Arlene Coyle On Who Owns Business Travel

By | May 17, 2018

In corporate travel, sometimes there is tension between what is best for the employee doing the traveling and what is best for the organization footing the bill. Travel programs strive to find a balance that suits both. Arlene Coyle is chief commercial officer for corporations in the Travel Channels division at Amadeus IT Group. She discusses how a balanced approach must incorporate mobile technologies.


Navigating corporate travel often means balancing a company’s bottom line with the needs and wants of its travelers. With travel and entertainment the second-largest indirect spend category for many corporations, it is no surprise that tools and information corporations provide to business travelers are critical in aligning company priorities with their needs. A corporation’s goals for travel may be to drive business growth, manage cost and address risk while travelers themselves are mostly concerned with relevant content, service and easy booking and expensing.

Many companies struggle to offer systems that align these needs. In a recently commissioned London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) report, we found that by failing to adopt and apply travel and expense best practices, organizations lose out on savings — and not always where you expect them. Poor compliance, fragmented buying patterns, and over-reliance on expenses from travelers further hamper corporations’ ability to both reduce costs and deliver a better user experience for employees.

When these challenges arise, who is to be held responsible?

New Technologies Bring New Challenges – And Opportunities

As travelers rapidly adapt to new technology, corporations are struggling to play catch-up. Internal IT departments, responsible for IT compliance, are now being asked to consider integrating new travel and expense processes into the corporate infrastructure. Finance departments are being hit with expense reports sent in from employees on the fly and HR is busy tracking this new digital and mobile workforce. This raises the question, who owns business travel?

Arlene Coyle, chief commercial officer, corporations, Travel Channels, Amadeus IT Group

The travelers have a voice at the table. They want a T&E system that is intuitive and mobile. Mobile integration must be at the top of the agenda when it comes to choosing a T&E platform. The LSE study found that 94 percent of interviewees (C-level executives at companies around the world) place mobile booking as the top IT-enabled booking priority. According to participants, 85 percent of employees used mobile itinerary management tools; on average, 11 percent of travel bookings went through mobile devices at represented organizations.

The potential ease of use through mobile devices is an industry game-changer. Seamless UX design when transitioning between platforms enables travelers to change their bookings, manage their time and access en route services including those for disruptions. To achieve this dream, the booking platform must become a part of the business traveler’s daily life through an open system that adapts to applications already in use.

A Traveler-Driven Approach Provides The Best Insight

We recognize that how the traveler interacts with and books their travel and handles expenses ultimately impacts the company bottom line. Employees therefore must be an active participant in building a corporate travel program.

Reconciling the needs of all key stakeholders is, however, where these processes can either fly or flop. The LSE report discovered that discussions among HR, operations and technology teams result in a more complete review of company T&E programs, highlighting multiple opportunities to enhance return on investment.

Analytics and feedback are key. The LSE study showed that analytics are one of the most consistently requested components of a T&E solution. Senior stakeholders said they want visibility, control and the ability to continually learn and improve. Over half of participants wanted alerts on travel before it occurs — allowing both company and traveler to detect out-of-policy travel before it happens. But organizations aren’t getting the information they need. In fact, 80 percent said they didn’t have the information needed to make more strategic T&E decisions.

Conclusion

Who owns business travel?

It is is clear there is a need for shared responsibility and collaboration among stakeholders, including travelers. This way forward increases your chances to positively impact company performance and keep those travelers happy.


Related
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Arlene Coyle
Author: Arlene Coyle

Arlene Coyle is chief commercial officer corporations in Travel Channels at Amadeus IT Group. She has been in the managed travel and technology industry for over 20 years. Her career has taken her from Amadeus to the world’s leading travel management companies and back. Her focus has always been on client-facing roles. Arlene has authored a number of blogs and whitepapers on managed travel. She is an advocate of how the individual — led by technology, convenience and lack of time — will play a key role in managed travel of the future. Arlene holds a Bachelors with Honours in Modern Languages, a Masters in Strategic Marketing and a diploma in Leadership and Innovation from IESE. She loves music, books, travel and technology. Arlene is active on LinkedIn and loves to give opinions on various industry topics.

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James Filsinger
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James Filsinger
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Great article, Arlene! I agree that the best travel program will reflect a collaboration across stakeholders as well as travelers. I think what it boils down to is a need to consumerize business travel. Travelers like the tools and experience they get when they travel for pleasure, and want a similar experience when they travel for business. We don’t (necessarily) want to be “spoiled,” we just want an efficient experience.