It has been widely documented that this would be the year of the new normal for the business of managing travel; firmer policies would continue to prevail as budgets remain tightly managed and return on investment (ROI) would become a standard metric. This expectation offers the industry another opportunity to optimize and create increased relevance in the C-suite. Without a doubt, the events surrounding the volcanic ash in Europe have not only shown the importance of having a dedicated travel management program, but also how exciting the future of travel will be through the development of new technologies. As a result, a traveler-centric industry is emerging with this new normal and morphing the role of those with oversight and responsibility for managing travel.
Travel managers are under greater pressure to demonstrate a direct return on investment while extending reduced budgets even further. Gone are the days when cost savings were mostly established by negotiating vigorously in a buyer's market when capacity exceeded demand. Travel managers must now take a different and much more comprehensive approach to creating savings initiated by managing traveler behavior.
Evolution Of The Travel Manager
When the new normal began to take shape in the industry, a major shift in the fight to cut back on excess came though a structural change in corporate programs. The result: Travel management is closer to the C-suite than ever before, adding additional scrutiny and control. Additionally, travel managers no longer just handle tactical elements of managing travel programs, but in the new normal they must deliver ROI while simultaneously enforcing stricter policies.
As current practices transition to be fully functional in the changed environment, travel managers can forge new inroads for savings through thoughtful approaches to managing traveler behavior more directly and throughout the full cycle of a trip. This is pivotal to future success of travel management programs as expenses can pile high with new and at times unexpected fees while travelers are on the road. Naturally travel managers cannot be physically present to remind road warriors of important distinctions in policy--distinctions that can be costly if not closely monitored.
The Shift To Managing Traveler Actions
The first indicator of this transition to managing traveler behavior is a result of observation: The better a traveler understands policies and solutions, the more they are able to make choices on the road to benefit the bottom line and decrease innocent noncompliant charges.
With this concept also comes the increased responsibility to provide travel managers with updated data on policies, rates and compliance offenses to catch inherent flaws in policies or correct behaviors while at the same time providing travelers with new tools and technologies to make life on the road efficient and entrust travelers to become part of the solution.
Tools To Influence Behaviors And Support Travelers More Extensively
American Express Business Travel continually looks for advancements in technology to be a driving force in the evolution of travel management. In this year alone, the industry continues to demand new resources for both travel managers and travelers alike, cutting down on the unknown and unforeseen. From standard travel disruptions to complex travel crises, such as the volcanic ash in Europe, travel managers have the means to completely assist their travelers from pre-trip to on-trip to post-trip.
Specifically, mobile technology is becoming a must for managing travel. Through developments in this area, the industry has witnessed the power of mobility in reaching travelers in a meaningful way by offering resources and tools on demand, in real time and at the point of need. Travelers continue to seek out these tailored solutions to assist them with elements such as itineraries, hotel/restaurant accommodations, directions and location-based services again made easier through the proliferation of mobile tools.
Advancements in mobile technology will allow more real-time two-way communication between travelers and travel managers, making it significantly easier for travelers to comply with new policies and, above all else, shortening the divide in knowledge between policy makers and practitioners.
With more technological advancements on the horizon, and through a new approach of managing traveler behavior, the cutbacks in spend and changes in the system will have a lasting positive impact. Businesses are aiming to put more travelers on the road this year, and a comprehensive approach to influencing traveler attitudes and behaviors can greatly increase policy compliance and reduce unnecessary spend.
Thanks to new technology, tools and resources, it is a small step for travelers to receive support they expect while on the road, but it is a leap for travel managers who can now be positioned to truly manage more than just travel. They can build on this platform--necessitated by the recession--to take on even more strategic initiatives and serve as wise decision-makers who can both protect and grow the bottom line.
Andrew McGraw is senior vice president and general manager for American Express Business Travel