The Business of Travel

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The Official Blog of the Global Business Travel Association


Preparing for Crisis in Today’s Risky World

Last week, GBTA’s Risk Committee hosted a webinar on the threat of terrorism and the importance of crisis response planning. Events like Paris, Belgium and San Bernardino are grim reminders that travel security risks exist everywhere and anything can happen anywhere in the world at any time. The webinar brought together subject-matter experts to explain what terrorism is, how it impacts businesses and how to ensure your company is prepared in the event an emergency occurs.

Erin Wilk, senior vice president and global travel safety program manager for Bank of America, moderated the discussion emphasizing that there are some tactical areas that travel managers can be informed about as well as specific guidelines they can share with their travelers. Planning and preparation is an enormous piece of the equation, she added.

George Taylor, vice president of global operations for iJet International, said that everything terrorists do is designed to have a psychological impact that outweighs the physical impact. In 2015, a year marked by various attacks, there has been a significant increase in both the amount of attacks and the amount of people killed or hurt.

He outlined the business impacts discussing how low-risk locations can quickly become high-risk overnight, how travel restrictions can trap travelers in unsafe areas, how undiscovered vulnerabilities in your risk management plan can come to light once tested and how your communications and accountability procedures will be tested.

George called it important to understand the difference between living in terror and living with terror, because the reality is people still need to travel and businesses still have to do business. We live in a global economy that still requires face-to-face interaction to move forward. It’s important to keep informed so you can make prudent decisions for your travel program.

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Matt Bradely, regional security director - Americas for International SOS and Control Risks, followed George with practical steps that an organization can take to be prepared for emergencies. He shared five steps for responding to a crisis.

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  Matt advised communicating advice, not just what occurred. Identifying the threat or incident without any direction on how to respond could serve to incite fear in your travelers. Having clear, concise guidelines in place increases the likelihood of positive outcomes.

According to Matt, an educated workforce that understands your policies and guidelines when it comes to risk before a crisis happens means they will be better equipped to handle an emergency if one does arise. Companies that have strong risk management plans in place, and have the ability to protect their travelers anywhere in the world, have a competitive advantage to send their workers to do business in markets where less resilient companies cannot go.

Finally, Rick Wakida, global travel and card manager for DocuSign, relayed his real-life example of how he and his company handled the terror attacks in Paris with several travelers on the ground there and others headed to Paris shortly after. His first step was to contact his travel management company for a traveler report and within 15 minutes he knew who was in Paris, where they were and who would be traveling to Paris in the coming days. Rick detailed how they communicated with all of their travelers and the steps to ensure they remained safe and understood what actions they should take. RiskWebinar6

These events never happen at a great time and can occur in locations we never expect them too, said Erin. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The time to make a plan is when you don’t need one.

The Risk Committee will return next year with a continuation of their Risk Radar webinar series highlighting hot topics the third Thursday of each month. Check the GBTA Calendar for updates and to register for these webinars.


Pain Points and Expense Reports

It may not be the most exciting topic, but expense reports are something every company must address. The expense reporting process is different at each company and often differs by region, too – you can learn more about that in my previous post on the state of expense reporting across the globe. Even the most refined expense reporting system can have its share of pain points.

In a recent GBTA Foundation survey, conducted in partnership with HRS, travel buyers identified the beginning steps including setting up an expense report, entering the data and attaching receipts as the most troublesome.

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When you look at companies that internally-process expense reports without third-party software, half of travel buyers find setting up expense reports (49 percent), entering the data (54 percent) and attaching receipts (55 percent) as major pain points. Not surprisingly, majorities of those outsourcing the expense reporting process or using third-party software say these areas need no improvement.

While travel buyers don’t find steering the expense report through the proper channels for approval and processing as big of an obstacle as compiling and submitting the report, this area of expense reporting actually presents the greatest challenge to companies’ time and money.

Roughly 19 percent of expense reports contain errors and it costs $52 and takes 18 minutes to correct each of those expense reports containing errors or misinformation – that amounts to half a million dollars and almost 3,000 hours spent correcting expense reports each year for the average company. That is time and money that could be better spent elsewhere.

These pain points all present opportunities for improvement, so companies can find ways to increase efficiency saving money, time and resources. With the rapid introduction of new financial products in the business travel industry, companies should continually evaluate their existing practices and business needs to ensure they are working as efficiently and cost consciously as possible.


From Washington to Brussels: GBTA Expands Advocacy to the EU

At our record-breaking conference this November in Frankfurt, I took the stage with German Business Travel Association VDR’s Hans-Ingo Biehl to talk about advocacy efforts and policy issues in the EU that impact our industry.

GBTA is working in Europe, Latin America and North America to advance business travel through advocacy. That involves educating decision makers on the economic importance of business travel, advocating for policies that improve aspects of business travel and opposing efforts that hinder business travel.

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With our united voices across the globe, we can seek to move forward a business travel agenda with smarter and safer passenger screening, taxation and fees that benefits the traveler, not overburden them, and infrastructure that meets the needs of the traveler.

Working with our partners in the EU, we identified policy issues to focus on that have the greatest impact on our industry including Schengen visas, ensuring a more competitive European aviation sector, shifting away from a one-size-fits-all approach to airport security guidelines, updating air traffic management to form a single European sky and ensuring traveler taxes are reinvested into transportation infrastructure, among others.

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After the conference ended, I traveled to Brussels for our first round of engagement with key policymakers in the EU.

We met with key players in the Council of Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission:

  • Mr Marinescu, Member of the European Parliament, in charge of Single European Sky reforms

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Mr Marinescu became the first European Member of Parliament that GBTA has met with.

  • Mr Figures & Ms Hamilton, respectively in charge of business and transport at the UK Embassy to the EU
  • Mr Tokarski, Director in charge of tourism industries at the European Commission Directorate General on Industries
  • Mr Castelletti, Head of Unit in charge of Single European Sky
  • Ms Pleterski, Director of European and International Climate Markets, in charge of aviation emissions
  • Mr Rösgen, German Ambassador to the EU

We shared our messages on the importance of passenger efficiency and security, fair taxation and investments in transportation infrastructure. We also discussed the EU-U.S. Safe Harbor Agreement, aviation emissions and the sharing economy.

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The policymakers were very receptive and we plan to continue engaging with them by sharing relevant data and information, so that we as an industry can help move the agenda forward. Advocacy does not happen overnight. Building relationships with these policymakers however, and understanding how we can help them, puts us in a position to make our collective industry voice heard.

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We can only be effective if we are all engaged. This is just the beginning of our advocacy efforts in Europe, and with input from our partner associations and you, our members, GBTA can act as a voice across the globe for the business travel industry.


Expense Reporting: State of the Industry

A recent GBTA Foundation study, in partnership with HRS, looked to better understand the expense reporting process at companies across the globe.

First, GBTA identified how expense reports are currently processed. Seven in ten travel buyers (70 percent) currently do so internally using third-party software. Two in ten (19 percent) process expense reports internally without the help of third-party software and another 4 percent outsource this process entirely. Breaking it down by region, using third-party software is most popular in North America (79 percent), Asia-Pacific (75 percent) and to a slightly-lesser extent, in Europe (66 percent). It is much less popular in Latin America where 55 percent of buyers use third-party software.

How are expenses reported?
Overall, 59 percent of travel buyers work for companies that require their business travelers to report their expenses in itemized lists by type. About one-quarter (27 percent) only need to report one total sum per transaction, meaning they would tally up room service and dry cleaning and code as one expense under hotel ancillary costs. Only one in ten must (10 percent) report itemized expenses by individual item. Reporting expenses as itemized costs by type is most popular in North America (72 percent), while providing one total sum per transaction is more popular in Asia-Pacific (39 percent) and Europe (36 percent), particularly in the Nordic countries (52 percent) compared to travel buyers worldwide.

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How are expense reports submitted?
Travel buyers in North America (86 percent) and Asia-Pacific (84 percent) most often use an expense reporting software, while Latin American travel buyers report using such software at a much lower rate (60 percent). Instead, Latin American travel buyers are much more likely to use another computer program to submit their expense reports. On the flip side, travel buyers in Europe (35 percent) are most likely to submit paper expense reports meaning there is an opportunity there to increase efficiencies by adopting new technology.

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How can receipts be submitted?
As you can see, expense reports have mostly moved into the digital age. The same is not true when it comes to submitting receipts. Submitting paper receipts remains the most popular method particularly in Europe (81 percent) and Latin America (71 percent). North America is the exception where majorities of travel buyers report submitting receipts via scanned images (84 percent), electronically (62 percent) and using their smart phone (61 percent). While four out of five (79 percent) of travel buyers who can’t currently submit receipts via scanned or photo images feel that allowing this would improve the experience, some countries require a paper trail so it may not be an option at their company until the federal government updates its requirements.

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This gives you the lay of the land when it comes to how expense reports are done across the globe. Stay tuned for my next post that explores pain points in the expense reporting process


A Strong, Secure Visa Waiver Program Protects America

When President Obama addressed the nation Sunday night to discuss the threat from ISIS, he seemed to suggest that one of America’s most important and effective security programs – the Visa Waiver Program – should be placed under review. However, the President misspoke, and the White House corrected the error within minutes.

This correction is critically important because the Visa Waiver Program is today an essential element in America’s efforts to protect our homeland. Since its inception in 1986, it has evolved into a comprehensive security partnership with our closest allies and prevents tens of thousands of unauthorized visitors from entering our country every year.

In light of the recent attacks, there’s no question that reasonable steps can and should be taken to further strengthen the program, and Congress and the White House are working out the details of legislative reforms today, a process that GBTA publically supports. Additional layers of security — including new restrictions on individuals who have traveled recently to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan – are necessary to keep pace with the evolving threats.

But the fact is that the Visa Waiver Program is needed now more than ever, and policymakers should make sure that the program remains workable, even as they make reforms. We need risk-based programs like this one, so that we can focus our attention and limited resources on the most significant threats.

With the program, we can effectively vet millions of visitors to our country a year. Without it, travel would grind to a halt, which would do nothing to make us more secure and would harm our nation’s economy.

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Here’s how it works:

The program allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for business or leisure for up to 90 days without a visa. In return, those 38 countries must permit U.S. citizens and residents to travel to their countries for a similar length of time without a visa for business or tourism purposes.

The program provides for individualized pre-screening of travelers, as well as for information sharing among governments, enhanced international partnerships with law enforcement and intelligence services, and more secure passports.

No Visa Waiver Program traveler may be admitted to the United States until all security checks are completed and travel information is checked against multiple national security, law enforcement and INTERPOL’s databases before travel authorization is granted.

Additionally, commercial carriers operating flights to, from or through the United States must provide detailed name and biographical traveler data to the government. This data is then screened against U.S. and international law enforcement and counterterrorism databases to identify high-risk individuals before they depart for the United States. All Visa Waiver Program travelers are subject to this vetting.

This multi-layered approach has prevented terrorists, serious criminals and other bad actors from traveling to the United States. This includes 165,000 individuals carrying passports reported as lost or stolen and 6,000 individuals who did not receive electronic travel authorization.

Last year, 20 million visitors traveled to the U.S. under the visa waiver program, injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S. economy. Without the program, travel to the U.S. would dry up and there would be serious economic impact.

So as Congress and the White House consider reforms to this program, let them know we need the Visa Waiver Program for a strong and secure America.


GBTA Poll Shows European Business Travel Remains Resilient Despite Paris Attacks and Threats to Brussels

Last week GBTA released a poll of U.S. business travel buyers about their company’s travel to Europe. The poll showed U.S. travel to Europe remained resilient despite the attacks. We also surveyed European business travel buyers last week and issued the following statement today regarding the survey:

GBTA Poll Shows European Business Travel Remains Resilient Despite Paris Attacks and Threats to Brussels

Similar Levels of Resiliency on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Nearly three-quarters of European business travel buyers say their company’s travel within Europe will remain largely unaffected by the recent attacks on Paris and threats to Brussels, according to a poll conducted by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) in the days following the attacks.

Nearly half (47 percent) reported “no change” and another 26 percent reported their company’s travel within Europe was only “slightly reduced.” Just a tiny fraction – 1 percent – reported that they have temporarily suspended travel within Europe.

The vast majority of European business travel buyers – 79 percent – believe that it is important that travel within Europe continue as usual despite the recent terrorist activity.

“Business travel in Europe remains resilient despite these terrible attacks,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA Executive Director and COO. “The response has been strikingly similar on both sides of the Atlantic. The vast majority of travel buyers believe that it is important for business travel to continue as usual despite the recent terrorist activity.” 

“This resiliency, however, only heightens the need for businesses, governments and the travel industry to work together to ensure a global travel system that is both safe and secure.”  

This survey of European travel buyers was conducted online between November 25 and 30, 2015 with the support of GBTA’s European partner network. In total, 236 travel buyers from 12 different countries in Europe participated in the survey.

Results similar to survey of U.S.-based travel buyers
This week’s results are similar to a GBTA survey of U.S.-based travel buyers conducted earlier in November. The poll of 169 U.S.-based travel buyers found that nearly three-quarters of U.S. business travel buyers said that their company’s travel to Europe would remain largely unaffected by the recent attacks on Paris. A majority (57 percent) reported “no change” and another 16 percent reported their company’s travel to Europe was only “slightly reduced.” Additionally, the vast majority of U.S. business travel buyers – 93 percent – said that they believed it is important that travel to Europe continue as usual.


#RoadWarriors

Millennials, far more than their Gen X or Baby Boomer colleagues, want to travel more for business. For some, this is part of a love affair with the road. For others, it’s a realization that nothing – not even technology – can replace a face-to-face meeting.

Overall, according to a new U.S. study from the GBTA Foundation in partnership with American Express, 45 percent of Millennial business travelers want to travel more for business, compared with just 26 percent of Baby Boomers and 36 percent of Gen Xers. This is a substantial difference, which indicates that a generational and cultural shift may be taking place.

So what might be behind this travel trend?

The simplest answer is that many Millennials have fewer obligations than their older colleagues so it’s easier for them to pick up and go for a few days, a week or longer. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers clearly see the value of travel as well, but sometimes the difficulty of juggling family and work schedules makes travel more of a hassle than an opportunity. Millennials are also no more than 10 years into their careers, meaning many may have less disposable income and enjoy the opportunity to travel on someone else’s dime. Additionally 21 percent of Baby Boomers take more than 20 trips per year while only 16 percent of Millennials do, so they may be looking for the same opportunities to travel as their older colleagues. These aspects are very likely part of the answer, but Millennials’ embrace of business travel goes much deeper.

This generation has been traveling since they were born and have come to appreciate travel, whether for business or leisure. Travel, to them, is much more than about getting from place A to place B; it’s about creating an authentic experience.

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Like their older colleagues, a majority of Millennials – fully 57 percent – see the value of face-to-face meetings and don’t believe they can be replaced by technology. To me, this is a clear indicator that Millennials get the value of business travel.

But once the job is done, they will likely want to get outside the bounds of the convention center, skyscraper or office park and experience the city they’re in, the way the locals do. They connect with friends (46 percent) and colleagues (33 percent) over social media, and some will make the city their home for just a few days. And it shouldn’t be a surprise when they post photos of their trip on Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat.

Millennials are much less likely to be willing to float reimbursable expenses on their personal credit cards than their older peers, as 62 percent of overall travelers compared to 53 percent of Millennials were satisfied with personal card use to pay for business travel expenses.

On the other hand, Millennials are less concerned than others about some of the downsides of travel – the security lines, the baggage fees, the delays. Give them (free) Wi-Fi, and they’ll be just fine. When asked to select one amenity all airlines should offer, 52 percent of travelers overall rank getting through security above all airport amenities, while only 35 percent of Millennials found this most important compared to 59 percent of Baby Boomers. On top of that, 54 percent of Millennials want free Wi-Fi at the airport compared to 44 percent of Baby Boomers.

So the full snapshot indicates that Millennials have really embraced business travel. Yes, they’re doing it their way, relying heavily upon technology and their extended social networks, but they are ready, willing and able to drive business results from the road.