3 Challenges Facing Travel Managers … And How to Overcome Them | Booking.com for Business

Travel managers all face different hurdles at work. Although we often have similar goals and objectives, our specific challenges can be very different – covering everything from increasing policy compliance and streamlining the reporting to engaging employees and building relationships with key stakeholders.

The challenges facing travel managers stem from the different numbers of travellers we manage right through to the type of strategy used for travel – for example, those who favour a less strict travel policy might struggle with keeping things organised and simple, whilst those with a tighter travel policy are challenged with keeping travellers compliant.

Where do you fit in?

Of the 60 enterprise buyers recently surveyed by Booking.com for Business, more than half of them saw traveller compliance as their biggest challenge. It begs the question, how do you actually keep your travellers compliant? To answer this, you have to think about the bigger picture and consider what compliancy comes down to – control, or potentially a lack of it. This brings us on to our first common challenge facing travel managers:

#1 Lack of control

Travellers booking directly on external sites don’t necessarily have the travel policy in mind. They might be considered ‘rogue bookers’ and for the travel manager, policy violations are often not known until the traveller is back from trip and submitting their expenses.

Why is it a problem?:

With 52% of our surveyed travel managers stating that policy compliance is their biggest challenge, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that 25% also said direct bookings is one of their biggest challenges, does this resonate with you?

It’s a problem because you lose control of the traveller and it raises duty of care issues – how can you be sure where they are if it’s not within your system? Without the control, reporting also becomes an issue and it’s harder to get the costs for these trips, as you only get the data after expenses have been submitted.

How to overcome the challenge:

Regaining control of travellers, and particularly those who choose to ignore the travel policy is no easy feat, but research shows that visual communication is much more effective than written communication. According to studies, coloured visuals increase a person’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80% meaning you can engage your travellers with the hope they’ll be more willing to read/see your policy and stick to it.

The answer: try creating a more visual version of your travel policy that’s easy to understand and easy to follow. It’s possible that the lack engagement is the real reason for the control challenge.

To help communicate your travel policy more effectively try our visual travel policy builder.

#2 Poor data visibility

When data is spread across the organisation, in dispirit systems, it’s almost impossible to get a full picture of what is really happening.

35% of our surveyed travel managers agreed that data consolidation was a challenge and a problem.

Why is it a problem?:

It’s so important to be able to access and combine high-level data to create timely and accurate reports. When it comes to reporting the spending to management, we found that over quarter of travel managers face this as a core challenge.

Without the data, it’s much harder to engage stakeholders within the organisation. They also need to be able to drill down into the data to find spending irregularities and provide predictive spend.

How to overcome the challenge:

The ideal solution would be to have all data, from all sources and regions, integrated into one system. Good luck, right?
This can take a lot of time and investment that you don’t necessarily have.

An interim process could be to choose a lead source/region and work to collect data from other sources/regions to bring together and normalise the data for reporting purposes.

#3 Frustrated business travellers

Saving one of the most interesting challenges until last: frustrated business travellers and traveller satisfaction. It’s a challenge that divides many travel managers, as some believe traveller satisfaction is key, whilst others sway more towards keeping the traveller happy enough whilst also keeping the cost down and compliance high.

Increasingly, employees want to use the tools they use at home to arrange business travel and this stems back to why rogue travellers are such an issue. They don’t want to feel restricted by the company’s travel policy and therefore don’t comply. For example, if they find a cheaper flight option online, that also lets them earn air miles, they’re unlikely to turn it down for a less convenient option that is within policy.

Why is it a problem?:

It causes resentment and distrust between travellers and travel managers. The business traveller starts to see the travel manager as a road-blocker rather than an enabler. If business travellers feel this way, then they’re less likely to book within policy. This perpetuates the issue.

Interestingly, only 15% of the travel managers we surveyed saw traveller satisfaction as one of their biggest challenges (although 20% did think duty of care was a big issue). Does this mean travel managers don’t worry too much about it, or are they implying it’s not a challenge because their travellers are satisfied? Which is it for you?

How to overcome the challenge:

In many ways, the answer is a compromise. In most cases, business travellers want to do the right thing for their organisation. So, rather than policing them, look for solutions that allow you to bring their preferred tools into your system.

This way, travellers will be more compliant, less frustrated and hopefully more satisfied. But more than that, it reduces the challenge for you, as by bringing the tools into your system, you can still regain control, bring in the crucial data for reporting and the solution should reduce the number of direct bookers and therefore rogue travellers.