Why business travellers need more control

Published: Thursday, May 11, 2023

Trade Community AffairsTourismManagement

Travel disruptions continue to pose challenges for frequent flyers in South Africa, with flight cancellations and delays causing additional stress.

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According to the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), some airlines experienced delays of up to 28% in February 2023. Furthermore, fuel shortages resulting from load shedding in March led to further flight disruptions, causing frustration among travelers at airports.

To address these issues, forward-thinking companies are recognizing the importance of empowering their employees with more control over their travel plans, particularly during these unpredictable times, as highlighted by Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Traveller. Smith emphasizes that South African business travelers face delays caused both domestically and globally, due to factors such as pilot shortages and airport strikes. She asserts that travel policies that lack flexibility and support in minimizing the stress associated with such disruptions are disliked by seasoned business travelers.

In response to these challenges, an increasing number of organizations and their business travelers are turning to digital corporate travel solutions. Having the ability to view, change, and manage travel schedules online or through an app, rather than relying on lengthy phone calls with customer service agents, is a game changer during inconvenient travel disruptions.

Smith explains that during the pandemic, many South African companies temporarily suspended self-booking tools and apps to gain greater control over travel. However, now that business travel has resumed at full capacity, it is crucial to restore autonomy to travelers and provide them with the right tools to handle unexpected changes effectively.

Offering employees self-booking tools and apps provided by a trusted travel management company (TMC) allows them to navigate travel changes within a defined framework while enjoying the freedom to make travel arrangements independently, according to Smith. Furthermore, acknowledging personal preferences is essential. Business travelers have unique travel preferences, including preferred booking methods, seat selections, and accommodation types. By providing travel technology that aligns with individual preferences, travelers can retain control over their arrangements while adhering to the company's travel policy, thereby enhancing their overall travel experience.

Smith suggests that now is the ideal time for businesses to assess whether their TMC offers digital tools to customize travelers' needs. For instance, Corporate Traveller can collect and analyze data from travelers, such as insights into their preferences, queries, friction points, and travel behavior. This data enables the design of tailored itineraries and bookings that best meet travelers' requirements.

For businesses aiming to empower their travelers with more control over work travel, Smith offers the following advice:

  1. Use a pre-approved booking platform: TMC platforms not only provide preferred rates and services but also grant employees control over their bookings within the company's policy guidelines.

  2. Establish and communicate guidelines: Collaborate with the TMC to develop a comprehensive travel policy that outlines allowable expenses, preferred booking channels, and guidelines for managing travel costs. Effective communication of these policies to all employees helps them understand their boundaries and feel empowered to make informed decisions.

  3. Share cost savings: Companies can incentivize adherence to the travel policy by offering employees a share in the savings generated. Bonuses or other incentives based on cost savings can foster a sense of responsibility and encourage compliant behavior.

Smith emphasizes that empowering business travelers with more control over their bookings goes beyond technology; it requires the support and flexibility provided by the right travel management partner. Companies should engage with their travel management company to understand how they can enable travelers to make independent choices while ensuring compliance and safety. Additionally, they should inquire about available tools and resources to facilitate this process.

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