By Mark Williams, Partner
Thank you for the many participants who completed our latest survey conducted in December on travel trends in 2018. We ran a similar survey at the beginning of 2017, and there are some interesting comparisons. We’ve commented on those comparisons below, and we’ve also provided our advice on the best actions to take to ensure program success by addressing the top three results for 2018:
- Prioritizing the Traveler Experience – As in 2017, this trend garnered the largest number of responses. In fact, the response rate was even higher than last year. Clearly, this continues to be top-of-mind for travel managers.
- Duty of Care Concerns – In the 2017 survey this trend finished tied for sixth place out of ten. This year it climbed more than any other trend, landing in second place.
- Payment/Virtual Card Issues and Potential Solutions – Last year this trend finished tied for ninth; this year it climbed to third place.
Let’s take a look at each of these three areas in more detail.
Prioritizing the Traveler Experience
This area has been, and continues to be, a hot topic. The Great Recession-induced cost minimization strategies that became standard in many managed travel programs. As the economy has improved travel programs 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 which we offered a year ago which continue to be topical for the travel manager:
- Ask for Feedback
If you are not already asking for feedback from your travelers using an independent surveythat 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.
- Remain Aware of the Latest 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.
- Increase Collaboration 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
The higher number of incidents across the globe, combined with threats in many locations or regions, make it no wonder duty of care and risk management are on the radar in many travel managers’ minds. Below are some best practices to keep in mind for this area:
- Make Communication Crystal Clear
Be sure to put a good communication plan in place for your travelers. Keep it simple and clear, so should a trip go awry, they quickly 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, Anvil, 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.
- Test Your Plan
Instituting an emergency response plan for international travel, covering all contingencies including military action, political unrest and natural disasters, is essential, but don’t forget to regularly test it once in place. During plan creation, also don’t forget to include your key suppliers in the design.
- Anticipate 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.
Payment/Virtual Card Issues and Potential Solutions
It may well be due to news about Bitcoin, other cybercurrencies, and blockchain in our newspapers and on our televisions daily which has led to payment in general to become high on the list of travel manager concerns. Whatever the reason, it looks like this area will receive increased travel manager attention in 2018 and beyond. It might be worthwhile to consider the following:
- It’s Still About Data
The amount of data to be secured from card spend has gotten better in recent years. Where compliance to the payment program is high, there is an increased reliability in the data. This data can be used in some procurement and to assist in supporting travel policy decisions.
- It’s Still About Convenience
We know the greater the convenience, the greater the usage. How convenient is it to use the newer payment products such as virtual cards and mobile pay? Are your legal and risk management teams on-board with their use? Is your policy in this area in agreement with the feedback received from your travelers?
- Be on the Forefront as Blockchain Emerges
Make it a point to learn more about blockchain as travel suppliers embrace this new payment method. Travel suppliers continue to look for mechanisms to decrease the existing transaction costs. The opportunity is for more comprehensive, robust data at a lower transaction cost.
In summary, 2018 promises to be another year of significant change in the travel industry. 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.
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