The GBTA Foundation recently released a study in partnership with Sabre Corporation on creating a frictionless travel experience. The study explored traveller friction around the globe from the business traveller perspective as well as through the lens of managed travel and human resource professionals.
Depending on an organization’s culture and resources, a travel program tends to first focus on controlling cost and developing policies and procedures. It then moves to implementation of technology and finally, traveller well-being. Of course, it does not always happen in this order, nor are traveller well-being initiatives only seen in mature travel programs, but controlling costs unfortunately many times outweighs looking out for the well-being of employees who are constantly on the road.
Globally, business travellers reported on the top pain points they face while travelling, how much the quality of their business travel matters when it comes to job satisfaction and getting results, and the amenities and technology that they look for to improve their travel experience as well. Learn more about the survey results here.
In addition to the results of our global survey, I had the opportunity to conduct in-depth interviews with travel buyers and travel management company (TMC) and human resource personnel. Three of the TMC interviewees agreed to let me share parts of our conversation to better understand how TMCs work to support the business travel experience. Answers below are paraphrased based on phone interviews.
How can a TMC Support Traveller Well-Being and Improve the Traveller Experience for Clients?
Antoine Boatwright, Hillgate Travel: One thing we track and provide to our clients is traveller mileage and who is travelling the most, so we can flag those travellers as individuals who might have issues. While we have not had many requests for it, we worked with one specific client on a traveller-centric dashboard that is all about travellers and the traveller experience – how many miles they are flying, how many hotel night stays, where they typically go to, etc. We also conduct satisfaction surveys that are simple to complete and address the travel experience. Our motto is business travel your way, so our value proposition in the marketplace is providing customized solutions to our customers.
Eric Ritter, VoyagExpert: As a TMC, I believe we have two customers: the head of procurement and the final traveller. While the contract may not be with the traveller, they are still a direct customer. Each time a traveller goes abroad it can create stress and anxiety, so we need to be very reliable and the traveller has to know that whatever happens, we will have a solution. We can deliver a high-level of support before, during and after travel 24 hours a day. We conduct a satisfaction survey after every trip for every traveller.
Enrico Ruffilli, UVET Global Business Travel Spa: We strongly believe it is our role to help our clients achieve the best possible travel experience while on business trips. We have created dedicated teams available 24-7 to monitor all flights to anticipate negative experiences and to report on hotel quality. We have an app to handle the whole trip experience from booking to expenses. Through new technologies, travellers are constantly monitored to ensure maximum support and protection in the case of exceptional events where travellers will be informed and updated through an alert service. Travellers are also provided with information on necessary hotel features such as WiFi, laundry, fitness center and points of interest.
Do TMCs Get Involved in Developing Travel Policy for their Clients?
Eric Ritter, VoyagExpert: We make a concerted effort to explain to our customers how to build a very efficient and effective travel policy. Our advice is to keep it simple as we often see very complex travel policies that no one but travel agents can understand, so travellers end up lost.
Enrico Ruffilli, UVET Global Business Travel Spa: We constantly meet with our clients to analyze their business travel program and the results they are seeing, so that we can suggest alternatives and improvements to their travel policy, spending behaviors, supplier agreements and more. We strive to support our clients in finding the best balance between the cost of services and quality of services in full compliance with their organization’s business strategy.
Antoine Boatwright, Hillgate Travel: We definitely give advice, and that advice is primarily about incremental value. How much value, incrementally, are you getting for the complexity of the procedure or policy you are looking to put in place? We counsel them to think about what are they getting out of the travel policy and what is the objective of their travel program? A lot of people think policy is about cost control, but in today’s climate, we are seeing policy is less about cost control and more about risk control.
Talk About the Future
Enrico Ruffilli, UVET Global Business Travel Spa: All of our new IT solutions including our apps, online booking tool and expense management tools are inspired by ongoing feedback from our clients, so we can be ready to meet all of their future needs. A lot has changed in recent years and probably the most important is that there is an alignment in the customer experience and the traveller experience. Travellers are asking for new, more flexible solutions, so our clients are asking us to provide that. We often see new ideas, features and services coming from the consumer side, so we are part of an advisory board for an Italian incubator to monitor new ideas and digital transformations coming down the line.
Antoine Boatwright, Hillgate Travel: One area we are seeing a greater focus on as part of traveller well-being is health and safety, which typically centers around trying to manage risk on a trip. When we first created this type of program for a client three to four years ago, we thought it would be a one-off, but now between 30-40 percent of our new customers have a risk component they want us to assist with. On the booking front, I see the industry moving away from traditional booking paths into chat. We will also see more powerful apps and rather than companies creating new apps, there will be increased functionality and use of the mobile web. You will be able to do the same thing in different channels and have more of an equivalency between the different channels.
Eric Ritter, VoyagExpert: Now, more than ever, our customers don’t want just travel tools – they want end-to-end tools. We no longer speak just about travel, we talk about travel and expense.
Get to Know Our Experts
Antoine joined Hillgate Travel in early 2014 and is responsible for infrastructure as well as internal and client facing application development. More than just delivering on requirements from around the business, he is a proactive owner and driver of digitisation. He is often asked to present at events as well as contribute opinion pieces to industry press. Antoine has 25+ years of global experience with Logica, Dell and Oracle world-wide in such diverse industries as space, energy, utilities, telecoms, manufacturing and Business Travel. His roles have spanned technology, sales, marketing and operations. As such, he brings more than just technology thought leadership to his current role. He brings a knowledge of what it takes to win and keep business globally. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics (BSc, MSc) and the University of Reading (MBA) and is fluent in four European languages (English, French, German and Spanish).
For the past ten years, Eric has been CEO of VoyagExpert, one of France’s leading independent travel agencies and a member of the GlobalStar network. VoyagExpert has three centers dedicated to business travel in France.
Enrico is the CEO for Uvet Global Business Travel Spa, the Italian leader in business travel management. He has led the company since 2001 when he was appointed CEO of the newly founded company between Uvet Spa and American Express. Born in Milan, Enrico began his career after receiving a master’s degree in Statistics and an undergraduate degree in political science with a concentration in statistics. He also served on the Board of Directors of the following companies: First Italia Srl, ITN Spa, Itn Srl, Travel Company Srl, Uvet network Spa, Made in Uvet Srl, Jakala Spa, Uevents Srl, Ufleet Srl, Flygpoolen, Avexia-Uvet France Spa.
For more from the report, GBTA members can download Creating a Frictionless Travel Experience for free on the GBTA Hub.
Webinars: Want to Learn More?
The GBTA Foundation and Sabre will host four regional webinars on this research. The webinars will focus on how the travel experience impacts overall job satisfaction of employees; understanding what key areas have the most impact on overall satisfaction with business travel; and identifying technology and travel policies that help drive and enhance traveller well-being.
Europe – Monday, November 6 at 9am ET
Asia Pacific – Wednesday, November 15 at 6am ET
Latin America – Wednesday, November 15 at 9am ET (presented in Spanish)
The Americas – Wednesday, November 15 at 2pm ET