SmartTrip Delivers Shared Travel Savings – Bravo!

Travel managers have a powerful new tool to coax more savings from their travelers.

Runzheimer’s new SmartTrip tool solves the problem with a simple equation:

Good Trip Budgeting + Traveler Self-Interest = Shared Savings

How it works:  The traveler enters the most basic of trip specs: Origination, destination and dates of travel.  The tool produces the trip’s benchmark cost (a best estimate), split out by Air, Hotel, Transportation and Meals. Yes, these estimated costs can be tailored to fit company travel policies, so for example, the estimated hotel costs can be based on 3 star properties, not 4 stars.

With the trip’s benchmark cost in hand, the traveler is free to shop and book anywhere.  SmartTrip stores the user’s favorite travel sites, including the company’s preferred sites.  SmartTrip is building the ability to pass trip specs into the more popular travel sites, so no re-keying is required to start the shopping/booking process.

Note that SmartTrip is not a booking tool, so let’s skip ahead to when the traveler has finished her trip, and has filed her expense report.

Now SmartTrip can compare the trip’s benchmarked cost to the actual cost.  If the actual trip cost less than the benchmark, SmartTrip credits the traveler’s trip bank with the savings.  If the trip cost more than the benchmark, the difference is deducted from the traveler’s trip bank. Travelers can set savings goals and track their progress.

Fine – but what can you do with those savings?  SmartTrip allows for three types of payouts:

  • Split the savings between the company and the traveler, based on a pre-determined percentage. The traveler gets a check, which is a taxable event.
  • Give the savings to a charity.
  • Keep all the savings for the company (OK, so this isn’t really a payout)

Regardless of the payout method, the tool tracks the best and worst savers (from trips whose actual costs exceeded the benchmark).  How public to make these leader and loser boards is presumably up to each company.

I like this tool a lot because:

  • It gives travelers a clear, practical and significant reason to reduce travel costs. Shared savings is a potent motivator.
  • It gives travelers a fast, easy and useful company-appropriate trip cost.  That alone is a valuable element for travelers and their travel budget owners.
  • It quantifies savings in a new and meaningful way, making it easy for travel managers to show benefits to senior management.
  • It shines a light on those who habitually beat, or exceed, the benchmarked trip costs – one more tool in the travel gamification toolbox.

A big hat tip to Matt DeWolfJoseph Boschert and the rest of the Runzheimer NPD team for bringing this terrific product to life.  The design is clean, simple and very effective.  Well done! Michael Tangney (at Google) – you deserve credit, too, for popularizing the beat-the-benchmark concept.

SmartTrip is a powerful and practical tool for aligning traveler behavior with company goals. If you’re a travel manager, you’d be smart to take a close look at this innovative tool from Runzheimer.

SmartTrip is in private beta.  Contact Matt at or Joseph at  if you’re interested in participating.

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6 thoughts on “SmartTrip Delivers Shared Travel Savings – Bravo!

  1. Seems to be an interesting offer indeed.

    Nevertheless, I’m not in favor of “rewarding” people to spend less than the average in order to get rewards. I’ve seen some people abusing of this and putting sometimes their life and the company projects in danger. I remember one guy using the lowest possible flight and being used of having several connections to get from point A to B. He was often late (from several hours to one day), flying on unknown companies and was always going to the cheapest motels (and was robbed several times).

    For me the perfect equation is somewhat like this one: Traveler safety + trip business value (or projects ROI) + Employee engagement and motivation (especially with Gen Y).

    If the travel policy is too hard, you discourage people from travelling, but also as a side effect you discourage their engagement in complex multi-national or regional projects (since they do not want to travel in bad conditions, they will try to avoid any situation leading to do a meeting, which can lead to some project issues). Engament of workforce is key.

    Second, the travel policy should be also HUMAN centered, not only cost centered. That’s my motto! It should take into account: age, gender, health conditions (vary across the year), travel time (less than 3, from 3 to 6, 7 and more), workload (do I need to go and go back fast, or can I spend 3 hours waiting for my flight?).

    Finally, the cost of trip has no meaning by itself. If the meeting bring significant results (ROI is high), then this is better than no travel or travelling in bad conditions and arriving stressed and nervous to your meeting. So, one of my idea is to reward people based on the trip results, not only on the trip cost.

    I have the feeling that too many people/companies are only focusing on one variable of the equation : cost. What need to be done is to empower business travelers with the right tools and services and to let them make their own judgement based on their objectives. Control will be done not only based on cost but on mesurable results. Even a compliant travel, delivering no business results, is a waste. I have the feeling that sometimes compliance to the policy is used as a way to not justify a business trip.

    And, our recent studies show that the non frequent travelers (less than 2 trips a year) are the ones paying the most expensive fare. Education and training and for younger travelers, gamification could help. That’s also where humans (travel managers, travel agents, concierges, etc.), intelligent online trip optimizers (like the one mentioned) and company social network leverage each others.

    One simple idea I have was a mentoring program to let frequent travelers help 2 or three non frequent travelers. They can play as a team and try to win points in order to get some badges. And it’s more important to discuss the errors made and not only the best practices.

    Finally, not all region and countries are made equal, and in case of global companies, one size never fits all.

    • Hi William,
      While there may be travelers that would take unfair advantage of the shared savings concept, I think the benefits far outweigh the risks. Imagine if all travelers beat their company’s average trip cost by 10%, but in doing so, the number of trips went up by 5%. That’s a 5% reduction in total spend. And I bet that the budget owners would not let travelers take more trips unless those trips were justified.

      Your mentoring idea is terrific…would you like to sketch it out in more detail? I could post it as a new article on my blog, or you could post it on our LinkedIn group Travel Innovations I’d Like To See (TIILTS) at

  2. Hi Scott, I like the service but if a traveller is allowed to shop and book anywhere how does that work with preferred suppliers and compliance to preferred supplier agreements?

    • Hi Alexandra,
      Once a traveler gets the SmartTrip cost benchmarks, she would then book through her company’s existing corporate booking tool or contracted travel management company. She would be steered to support her company’ preferred suppliers, and to comply with travel policies, in the normal course of booking.

      At the end of the trip, she files her expense report, and then the tool compares her actual expenses to her benchmarked cost targets. At least that’s the concept behind SmartTrip as I understand it. The tool is in private beta, and does not yet integrate with many booking or expense tools…early days, yes, but a bright future, I think!

      • Thank you for quick reply. That sounds great so I´ll be waiting for it´s first release. We have a bunch of people who I am sure would like to make use of this app.
        Brgds Alexandra :-)

  3. Pingback: The Rise of Managed Travel 2.0 | Gillespie's Guide to Travel+Procurement

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