How Good Is Your Travel Strategy?

Three trophy cups

You probably don’t know because your company doesn’t have one. Let’s fix that.

Companies are stuck managing travel in a tactical way. They focus on cost savings, duty of care, and traveler satisfaction. Fine and good in a pre-pandemic world. But not so good going forward.

Why? Because business travel is being reshaped by powerful forces. Its impact is being questioned; its risks have increased; its substitute, the virtual meeting, has gained a ton of advocates; its carbon emissions are growing increasingly unattractive.

No surprise that travel budgets are shrinking. Business travel is becoming a scarce resource. But because it is a vital ingredient for commercial success, it now needs to be managed strategically.

Goals Drive Strategy – So What Are The Goals?

Strategy 101 says that a strategy must be shaped by the desired goals. So let’s start by asking what the goals are in today’s modern travel program. Here’s a list of goals most companies might choose from, in no particular order:

  • Better recruiting and retention of road warriors
  • Better traveler health, safety, and wellbeing
  • Lower travel costs / bigger savings
  • Justified travel
  • Lower travel-related carbon emissions
  • More successful trips
  • Higher compliance to T&E policies
  • Higher levels of traveler satisfaction

Your list may look a bit different; fine. Take your list and go ask the travel budget owners (not the finance folks; not the procurement folks; not the HR and Risk folks) how they would have you prioritize the goals.

Remind them that if they prioritize everything, they prioritize nothing. Get them to either force-rank these goals, or choose their top two or three.

If they choose “Lower costs / bigger savings” as a high-priority goal, and they choose one or more of the traveler-centric goals, e.g., better traveler health, safety, and wellbeing, explain that those are conflicting goals. They’ll need to be really clear about their priorities.

Great Start – Now What?

Take a bow if you’ve been able to get a consensus about your travel program’s prioritized goals. It could not have been easy, but wow, is it a valuable accomplishment.

Now that you know the travel program’s prioritized goals, you’ll want to start building the supporting strategy. Start with a hard look at your travel policies, especially those that affect traveler friction. These include the cabin policy, the hotel quality, type of allowable ground transportation, requirements for extra connections (for lowest logical fares), etc.

If the top goals include more successful trips or any of the traveler-centric goals, you’ll want travel policies that minimize traveler friction. Yes, these trips will be more expensive, but that’s a cost of pursuing those goals.

There is a lot more work to be done to build up a strategically valuable travel program – more on this later. Meanwhile, here is a 10-question test that shows the other elements that go into a strong travel strategy.

Justifiable Travel Made Easy

It’s hard to imagine a strategically valuable travel program that doesn’t advocate for justifiable travel. tClara is introducing Trip Tester, a travel justification tool, at the GBTA Convention on November 17th. Stop by Booth #1916 for a demo, or ping me at scott@tclara.com for a demo.

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