Rudy Daniello, EVP corporations, Amadeus

Rudy Daniello, EVP corporations, Amadeus

Our industry has talked extensively about how we can modernise business travel. Change is coming to an industry that is still largely operating with processes that were conceived many decades ago. Take expense management as an example...

Asking travellers to pay for their hotel stay and to collect receipts for on-trip spend, before submitting a laborious expense report that must be checked by a manager and then audited by finance, is archaic. It is the way travel expenses have always worked and whilst there has been limited improvement at the edges, like the digital capture of receipts, when it comes to expense management many companies are stuck in the 1990s.

Part of the challenge is awareness and how we bring different stakeholders together within a large corporation to understand the potential benefits of changing how expenses work. Our industry has been slow to recognise that expense sits primarily with finance, but impacts travel, procurement and senior management too. If we are serious about change, we need to be talking in the language of finance.

What we need is a rejuvenated conversation based on data so we can make a compelling case. Despite many suppliers, travel management companies and in-house travel managers pushing for change, we have not really been talking the language of the CFO.

We attempted to put a stake in the ground with our latest research, It's time to transform. The brief to our research partner, the Centre for Economics and Business Research, was clear: what is the hard-nosed, rational, economic case for digitalising expense management in business travel?

Whilst those of us working in business travel instinctively know that helping travellers pay with company money, using a virtual card stored in their mobile, removes the pain of submitting an expense form and waiting to be reimbursed, it is the business case that really matters.

I was pleased to see that CEBR’s analysis supported our hypothesis. Not only is digitalising expenses better for travellers, but it is also better for the bottom line too.

CEBR’s analysis focused on the UK, US, France, and Germany. In short, removing the need to submit expense reports saves 147 minutes of administration time on average, per trip. When modelled up to the industry across those markets, this equates to more than 188,000 full time employees (mainly in finance departments) that could be redeployed to more productive tasks. This is beginning to resonate with senior finance leaders because they would much rather their teams were focused on delivering strategic value rather than administering travel.

CEBR also found that providing travellers with a pre-agreed budget for each trip loaded on a virtual card helped to reduce a company’s overall direct travel spend by 8.2 per cent on average. The reductions were attributed to better control over trip budgets, closer policy adherence and a reduction in fraud and error. The traditional ‘pay and reclaim’ process we have worked with does not help with any of those thorny issues. In fact, you could argue it has allowed them to develop.

The industry has not yet recovered to 2019 volumes and next year looks like it may bring continued economic uncertainty. One way our industry can choose to respond is by helping corporations to travel smarter by finding the opportunities to do things differently and by innovating. If we are to do so, we need to be talking in the right language.