Tuesday 13 January 2015

GUEST BLOG: Are travel policies still important?

A number of businesses are taking a fresh look at their travel programmes and policies. This move has primarily resulted from the aftermath of the financial crisis and the ongoing economic challenges many companies face.

They are asking: what is the best fare and what is the best rate? They are no longer asking where they go to get them. Essentially, these questions and the shift in focus are driven by the need to get the most from a travel budget. There is a move to shift the focus from a mandate culture and place greater control at cost centre levels.

At the same time, the amount of choice available to business travellers has grown exponentially. There is an increasingly complex market full of different suppliers, products and services for them to navigate. This has led to much debate as to whether travellers should be 'turned loose' to find their own fares and rates.

So is this the end of the travel policy?

The short answer is no.

In reality, if you want to search hard enough and spend enough time doing it, you are occasionally going to find a lower fare searching on you own. However, there are millions of fares and rates that are available across all networks. Do you really want your travellers spending so much time on non-core activities?

The role of the Travel Management Company is to manage this enormous choice for the traveller, filter it and simplify it. What HRG has seen across our customer base is that they are looking for us to bring in the right content, when and where it is relevant.

This integration with traditional content provides one simple, easy, efficient booking solution that allows travellers to make their transactions quickly, while securing the lowest cost.

What will travel policies look like in the future?

There are a number of key features that travel policies of the future will include. These features will create the right conditions for travellers to make the best possible decisions.

-       Content: In the future content is likely to become more fragmented. The ability to aggregate and filter it all for travellers to see will add value in helping businesses to manage their travel expenditure.

-       Control: Despite the lessening of the mandate authority, travel managers will need to maintain an active point of control.

-       Forecasting: Businesses need travel data. Not only do they want to know how much they have spent, they want to know how much they are going to spend.

-       Duty of Care: Duty of care obligations are crucial and will continue to grow in importance. Businesses must ensure they can find people in times of crisis, provide repatriation services and emergency support for their own travellers.

To conclude, with less emphasis on a mandate and with more focus on control at the cost centre level, travel policies will need to be developed and designed accordingly. By accommodating the desire for a greater level of autonomy and accountability travel managers can create the right conditions to positively influence traveller behaviour while balancing the need to achieve more from their travel budgets.

This blog post was written by Karen Smithson, Director of Client Management - UK, HRG. For more information please visit www.hrgworldwide.com. HRG is exhibiting at the Business Travel Show in February. For a free visitor pass please register at www.businesstravelshow.com

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