Think like a business traveller

“Millennials,” “Generation Y,” “Generation WE,” “The Peter Pan Generation,” whatever your preferred name for those born in the 1980’s-2000, are pushing the boundaries of traditional travel policy. Tech savvy, multi taskers with a passion for travel are shunning the more corporate travel providers in favour of the new wave of suppliers, or intermediaries of ground transportation and accommodation services (often referred to as the sharing economy), all accessed via a mobile app.  This generation manages all aspects of their personal lives through their mobile phones and expects the same in the business environment.

Travel managers need to think like a “millennial traveller” and look to engage with these new suppliers, integrating them into the travel programme to ensure the travel policy continues to meet its objectives and levels of compliance. Offering opportunities for savings, innovation, an energized business model and happy travellers, these new suppliers can revolutionize a travel program. By nature of being new, however, they come with a degree of uncertainty and lack of experience in managing complex travel policies, which means that they potentially offer some risks to a program, raising concern amongst travel managers, travel risk managers and their stakeholders. Disruptors (or Enablers as they often refer to themselves as) include companies such as Uber, Lyft, Ola (in India) and CabiFly in the ride sharing space, and HomeAway or Airbnb in the owner-operated accommodation space. It is important to bear in mind that these companies are essentially software companies, offering new booking platforms, with no direct ownership of the assets (taxis or the hotels).

From the outset it is vital that organisations looking to include “disruptors” in their travel policy, give appropriate consideration to the end goal. It is likely that an organisation will have tried and tested suppliers with whom they have worked with for many years, offering great service with contracted cost controls, tried and tested booking processes, and smooth interfaces to other internal systems such as traveller tracker solutions. No organisation wants to jeopardise these relationships and thought should be given to how to manage the introduction of new service providers.

When considering implementing new suppliers (disruptors) into a travel program, a thorough risk assessment is advised. Any changes such as these often seem fraught with risk at the time but in reality, not cause an increase in travel risk once deployed. A key risk is often a lack of knowledge within the travel team and the wider organisation. To address this, travel managers should do their research, gathering as much information as possible about the supplier, including case studies and endorsements which can help to sell the concept internally.  Questions such as where do they operate? what are the different services they provide? do they pay taxes? are the people who do the jobs direct employees of the company? are their service providers vetted? are their networks secure? what are their insurance liabilities and provisions? These are just a sample of some of the questions that should be asked and will vary according to the supplier and the organisation.

We are all familiar with frontpage news reporting on the “dangers” of some of these new disruptors.  News on social media can spread fast and it is important to alleviate these fears from the outset.

In a next article, we will look at strategies to help the implementation of “disruptors” to ensure a smooth transition.

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