Closing The Gap

A new research report – “The Dawn of the Employee-Centric Travel Program” – by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and Deem explores the current state and role of the employee experience when it comes to managed corporate travel.

David Grace, President, Deem, said: “A successful travel program enables employees to achieve business outcomes while helping to ensure traveler safety and limiting cost. Technology can empower travel managers to deliver a better employee travel experience and include details such as sustainability, accessibility, and personalization.”

The new report is based on two surveys – one of U.S. business travellers and another of U.S. travel managers – across key dimensions including travel program priorities, traveler perks, travel program metrics, and traveler accessibility accommodations.

Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA, noted that: “Business travellers are returning and there are significant opportunities for the employee travel experience to be a larger focus of the corporate travel management agenda. While many travel programs understandably prioritize cost savings and policy compliance, they can only achieve these goals if employees understand and buy into them.”

In terms of the current state of employee business travel, the report found:

  • Employee satisfaction remains a pain point in many corporate travel programs — More than one-quarter (28%) say traveler experience/satisfaction is the single greatest pain point of their corporate travel program. Only 13% of travel managers say traveler experience/satisfaction is the single greatest strength.
  • Weighing cost savings and employee satisfaction — Two in five business travellers (41%) say their company’s travel program prioritizes cost savings over employee satisfaction while 38% say the program balances both equally. One in five (21%) say their company’s travel program prioritizes employee satisfaction over cost savings.
  • Ready to get back on the road — A majority of business travellers are ready to return to their pre-pandemic business travel frequency. A majority (81%) would prefer to travel for work the same amount as they did pre-pandemic (46%) or more often (35%).
  • Room for improvement in travel technology —  When it comes to their travel program, 38% of business travellers say they are the least satisfied with their company’s travel technology. This is higher than the share who indicate their company’s corporate travel agency (33%) or their company’s corporate travel manager/team (20%).

As for the perks that business travellers are looking for and that can improve employee satisfaction or wellbeing, the survey asked respondents to select up to three perks they most want their company to offer (out of seven options). The results were:

  • 46%: freedom to book with their favorite travel suppliers
  • 43%: being allowed to stay an additional night after their work meeting ends
  • 39%: the ability to book outside of the corporate travel agency/booking tool
  • 39%: company paying for them to have leisure experiences during business trips such as bleisure or blended travel. However, an overwhelming majority of travel managers (84%) say their company definitely/probably would not consider offering this option.

Other perks cited include additional time off for frequent travel and having special travel policies for road warriors because of their frequent travel.

The report also noted that people and planet considerations are becoming part of the corporate travel program agenda for both employee travelers and travel managers.

  • Sustainability and the business traveller — Business travellers say reducing their carbon footprint is a moderate (56%) or top priority (21%). To reduce their carbon footprint, most are willing to opt out of daily hotel room cleanings (77%), rent smaller cars (73%), fly premium class less often (68%), take fewer business trips (63%), and even travel for longer periods of time (56%).
  • Making business travel more accessible — Only 32% of travel managers say their company has clearly defined processes or resources for accessible travel. One in five say they have clearly defined, largely effective processes and 12% say their processes need some improvement. Half of travel managers (50%) say their company does not have clearly defined processes, but they do a good job of handling ad-hoc requests.
  • Seeking employee feedback — Some travel managers say their company does not survey employees about their satisfaction with the overall travel program (44%), satisfaction with their travel management company (40%), or satisfaction with travel program technology (36%).

In terms of where innovation and technology can bring more satisfaction, found the following:

  • More opportunity for accessibility considerations in corporate booking tools —  Only 18% of travel managers say employees with accessibility needs typically book trips on their own using a corporate booking tool. A significant number of travel managers (37%) aren’t sure how well their company’s primary booking tool accommodates employees with accessibility needs. Only 26% of travel managers say their company’s corporate booking tool does a great or pretty good job accommodating travellers with accessibility needs.
  • Online booking tools and the user experience — Only 20% of travel managers say user experience is a strength of their company’s corporate online booking tool (OBT). One-third (32%) say the user experience is “so-so” or a “pain point.” Almost half (47%) say it is “decent – but needs improvement.”
  • Travellers are ready for innovation — Business travellers are interested in various booking-related innovations such as personalized shopping results based on past purchases or loyalty status (78%), ability to book multiple types of ground transportation such as rental cars and ride-hailing services (78%), and integrated access to risk intelligence information such as COVID-19 infections and local crime statistics (70%).