Tuesday 27 August 2013


Freelance journalist and editor of Public Sector Travel Betty Low wrote a great feature for Buying Business Travel recently called ‘The Art of Persuasion’.  She argued that it’s time for travel managers to start managing travellers rather than suppliers.

Why? Because it’s travellers who are responsible for racking up a multitude of hidden expenses and, by controlling those, you may end up making bigger cost savings than constantly trying to squeeze already-squeezed suppliers.

Hidden, or unmanaged, spend is also the subject of a recent report by BCD Travel, which revealed that it accounts for a massive 26% of all travel budgets, supporting Betty Low’s opinion that it is this that holds the key to cost savings.

The BCD report claims hidden spend can be broken down into three areas:
  •           Dining and entertaining – accounting for 16%
  •           Ground transportation – accounting for 6%
  •           Mobile – accounting for 4%

If we look at ground transportation first, it quickly becomes obvious how managing the traveller can make a massive difference. This area of hidden spend may account for just 6% now, but if taxi fares continue to rise as they have been over the last five years, it’s about to hijack an even larger share of the pot and become an even bigger problem.

Thanks to rising fuel prices, the cost of London black cabs, for example, have risen on average 18% in the last five years and by 42% over a four-mile journey. The fixed rate fare from Heathrow to London is now £65, up £10 from 2008. Buying Business Travel recently highlighted the world’s most expensive airport transfers. Travelling into Tokyo from Narita is close to £200. 

And faced with indisputable facts like this it’s hard to question the importance of traveller management and the only question to remain is how do we manage the traveller once they have left the office and are out of the travel manager’s reach?

According to the BCD Travel report, this can be partially tackled psychologically as many travellers choose options based on ‘the bandwagon effect’.

“Social norms are massively powerful because we ultimately seek the approval of others. In fact, travellers, like everyone else, are often quick to abandon their own best judgment if they feel out of step with others. Use this lever to steer travellers toward public transportation, by, for example, sending out an email: From: Travel Manager Subject: Get on the Bandwagon 80% of your co-workers have switched to using public transportation in New York City. When are you going to join them?”
And of course, increasingly the answer to traveller management is through mobile technology and the introduction of apps that are designed to encourage travellers to make cost-efficient and compliant choices once they arrive at a destination and not just during the booking process and before they leave.

Whichever method travel managers opt for, it’s clear that, if cost savings are ever to be maximised, then the end of rogue travellers must be nigh.

David Chapple is event director for the Business Travel Show. www.businesstravelshow.com  

Wednesday 21 August 2013


Many business travellers believe that free hotel Wi-Fi is a divine right - traveller Dean Barrett blogs about it here. And many corporate travel managers would agree with them, investing valuable resources in negotiating free Wi-Fi during the RFP season, of which we are still in the midst.

But according to a Databank league table in Buying Business Travel magazine, it would be an understatement to say that all hotels are on their side. And what’s even more interesting is the huge discrepancies between countries throughout Europe when it comes to giving away the Holy Grail of business travel as part of the rack rate.

The following table shows the percentages of hotels offering free Wi-Fi in the best-served 20 countries in Europe. You’ll see that the UK comes in at a disappointing 14th place. Turkey, however, excels in its complimentary internet provision. The Mediterranean countries fare worst.
Why such discrepancies exist it’s hard to say. It could be telecoms costs, hotel rates or just the cultural norm. But what is useful about this league is the power it gives corporate travel managers when it comes to negotiating those add-ons during the RFP process. Such vital information about travel patterns can help them direct their resources more effectively when planning a global programme. This league shows, for example, that there is very little point demanding free Wi-Fi for travellers to Turkey, when nearly 85 per cent of hotels include it for free anyway. It may be wiser to ask, instead, for free parking, late checkout and early check in, free breakfast, gym passes or airport transfers? 

So is free hotel Wi-Fi the divine right of all business travellers? Well Turkey seems to think so. And with a little strategic strong-arming from travel managers across Europe, hopefully it won’t be too long before the rest of the continent follows suit.

David Chapple is event director for the Business Travel Show, which is the leading conference and exhibition in Europe for the corporate travel market. www.businesstravelshow.com 

Tuesday 6 August 2013


On Buying Business Travel, freelance travel journalist Nick Easen has written a really interesting comment piece on 'bleisure travel', or 'bizcations' as they are also known. We have posted it here in full - you can also read it here

There’s business travel, and then there’s travel. Nick Easen reports on the trend that provides the overworked road warrior with the best of both worlds
YOU MAY OR MAY NOT like the concept – and probably don’t like the word – but ‘bleisure’ is here to stay.

Both word and concept are a blurring of ‘business’ and ‘leisure’ (some call it ‘bizcation’). In our time-pressed existences it is not unusual for work lives to summarily bleed into social ones, and vice versa – helped along by being constantly connected via smart devices. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see bleisure travel on the rise – though perhaps tempered by financial and policy constraints.

This is how it works: if you’re sent on a two-day business trip, you take time off at the end and tag on a few days of rest and relaxation. You might invite your partner to come along, too – if you’ve been booked in to a double room, why not make the most of it and pay extra only for the air fare, or for extending the hotel stay? Given the current state of the British economy, executives are being asked to do more and take less time off. This phase in the economic cycle could be ripe for bizcations.
Yet there is little research in this area, as it is neither business travel nor leisure. It’s hard to define, and there’s no formal sector in the UK. Some in the industry claim it is static or even declining, while others say it is in rude health. “Although expenditure was initially reined in during the downturn, we have seen year-on-year growth since 2010,” says Julian Munsey, head of strategic business development at Hillgate Travel. “Although demand is not great, where it’s permitted by the corporation we have seen a small increase in the number of extended stays.”
In the post-recession era, higher flight and holiday costs would imply that it makes sense to extend a business trip. “It’s a great way to minimise your personal short break budget,” says LeRoy Sheppard, UK sales director at Maritim Hotels. “This is about ensuring the effective use of your time and maximising your personal ROI [return on investment].”
A survey of 1,000 business travellers last year by Jurys Inn showed 35 per cent see an overnight business trip as a break from the office routine, with 19 per cent looking forward to exploring a new city – which implies taking time out to have a bizcation-type experience.
In the US, where the working population gets fewer holidays compared to the Brits – a week or two versus our four weeks – it’s not surprising that Americans are keen to tag on a few days holiday. For instance, 72 per cent of business travellers surveyed in the US said that they take extended executive trips that have a leisure component, according to an Orbitz trend report last year, which polled over 600 business travellers, and that 81 per cent planned to. In addition, 43 per cent had a significant other accompany them on a business trip.
MIXING IT UP Adding a few days at the end of a European city business trip is popular. In some cases executives will head off from their city of business to a more leisure-focused destination – for example, business in Frankfurt, then take time off in Wurzburg; a weekend in Salzburg after work in Vienna; Bruges after Brussels; or Cannes after Marseilles.
This is where frequent flyer and hotel point schemes come into their own. If a traveller’s company is aligned to a brand then the executive will do all that is possible to stay at, for example, a Hilton hotel or fly British Airways so they can get personal points. “Guests who have been staying for a long time or are regulars will generally be offered favourable rates,” says Joanna Fisher, marketing director at serviced apartment operator Ascott.
Points do mean prizes. Executives can easily fly significant others on air miles or have an extended hotel stay. “We also see people decide to have a bleisure break relatively near to the date of travel – it is not planned a long time in advance in many cases,” says Maritim’s Sheppard.
Bizcations are not positively encouraged as a formal policy. Years of ratcheting up compliance, talking up travel policies and scrutinising budgets means that there is little scope for a few sly days on a beach using a corporate credit card.
There are challenges for TMCs as they have to justify all arrangements within agreed guidelines and ensure all reservations are policy compliant. Few TMCs wanted to contribute to this article for that reason – the fact is there is little room for the bizcation in the vocabulary of managed travel these days. “This is an informal or discretionary thing that companies do not want written into formal policy,” explains Adam Knights, group sales director at ATPI.
For many buyers, business is business and they are keen to show that the leisure part of any stay is separate to the corporate trip, and funded separately, too. Larger corporations are also sensitive to the implications of being involved in bleisure. “The potential for a taxable benefit to be incurred, and for other staff to believe personal travel was being undertaken at the company’s expense, has made this an unnecessary challenge many want to avoid,” explains Paul Gardner, owner/director of Amity Travel. Amity is ranked 45th in Buying Business Travel’s annual 50 Leading TMCs, and lists leisure travel among its services offered.
“Things are different if they are travelling as part of an incentive reward for hitting a performance target,” adds De Vere Hotels commercial marketing director Calum Russell. “Also, rates can sometimes be higher for leisure stays as business trips are usually based on a bulk negotiated rates.”
However, there are occasions when extending a trip can be beneficial to the company.
For example, many economy class fares to the US have restrictions if booked at the last minute. “But by extending to Saturday night, the fare can often be reduced by 50 per cent – this far outweighs the additional hotel costs,” says Gardner.
There are also informal incentives. One travel buyer says: “There is sometimes the scenario where the company says: ‘We know you have worked extremely hard for the last week – why doesn’t your wife fly out at the end of your trip and we will pick up the hotel bill?’ But these situations are always discretionary.”
It’s certainly a difficult market to nail down – each customer’s needs are different and are in many ways opportunistic, based on how leisure time can be fitted around business meetings. “Bizcations are unique for each customer, so it can be a challenge to offer the right package,” explains Maritim’s Sheppard.
Many deals for partners and family are purchased at arm’s length to the corporate buying, so are beyond analysis. Yet some travel management companies have VIP services that cater for all the needs of their business clients, blurring business and leisure, whether it be chartering a yacht in Monaco or organising tickets to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, while others have specific leisure departments that deal with this type of travel, albeit passed on from their business travel division.
For example, Travel without Boundaries is a programme created for Advantage TMCs to manage the holiday market for clients alongside corporate travel bookings. Advantage is a founder member of the Worldwide Independent Travel Network (WIN), a global travel agency partnership with more than 6,000 outlets around the world. WIN head of supplier relations Julie Janzen says: “We’ve negotiated leisure benefits for executives wanting to extend their stay across key cities and it is all bookable through the GDS on a unique rate code.”
Certainly, booking a bleisure break seamlessly alongside that conference in Munich or a client meeting in Hong Kong is symptomatic of the modern age, and Travel without Boundaries reflects this model.
If everything else is integrated in a road warrior’s life, from their smartphone and work diaries to their Skype chats with clients, it makes sense for their bizcation to be part of this arrangement, too.
As long as everyone’s aware that there’s a clear divide between work and pleasure in terms of who pays, who arranges it and how time is accounted for, then the committed business traveller should be able to take that well-earned break – and why not?
Adam Knights, group sales director for ATPI
What’s happening with bizcations?
Many companies rely on employees to be available 24/7, therefore there is a growing trend towards informal time in lieu, or family support. This often results in us being asked to change a hotel in, say, Dubai, to one of the beach properties for the weekend if a partner or family are joining.
Who takes them and when?
Increasingly, people are working around half-term holidays with the family, so that an executive can do a week overseas while the family fly in at the beginning or end. The key thing customers have in common is that they are all frequent travellers and tend to be older.
What challenges do you face? 
Some senior travellers ask our teams to book bleisure, but normally this goes through our separate leisure group. Clients don’t want agents distracted and business services to falter. However, there are always exceptions and, if the PA to the chief executive asks one of our agents to book extra flights for the family, we would normally do this. There are rarely compliance issues as a client’s personal card is used; however, we always take the lead from our client and discreetly check with our main contact whether this is acceptable.
A leading global consumer goods company senior manager
Do you see bizcations as a benefit? 
It is a huge benefit, but it is harder to take longer breaks because of work pressures these days. I’ve taken a bizcation a number of times, and it’s allowed me to visit the Taj Mahal and extend to a weekend safari in Kenya.
What kind of trips do you mix up?
It’s actually about grabbing opportunities and the destination – I’ve done a week-long training course in Budapest and had my partner join me on the Friday for a long weekend; similarly I’ve had my partner join an Indian business trip for a week extension.
Are you doing more of it now?
I want to try and spend as little time as possible in airports and in transit, so it makes sense to add a break on to an executive trip.
Are there compliance or other issues? 
It is critical to separate all costs of a personal nature. I think it’s also important to let line management know in advance any intention to add a personal side trip to a business trip. I tend to take these few days at the beginning of a trip so the company benefits as well – I get over the jetlag in my own time and am ready to perform 100 per cent.

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from Buying Business Travel. Thank you to Panacea Publishing for allowing us to share it. You can find the original - and a lot more fantastic business travel articles - here.