The travel policy has long been a mechanism to help companies control traveller behaviour and achieve cost savings across the travel category. But for some sectors, including the academic space, a travel policy now needs to incorporate more than just rules around hotel rate caps, air travel and booking channels.
When it comes to travel, the combination of complex organisational structures; staff travel to high risk or remote destinations; and an obligation to be progressive, as well as socially, environmentally and culturally inclusive; are driving universities to redefine their travel policy priorities.
Key Travel Policy Drivers
According to FCM’s academic division, the key travel policy drivers for universities are uniquely evolving, as institutions adapt to a constantly changing operating environment.
“All universities have travel policies, of course, but generally policies are guidelines and not mandated as broadly as we would typically see in a corporate enterprise,” FCM General Manager Academic Kristy Fennell said.
“There are several reasons for this, with the key being the university sector has different foci because of the nature of their travel and the make-up of their program.
“In the university space the focus is on service delivery and duty of care. A single university will have many different faculties, business divisions and thousands of travellers making travel bookings. The travel management function needs to run like a well-oiled machine to provide consistency and high-quality service for the broad nature of travellers and destinations.
Duty of Care
Ms Fennell added that duty of care was a fierce priority in regards to university travel policies.
“We’re seeing universities develop very structured approval processes to support their duty of care programs. With duty of care, a university is more likely to deal with policy issues upfront rather than retrospectively. They have customised tools and technology to ensure that if a traveller is heading to a high-risk destination the right approvals are sought from different divisions very early in the travel process,” Ms Fennell said. “Universities have adopted tight policy around this aspect.”
During the past 18 months there has also been a visible shift in the payment, billing and reconciliation space, with larger universities moving towards virtual payments for air travel and accommodation. This is also reshaping the makeup of current university travel policies.
The draw card of virtual payments for organisations with a high volume of transactions include:
- automated reconciliation of purchases and payments
- automated integration with expense management systems
- enhanced data provided on every booking plus greater consistency and security.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Universities are also placing a greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR) as well as diversity and inclusion in the travel category.
“CSR has always been a component of university travel programs, but I think now more than ever, academic travel is focusing on CSR as a key aspect of their tenders. There are more and more conversations around ways to offset carbon emissions; reducing a traveller’s carbon footprint; workplace giving; and what’s happening nationally in the reconciliation space,” Ms Fennell said.
“Additionally, ensuring that a travel program caters for 100% of their traveller base has become a talking point in the travel space. Connecting with and providing security for a diverse range of groups within today’s gender fluid environment is a topic that is being discussed nationally and as part of global conferences such as the recent GBTA conference in Chicago.”