Simplification a key priority for travel managers, but roadblocks to execution persist

With new technology proliferating and business traveller needs and expectations evolving, travel managers are struggling to manage complex, multi-layered travel programmes. According to new research from the Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), underwritten by HRS, travel managers recognise this challenge and understand that simplifying their programmes could yield benefits—but simplification initiatives face competing priorities.

The new study, Simplifying Managed Travel, finds that traveller safety trumps the agenda: Most buyers (94%) say duty of care is a key priority; 82% say it is their top priority. With 72% rating it a key priority for their managed travel programme, simplification follows behind cost reduction (88%), data security (84%) and improving traveller satisfaction (75%).

However, the findings show travel managers recognise that simplification initiatives can support their other strategic priorities. For example, 47% of travel managers say that simplification will improve duty of care, and 39% believe it will reduce the overall cost of their travel policy.

“Travel managers and travellers alike long for a simpler system for business travel—it’s become beyond onerous for many of them to navigate policies, processes and outdated tools as new technologies have been phased in without the opportunity to phase out older ones,” Greeley Koch, executive director of ACTE explained while attending the CAPA-ACTE Global Summit in London.

“The great irony is that simplification can help meet higher-priority business objectives. Travel managers who make that argument and use simplification to address other concerns can position themselves as true leaders in their organisations,” he added.

Travel managers struggle to translate priority into action 

Despite recognising the importance of simplification, travel managers see “a gap between intention and execution,” claims ACTE. Reflecting the strategic importance placed on traveller safety, duty of care is the travel buyer’s top priority for simplification: A majority (83%) say duty of care requires immediate action. Data security appears second on buyers’ list of simplification targets, according to its findings.

Disconnects between buyers’ simplification priorities and their actual behaviour, however, indicate barriers to pursuing strategic goals. The execution gaps for duty of care and data security are large relative to other priorities, says ACTE, with more than one-in-five buyers saying they are not currently translating their traveller safety (23%) and data security (24%) concerns into action.

Suppliers and internal stakeholders must become partners in simplification 

Today’s complex travel programmes encompass multiple partners and stakeholders – internally and externally. To be effective, simplification initiatives often require support from these parties. While nearly one-in-five buyers do not get support from peers in other departments, most report that internal stakeholders are on board with simplification initiatives.

The report findings show that procurement is most often regarded as a partner in simplification (57%); internal risk/security and communications staff follow (40%); IT support (36%) and human resources (28%) lag other departments.

Third parties can supply relevant tools and expertise, providing support to travel buyers’ simplification initiatives. Buyers welcome this assistance, says ACTE: more than half of buyers not currently receiving help from travel providers say they want it. Internally and externally, the data suggests that the travel buyers who say simplification is a top strategic priority are better at collaborating to reach their simplification goals.

Driving effective simplification 

Simplification is a key route for travel managers to achieve their business objectives. However, facing the hurdles of limited resources and differing levels of support from internal and external stakeholders, buyers must ramp up communication with suppliers, other departments within the organisation and with the travellers themselves, says ACTE.

“With so many competing priorities on travel managers’ plates, it can be easy to lose sight of the most important stakeholder of all: the business traveller,” said Mr Koch. “Simplification allows travellers to spend less time worrying about the logistics of their trip and more on the purpose of their trip. This makes all the difference between a good business outcome and a great one.”

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