policy, aided by online booking tools and fueled by a growing focus on cost-saving efforts, despite the growth of airline ancillary fees. GBTA Foundation, the research arm of the Global Business Travel Association, and Egencia, Expedia’s corporate travel unit, conducted the study.
This third annual study, “Travel Policy Trends: 'Control’-What Does it Mean and Who Has It,” surveyed nearly 1,500 travel professionals in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America to determine what "control" over travel policy means to them and how travel professionals are adapting to new and evolving business travel requirements. Most travel professionals (60 percent) say they have more control over travel policy compared to a few years ago.
"Travel professionals are the linchpin of corporate travel," said Joe Bates, GBTA Foundation senior director of research. "What we see from this study is that travel professionals are being recognized within their organizations for the value they provide and are therefore gaining more control over budgets to help contain costs and ensure that road warriors can be as effective as possible.”
When travel professionals were asked to describe what "control" over travel policy means for them, three in five (61 percent) described it as “driving savings and controlling costs,” 41 percent said it meant “setting policies and procedures,” 35 percent said it meant “driving compliance,” 31 percent said “ensuring travelers are using corporate travel tools,” 30 percent said “ensuring travelers are using preferred suppliers, 39 percent said “motivating traveler behavior rather than mandating policy, 25 percent said “having a travel strategy,” 12 percent said “not paying travelers if they submit expenses that are out of policy,” 10 percent said “producing reports on non-compliance,” 9 percent said “authority to change policy.”
Compared to a few years ago, large majorities of travel professionals agree they now have more control over travel spend data (72 percent), reporting (72 percent), and visibility in the organization (70 percent). When asked why they have more control over travel policy, travel professionals said stronger support from C-level executives (68 percent), having a broader role in their company (66 percent), access to traveler profile information and data security (65 percent).
Travel professionals also are increasingly using mobile phones and social media to keep in touch with travelers and improve the traveler experience. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say that they stay connected with travelers to let them know they're watching out for them. Forty-five percent say their travelers use social media channels or mobile device apps in their daily travels to connect with other road warriors and quickly find information they need while on the road.
But the study found there is room for improvement. When it comes to educating travelers on travel policy, only 18 percent of travel professionals integrate information into mobile booking tools. Technology used for trip planning, booking and data is key to providing managers with better insights and more control to improve travel policy. Over the years, travel policy has advanced in lockstep with technology improvements. Seventy-two percent of respondents agreed that they have more travel spend data and improved reporting tools today compared with a few years ago, providing more information to find gaps in compliance and bolster their ability to negotiate with suppliers.
Online booking tools have been instrumental to travel policy improvements. Three in four travelers (75 percent) use such tools to book travel. More than half of travel professionals (54 percent) are integrating more information into these tools to educate road warriors about staying within policy. The compliance rate of travelers using approved corporate booking channels is 79 percent, indicating that technology has become an essential tool to create and implement effective policy.
The full report is available exclusively to GBTA members or can be purchased through the GBTA Foundation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.