Traveller satisfaction makes it to the top of travel managers’ priority lists – well, maybe not yet?

Corporate travel managers’ priority lists are getting longer, as new technologies and industry standards lead to irreversible shifts in the corporate travel landscape. Topics such as NDC, dynamic hotel sourcing, the integration of apps and other innovative platforms and the emergence of Bleisure travel make travel managers’ roles more complex than ever before. Long gone are the days where their performance was purely measured by the achievement of cost savings and compliance.

Traveller satisfaction and wellness are increasingly becoming an essential priority for travel managers across the globe, according to a recent survey conducted by BCD Travel. Duty of care no longer only applies to the provision of safe and secure travel arrangements and data security. Work-life-balance policies need to embrace road warriors too.

Many corporations have programmes in place that support work-life-balance and the overall wellbeing of their workforce. However, very few extend these initiatives to cater for the specific needs of the employee group that travels as part of their job functions. While generally a relatively small percentage of a company’s workforce, these road warriors are often executives, specialists and organisations’ future leaders.

The recruitment and replacement of these key personnel is generally a lengthy and costly process for any businesses, and there’s an unquantifiable amount of knowledge that exits a company each time a senior employee or subject matter specialist departs. Undeniably, happiness and wellbeing when travelling for work are important factors that impact retention and also a company’s reputation as an employer of choice. The smart company will be factoring in these “unaccountable” costs when it formulates its travel policy.

Studies have found that business travellers are subject to varying degrees of emotional and physical stress. Depending on a traveller’s individual domestic circumstances, stress may commence early, at times already during the trip planning and preparation stage, where special arrangement may need to be made to accommodate for the traveller’s work-related absence. Employers are often unaware of these factors and it is not uncommon that employees feel uncomfortable revealing them. Nobody wants to be perceived as incapable of dealing with modern business realities.

Difficulty in maintaining a healthy lifestyle on the road is another concern highlighted by business travellers. Long working hours while travelling, jet lag, lack of physical exercise and poor diet are to blame.

Travel managers have a key role to play

The subjective nature of these issues makes it challenging for companies to identify them, to offer appropriate solutions and to track their effectiveness. Travel managers need to deploy subtle and creative measures to collate evidence. Some encourage their TMCs to gain first hand traveller feedback, whilst others use formal and informal surveys and work with human resources to improve companies’ travel policies and wellbeing programs to provide on-the-road guidelines.

On top of business travellers’ wish lists are also convenient flight schedules, business class for long-haul flights and choice of hotels within a given price range as well as avoidance of weekend travel and post-trip time off. Additionally, most female business travellers value hotels that offer dedicated floors for women and other features, making them feel safe (a fact that major hotel chains have been slow to capitalise on.

These traveller needs are far more tangible and therefore easier to track for travel managers, yet at times challenging to implement due to budget restrictions. It will require a well-structured business case to bring these topics to the attention of a company’s leadership team, allocating a financial value to travellers’ satisfaction and wellness. Third party consultants, TMCs and peers are often a valuable source of insight to get the ball rolling and human resources is generally a powerful ally too.