Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
Most agents can tell you the story of the rogue traveller who simply refuses to abide by any company travel policy and insists on booking his own flights and hotels.
His reasons swing between not seeing why he has to go to a company supplier when he can get a cheaper deal to booking with his own preferred airline or hotel group because of his air miles or loyalty point schemes.
If these rogue travellers amounted only to a handful in each company, the problem would be irritating rather than deep-seated.
But a new survey in America suggests it may be more widespread. Rearden Commerce, a small California-based company which provides services ranging form travel to shipping for clients, polled 500 travel buyers in America whose companies had an annual turnover of more than$100m.
The survey, carried out by a research company Lieberman Research Worldwide, found that, after discounting the 2% rogue travellers, only 38% used preferred suppliers all the time.
That's fewer than four in ten. The remaining six out of ten did use the company's preferred suppliers at least some of the time but the poll did not indicate how often this was.
More worrying, from the corporates' point of view, is that those surveyed said 87% of employees â€“ nearly nine out of ten â€“ knew company travel policy.
But as Rearden states: "It's no secret that companies dedicate entire departments to identify preferred vendors and negotiate the best rates. However, research shows that employees feel it is OK to go outside of company policies when purchasing business services."
There is also another disturbing revelation from the Rearden survey. It found that employees were spending more time booking travel.
The report states: "More than 40 percent of employees spend more time arranging for business services now than they did five years ago, and on average, employees go to 4.2 different websites (each potentially with a unique log-in, password, and look and feel) in the process of researching prices, schedules, and other options."
Mr Jeff Pulver, Rearden's vp marketing, makes the obvious point: "What most employees do not realise is that corporate rebates and incentives are enacted when the employee population reaches thresholds outlined in their vendor contracts.
"Meaning, while an employee thinks the actual cost of his or her airline ticket is $500, the actual cost may be much less. And, in most cases preferred supplier contracts contain volume commitments that if not met, could jeopardize an entire contract and cost the company millions in lost discounts based on non performance.
"This is precisely why compliance with preferred vendors and contracted rates is critical."
This is not a problem that exists in all companies. Some boast compliance up to 90% and over.
But for others it is a constant concern. Some companies in the UK have been faced with having their contracts with airlines torn up because of failure to meet required volume, principally because travellers have been doing their own thing.
This is where the price of non-compliance kicks in. Had those companies lost their contracts â€“ and some airlines are taking a tougher line than in the past â€“ the cost to them would have run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
But three things stand out (again if you rule out the rogues). First might there be something about the travel policy which the staff who ignore it do not like? Secondly, how fully has the management explained why there is a policy, what its costs are i.e. the services it gets from its travel management company and what its benefits are.
Thirdly, does the policy have strong and clear backing from the management.
As so often it can come down to regular communication.