Travel and Expense

The Future Travel Community: Strength in Numbers

Ralph Colunga |

As if it wasn’t enough already, responsible return to travel has been revealing a new twist that travel managers and companies will have to contend with. Its strength is in its numbers, and it's not going away, nor does not seem to be backing down. If anything, it’s becoming a growing phenomenon and something that is real and may have a significant impact on your managed travel program.

It’s the new strength of your traveler community and how they are prepared to flex their muscle via their voice.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic impact and for several years, there already was a new focus on the end-user travel experience. Whether it was about personalization, booking choice empowerment, or supplier selection, the movement of providing greater flexibility for the traveler was on the rise.

Fast forward 16 months from March 2020, and while the entire travel landscape has undeniably been altered, one prominent area is the voice of the traveler.

Survey after survey echoes the same type of messaging from both travelers themselves and travel managers alike;

  • Yes, I want to travel, but only when I feel safe to do so.
  • My health and safety will take prominence over the decision I will make regarding my travel.
  • I will pick and choose the suppliers that meet my business needs, and not just those of the company.
  • I want flexibility in my workplace and travel and not draconian rules.
  • And if I don’t get what I want I am prepared to leave my company.

A recent EY & SAP Concur whitepaper on the re-emergence of business travel states some findings from the EY Work Reimagined Employee Survey, 2021: 

  • Nine in ten respondents want flexibility in where and when they work
  • 54% of employees are likely to quit if they aren’t offered the flexibility they want.

“Travelers want and need to travel for business, but they want to do it both safely and responsibly,” said Ann Kloepfer, a senior travel manager for Microsoft. “They’re expecting us to provide tools that give them better insight into more responsible choices.”

In addition, the 2021 Global Business Traveler Report, a Wakefield research study of 3500 travelers in 25 countries found that COVID-19, has altered the power dynamics in the workplace. In so much that business travelers will consider their options if employers don’t match their expectations.

  • Two out of three respondents (68%) clearly state that they want to return to business travel, but they want to do so on their terms.
  • Almost a third (31%) say they would ask to limit travel if their company does not implement policies or measures to help protect their health and safety, while 20 percent would go as far as looking for a different position.
  • 72 percent of business travelers rank flexibility as a top consideration for business travel,
  • Flexibility, such as choosing your transportation, lodging, and travel dates, is now the most pressing need for business travelers, ahead of their vaccination-related demands (72% vs. 62%).


Transparency equals compliance

While every company will need to approach this situation differently as every company’s culture is different, it is fair to state that this pendulum has swung. How far is the real question, and this will individually have to be determined. One suggestion given the importance of employee retention, working closely with your HR Business partners is advisable before changing any travel policies or rules.

It is my personal belief that empowering your global travel community can be a very positive step forward for your managed travel program – it builds trust and affords the opportunity for the implementation of travel and expense transparency solutions. And, transparency equals compliance.

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