Times – and thinking – are changing in business travel. Travel Managers’ traditional focus on reducing spend by squeezing supplier margins is gradually giving way to the realisation that the best way to cut costs is to change travellers’ behaviour.
84% of travel managers say that, over the next two years, they will drive incremental savings through demand management. 
By managing demand, they hope to reduce unnecessary trips, by travellers making more informed decisions and by understanding how a truly effective travel programme can help to fulfill organisation objectives.
The importance of travel data and using that data to obtain meaningful insights into travel behaviours is enhanced by the growing consumerisation of business travel.
Whilst corporate purchasing tends to be slow and cumbersome, online shopping is usually quick, simple and frictionless. Whilst consumers can compare prices and reviews, so their choices are better informed, corporate purchasing is driven by the desire to control spending by reducing user choice. Prices are negotiated in advance without scope for adjustment to account for changing market conditions.
Business travel is being increasingly ‘consumerised’ as travellers look to make choices based on what they want, as opposed to what the company tells them they want.
In practice, more employees are booking outside company policy because the range of products available to them within policy are not acceptable to them.
To achieve this however, the travel managers needs the systems and analytics to mine the available data and translate those insights into actions that will drive savings. It’s the data that enables the travel manager to see the bigger picture.
But how do you turn the insight the data can provide into actual savings?
- Capturing all the relevant data - travel spend, employee expense, mileage data and meetings-related travel costs often sit in separate business silos. Then there’s travel activity booked outside company policy; a full picture of what’s actually going on across the organisation is incomplete without it.
- Understanding and engaging with every stakeholder involved in shaping travel policy will ensure that bigger picture is complete. HR, IT, security and finance have just as big a stake in travel policy as procurement.
- A happy traveller is a productive one. There is a clear link between absenteeism and performance, and travel policy can have a real impact. The knock-on effect on the bottom line needs to be fully understood by senior management.
- Knowing who your travellers are, their business and personal needs enables travel managers to obtain essential feedback on travel policy and will help to identify areas for improvement.
- More and more companies are implementing a pre-trip approval system to control expenditure and improve visibility of travellers’ trips to help assess whether those trips are business critical.
- A new generation of data analytical tools, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) is helping travel managers track trends as well as spend, in real-time.
- Data science is becoming an important element of travel management. By understanding what makes travellers behave in a particular way, leading Travel Management Companies are developing strategies around the so-called ‘Nudge Theory’ to change traveller behaviours.
- Benchmarking travel policy against other organisations in terms of size, profile and sector can help identify opportunities for transformative change.
- Once identified, issues and opportunities can be turned into solutions for travellers that are then communicated effectively. However, travellers need to receive messages with the right content and tone to appear at the right time for them and the business.
- Messaging is critical, both in content and timing.
The secret to generating more savings from travel data lies in making a travel programme truly traveller centric.
That means mandating travellers to use slicker, more intuitive digital tools within policy; providing a wider choice of airline and accommodation options; staying on top of risk, traveller security and travel disruption and making expense reporting easier.
Traveller-focused programmes deliver quantifiable value by making trips more effective; travellers sleep better, are less stressed and less likely to take time off due to spending too much time on the road. The end result is improved productivity, which directly benefits the organization’s bottom line.
 ACTE- The Evolution of Travel Policy A Global View on the Future (2018)