Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
Most companies have rogue travellers who believe they can get better prices for flights, hotels and car hire than their company’s travel manager. But are they right? New research suggests they might be
At the GBTA’s convention in Boston this week, Scott Gillespie, CEO of Gillespie’s Guide to Travel and Procurement, and Evan Konwiser, co-founder of Flightcaster, a flight delay predicting tool, presented a session called “Managed Travel 2.0”. This was based on material in the GBTA’s “Global Business Traveler Study 2012″.
The thrust of this session was that unmanaged travel can be cheaper than managed travel. Perhaps more importantly it found that people who arranged their own trips not only got better results for their company but also enjoyed more satisfaction from their trips.
Gillespie, in an article posted on his site in June, pinpointed two finding: 82% of unmanaged travellers are very satisfied with their business travel over the last 12 months, compared to 70% of managed travellers.
Unmanaged travellers score notably higher on GBTA’s Business Travel Success Index (TM), than managed travellers. This index takes 14 factors into account, such as “staying within my travel budget”, “minimising in-transit travel hassles that inconvenience me”, and “making sure I feel safe when traveling”.
But the real eye-opener is this: according to the research “the average unmanaged business trip costs 33% less than in a mandated programme – $2,457 compared to $3,663. And the unmanaged trip is 15% longer than the average trip in a mandated programme – 3.9 nights versus 3.4 nights.”
Gillespie concedes that the figures are not entirely comparable as the mandated travel includes more international travel than the unmandated programme – but the gist is the same: plan your own trip, it can be cheaper.
Gillespie adds: “You can’t conclude from this report that managing travel saves money. You can conclude that managing travellers decreases their satisfaction and their ability to achieve their travel-related goals.”
For many regular travellers those last two factors mean an awful lot. It eases what can be the chore of constant travel and, and from the firm’s point of view, happier workers are usually more productive.
It is a tempting thought until the possible problems start to mount up. Gillespie himself, in a follow-up article, lists three potential stumbling blocks: culture, data and safety.
On the first, Gillespie remarks that “managers have a deep-rooted belief that managing most anything is productive” and employees need to know what is expected of them.
These are good points. The first is a view that has taken greater hold since procurement gained a greater say in travel management. Out of the window went the concept that travel was a personal thing and in came the new mantra that it was just another commodity. It is unlikely that you will get a procurement manager to admit he or she makes things worse.
Gillespie’s view is that companies spend enough on travel to warrant collecting data. This is also a fair point. Managers need data both for cost control and as leverage in the negotiations with suppliers. The best way to collect it is to ensure that people operate through the travel policy.
As for safety, Gillespie rightly identifies this as the “trump card” in the manager’s hand. It is essential that travel managers know where their travelling colleagues are in case of emergency. 9/11 was a terrible indictment of travel management because many did know where or even if their colleagues were in New York or Washington on that fateful day. The terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 revealed that the situation had not improved by nearly enough. Companies have a duty of care to their employees - but they are hampered in exercising it if these colleagues keep their whereabouts quiet.
There are other objections to DIY travel. For example, how much time does a company want a highly paid analyst to spend sifting through website to get a £10 saving on a flight or hotel? And where are the savings if a slightly cheaper flight is from an airport miles away which involves extra time spent getting there; or when booking with an airline whose last flight home leaves too early, necessitating an overnight hotel stay.
But the idea of flexibility, some give and take on each side, is perfectly fine. Sceptics were doubtful when Google unveiled its new travel policy by which travellers were given a budget for a trip and allowed to spend it as they wished. But it works and the employees like it. Others can surely build on this model to suit their own company culture.
Similarly, as most travel managers accept, smartphones and other advances in technology give travellers much more scope to chop and change itineraries, hotel and flights to suit themselves. It seems better to work with these travellers rather than against them.
Hopefully, the days of “Do as you are told” travel are largely over, although an acknowledging nod to both safety and data is needed. But it would be good to see travel move away from being a commodity and back to having at least a level of personal choice.
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