What Expense Reports Reveal About Managed Travel

MW-8623_RTBy Mark Williams, Partner

Expense management company Certify recently released a summary of the data from the expense reports processed through their system in the fourth quarter of 2016.  The results were pretty interesting, indicating a few trends on the horizon in business travel.

The most significant trends in the fourth quarter reflect the growth of the sharing economy.  Uber was the most expensed vendor of the quarter; in fact, it was the most expensed vendor of 2016.  Uber transactions were up 254% year-over-year to 52% of the ground transportation total.  Add to that the increase in Lyft transactions of 551% to 4% of the total, and the two ridesharing companies account for 56% of all ground transportation transactions.

Of course, the increase in the use of Uber and Lyft come with a corresponding decline in the use of rental cars and taxis.  The percentage of ground transportation transactions in taxis declined year-over-year from 20% to 11%.  Correspondingly, rental car transactions declined from 38% to 33%.

What does this mean for the travel manager?

Rideshare

  1. Address ridesharing services in your travel policy. Make certain you involve your legal, risk management, and human resources departments in the development of the policy language.
  2. Track the spend. Use the data to pursue potential corporate discount arrangements with the providers.
  3. Survey your travelers to better understand their experiences. Inevitably, there will be some rides which do not live up to expectations.  What happened, and how can any service issues be addressed?  Present these to your service representative for resolution.

Lodging

In lodging, Airbnb transaction growth doubled year-over-year.  While Airbnb volume is still a very small portion of total lodging at .27%, the growth indicates business travelers are becoming more accepting of the model.  The data further suggests that Airbnb is winning more business for longer stays and bigger groups.  Think trade shows and conventions.

Food & Beverage

When it comes to food on the road, fast food is king.  Starbucks led the way in food transactions followed by McDonalds, Panera, and Subway.  There are likely many reasons for this.  Time available for eating is paramount, followed by cost, trying to squeeze more out of per diems, and maintain budgets.  While quick and inexpensive are generally good, health and overall traveler wellness are considerations that need to be addressed from a policy and human resource perspective.

In summary, travel managers need to continue to mine all the available data, and most importantly, expense report data.  Much can be learned about the experiences our travelers are having from it, and programs can be implemented to improve those experiences, making for happier travelers.

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