2017 Travel Trends: What You Need to Know

MW-8623_RTBy Mark Williams, Partner

Thank you for the many participants who completed our latest survey on travel trends. Below are the top three areas our respondents felt would have the largest impact in the coming year. We’ve also provided our advice on the best actions to take to in these areas to ensure program success in 2017:

  1. Prioritizing the Traveler Experience
  2. Duty of Care Concerns
  3. Capturing Bookings Outside the travel management company (TMC) Platform

Let’s take a look at each of these three areas in more detail. If you are interested in learning more about all of the areas we asked our respondents about, catch us at one of our upcoming speaking engagements on this topic, listed in the “Say Hello” section of this newsletter.

Prioritizing the Traveler Experience
This area has been a hot topic for some time, especially over the past few years as the Great Recession-induced, cost minimization strategy that has been standard in many managed travel programs has shifted slowly to one more influenced by traveler feedback and engagement. The benefits of a focus on the traveler experience are frequently touted, from increased employee retention to a recruiting edge in a competitive job market, so how can you best capitalize on this trend? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Establish a Feedback Loop
    If you are not already asking for feedback from your travelers using an independent survey that can benchmark satisfaction with multiple facets of your program, this is a great first step to undertake. Asking for comments from your travelers is the first step in determining where improvements can be made, and the information you receive can also benefit you in future negotiations with suppliers.
  2. Stay on Top of Trends
    Most travelers are technology savvy and are eager to adopt new offerings that make their lives easier as fast as they’re available. By keeping on top of advances in the technology space, such as new traveler apps, travel managers can address these developments directly, letting travelers know what is and isn’t allowed or recommended for their use, and the reasoning behind the policy.
  3. Join Forces for Improvement
    Collaborating with departments across your organization can help ensure the success of any actions you take to improve the traveler experience. Depending on the changes, involving representatives, or a representative, from the HR, procurement, legal, or communications department, among others, is a good idea. Fostering cross-departmental support for initiatives, where appropriate, can help ensure program success.

Duty of Care Concerns
In light of several recent incidents across the globe, it’s no wonder duty of care and risk management are at the forefront of travel managers’ minds. Below are some best practices to keep in mind for this area:

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
    Have a good communication plan set up for your travelers. Keep it simple and clear, so should a trip go awry, they know who to call for what. Incorporate info into a document that doesn’t require the Internet to access. If possible, use one main link to provide immediate access to protocols so there’s no need for phone numbers and multiple other links. Also, make sure you or your third-party risk management partner (such as iJet, iSOS, your travel management company, etc.) has the ability to send out communications as needed to travelers booked to mid to high risk areas. It’s also a good idea to check and make sure your third-party partners can provide services to all types of travelers (staff, volunteers and other non-employees) and sort by group for reporting needs and accurate tracking.
  2. Have a Plan
    Institute an emergency response plan for international travel, covering all contingencies, including military action, political unrest and natural disasters. Don’t forget to include your key suppliers in the design of your company’s plan.
  3. Prepare for the Unexpected
    Researching what resources are available in the event of an emergency is important for both domestic and international travel, as is advising travelers to review their insurance coverage and other services prior to traveling. In the event evacuation from an area becomes necessary, you will also want to ensure you have the financial means and proper form of payment to purchase a large volume of tickets, hotel rooms, charter flights or other arrangements at a moment’s notice.

Capturing Bookings Outside the TMC Platform
Recently, suppliers have been pushing travelers to book direct by offering better prices or certain perks for doing so, which sounds great until travel managers try to analyze data or track down people in an emergency. Using one of the many technology solutions available, such as TripIt, TripCase or TMC apps, can help mitigate these issues. Make it a point to talk to your TMC about the potential suppliers available for your program and put something in place as soon as possible. The direct bookings push won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and will likely increase in 2017. It’s also a good idea to incorporate information about direct booking into your traveler communication plans.

In summary, 2017 definitely promises to be a year of change. With the right approach and proper planning, however, travel managers can take actions to ensure program success. Still have questions on travel trends for the coming year? Contact us via the form below; we’d love to hear from you.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 edition of GoldSpring Insights, the official email newsletter of GoldSpring Consulting. To sign up for our mailing list, please click here.

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