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Prioritizing business traveler wellbeing

 

Duty of care has traditionally been defined as the legal responsibility for the safety of corporate travelers. But in today’s world, duty of care has expanded to include the additional facets of business risk and traveler wellbeing. Employees need to feel confident that the travel risk of their business trips is minimal and that they’re fully — and authentically — supported from the time they start planning and booking to their return home.

Because of the shift in the corporate travel industry, the scope of a company’s travel risk management program has also widened. To successfully compete in the global marketplace, companies need to show genuine empathy and concern for their employees’ wellbeing, which means considering new factors beyond just basic corporate travel safety to give their travelers peace of mind.

Another area that has broadened with this shift is the role of the travel manager. Where travel managers typically focused on optimizing value and maximizing savings, they now need to be working in partnership with executives, human resources, and security to create systematic ways to reduce travel risk and increase traveler wellbeing.

This organizational change starts with defining essential business travel, updating guidelines, and implementing a revised travel policy that is ultimately rolled out through process integration and employee communication.

Egencia is here to help you navigate this new landscape. Here’s the path to optimizing your travelers’ wellbeing.

Consider — and counter — travel risks

The first step in addressing any situation is to gather all the facts. Identify how you want to uphold your company’s travel security standards. Understand any risks involved to help ensure travelers that they’re getting what they need to feel confident and prepared. The best way to do this is to conduct a risk assessment.

A risk assessment leads travel managers through the steps they need to take to pinpoint potential risks and safety concerns. They can then address those risks and adjust portions of their travel policy accordingly while also looking for opportunities to enhance the overall wellbeing of travelers. These types of risks and counter measures can include:

Natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and record rain or snowfall.

Stay informed with up-to-date alerts. The Egencia crisis communications team is constantly monitoring global events to help travel managers keep their travelers up to date on emerging situations. If a natural disaster is imminent, the team creates Global Customer Impact reports. This powerful combination of monitoring and messaging helps travel managers and business travelers proactively reroute or alter travel plans before chaos ensues.

 

Health safety in areas where food and/or water-borne illnesses are a concern.

Create content with travel tips on how to stay safe if a destination’s food or water supply is a concern to your travelers. Some suggestions could be to only eat hot food, use disposable utensils (or bring your own kit), and stick to canned or bottled beverages. Travel managers can distribute this information to travelers as they’re planning their trip.

 

Physical risk in areas with high crime rates or potential gang activity.

Help your travelers decrease their travel risk with your travel policy. Approve additional measures like flights that arrive during daylight hours and let your travelers choose private cars over public transportation. These are simple changes that can improve a sense of travel security and deliver peace of mind.

 

Government travel alerts and advisories are necessary due to political unrest, disease outbreaks, quarantine measures and other issues specific to a particular area.

Make sure you’re aware of every government alert and advisory. It’s important to be proactive and stay informed throughout the cycle of what is happening.

Government-issued travel alerts generally involve short-term immediate risks, like an expected worker’s strike, or can be abrupt but have longer-term impacts, like natural disasters. Travel advisories are frequently issued, whether it’s a short-term impact or an extended risk involved in traveling to an area, like ongoing political unrest. We’ve pulled together information on four ways you can use travel advisory data to help your travelers.

For emerging situations, Egencia proactively posts daily alerts for travel managers on the Egencia homepage and in Travel News. This allows travel managers to update their travel policy in near real-time to keep travelers informed of any changes. Egencia also pushes detailed alerts to travelers on the Egencia mobile app within an hour of when an event has happened or is expected to occur.

For ongoing risk, travel managers have the ability to flag certain regions or destinations as out of policy, which we’ll talk more about below.

And then there are novel situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, where the risk is complex, and highly fluid. Egencia® Travel Advisor gives travelers, arrangers and travel managers on-demand access to up-to-date information on regulations and requirements for travel based on origin, destination and country issue of passport so travelers can make informed decisions in the moment.

 

International travel considerations that may impact business travelers’ wellbeing.

Trips to foreign countries can bring a whole host of additional factors regarding business travelers’ wellbeing. Considerations around cultural norms (like behavior and dress), views of gender roles and sexual orientation, and language barriers all come in to play, along with practical considerations like jet lag.

Travel managers can help to educate and inform their travelers by creating regional guides about cultural norms and expectations. One way to easily distribute this information is through customized messages in the booking experience.

Travel managers can also consider easing travelers’ stress by amending their travel policy to allow for a higher class of travel on long-haul flights, for example, or extend a trip to include a day off to recover from trips with flights over a certain distance or time threshold. Your policy could also include reimbursement for any health screening or testing mandated before departure or upon return.

 

Build a strategy and processes to enhance wellbeing

Once a risk assessment has been done, it’s time to update your travel policy to reflect the findings. Travel risk management best practices include maintaining the traditional elements of duty of care — practices that help keep travelers safe and accounted for — and additional measures related to traveler wellbeing as a whole.

According to a poll conducted by Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), 56% of travel buyers have revised their travel policy to better reflect the needs of this new era. This includes 53% adding new rules about pre-trip approval, 35% providing more detailed pre-trip communications, and 22% changing rules about ticket credits.

But that same poll also uncovered the fact that discomfort — in the form of poor internet service, flying economy for long-haul flights, and the inconvenience of indirect flights, for instance — ranked as top stressors for frequent business travelers. So, the importance of addressing the softer elements of traveler wellbeing as a factor in reducing travelers’ stress and anxiety shouldn’t be overlooked.

Here’s how you can build wellbeing into your travel policy:

Balance flexibility with control. Empowered travelers are happier travelers. While flexibility and policy compliance are sometimes seen as mutually exclusive, travel managers can accomplish both. Consider setting overall travel and security policy guidelines and using traveler group and exception settings to allow for more comfort in certain situations.

For example, adding a cabin class exception based on flight duration or specific routes will reduce the stress of long-haul flights. And increasing hotel rate cap — either overall or based on season or region — will allow travelers to factor additional variables into their choice, like health and hygiene practices or free high-speed Wi-Fi. These types of adjustments reinforce that you’re looking out for your travelers’ best interests.

Build traveler safety, security, and comfort into every step of the journey. Business travel isn’t only about being on the road. It’s about the entire experience from planning and booking travel and understanding advisories for your trip to being supported on the road and ensuring a smooth return home. Here are ways to make your travelers feel cared for every step of the way:

Pre-travel — empowering traveling employees with knowledge and guidance during the booking process

  • Intuitive booking experience across devices. Asking travelers to use a variety of clunky apps to book travel or to go through lengthy offline processes can be frustrating. A familiar, intuitive experience, on the other hand, alleviates stress. Egencia booking works in the same way that people book vacations, with a seamless experience across devices.
  • Traveler-centric search results. It’s a hassle — and a waste of time — to scroll through pages of search results when trying to book a trip. With Egencia Smart Mix technology, search results are prioritized based on intelligent weighting of variables like layover time and bag costs. It uses machine learning, based on travelers’ previous choices — and their colleagues — to continuously improve what travelers see. With Smart Mix, our customers skip the scroll and, on average, book hotels within four minutes and flights, trains, and car rental in less than five minutes.
  • Built-in policy guidance. The last thing travelers need (or want) is to have to memorize a lengthy set of travel policies. What’s more, situations are so fluid these days that travel policy is — or should be — continually updated. Having a travel solution that allows travel managers to quickly and easily update policy settings, and that flags out of policy choices in the search results, will help travelers make smarter, more compliant choices without additional time or effort on their part.
  • Streamlined approval processes. Travel risk management programs are meant to support travelers, but a lengthy or complicated approval process can add unneeded hassle. Egencia offers plenty of flexibility for setting your approval requirements, from granular trip-level approval and project- or group-level approval to out-of-policy only approval. For instance, if a traveler wants to book a trip to a destination flagged as out of policy, travel managers can choose settings that will trigger an approval request and ask for a reason for travel. Simplifying things even more, trips can be approved on any device.
  • Up-to-date travel information. It’s important for travelers to feel well-informed if they’re going to feel confident about travel. When they’re booking, they’ll see personalized, relevant alerts and advisories. And they have on-demand access to the Egencia® Travel Advisor to see all current information on requirements, restrictions, and guidelines concerning COVID-19 related and other advisories for their destination. To get what they need to know, travelers simply enter their origin and destination. Travel Advisor also makes it easier for travel managers to bolster their duty of care programs and travel policies. And travelers can still check for pertinent travel alerts on the Egencia homepage.
  • Relevant hotel and supplier updates. Another way to empower travelers is by giving them access to supplier-specific information regarding health and hygiene practices right in the search results. Having this level of transparency built right into the booking process makes it easier for travelers to make informed choices they feel comfortable with.

On the road — keeping travelers feeling safe, secure, and cared for while traveling

  • Let travelers control their itinerary. When situations are fluid, whether due to global concerns or individual plans, giving travelers the ability to cancel and rebook quickly and easily on their own is an important way to alleviate stress. Egencia enables travelers to cancel or change their airline, hotel, and rail reservations right on the website, mobile app or chat and logs credit for unused flights for later use.
  • Empower travelers on their mobile devices. According to data from Spend Journal, over 70% of travelers in the U.S. always use their mobile phones while traveling. This means travelers should have full control of their trip at their fingertips.
    The Egencia mobile app allows travelers to access all the information about their itinerary in one place, make changes to their itinerary, receive travel alerts, and even make smart decisions about ground travel. Our mobile app will show how long it takes to get from one point to another for several different modes of transport — train, bus, walking or Uber — so travelers have the flexibility to make the best choice.
  • Taking care of details behind the scenes. When a traveler is delayed en route, the last thing they want to do is have to deal with rerouting a connecting flight or rebooking a hotel. Egencia travel experts are constantly monitoring travel disruptions and proactively adjust itineraries for travelers on the road.
  • Provide real-time travel alerts. When crisis strikes or is on the horizon, it’s important travelers are immediately informed. Our crisis communications team keeps travel managers and travelers abreast of any disruptions to an itinerary through instant messaging on their phones and in the mobile app.
  • Make it easy to get in-person help. No matter how robust the technology, there are still times when travelers want the reassurance of speaking to a human being. With Egencia, it’s as easy as tapping the AssistMe button in the mobile app for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year in more than 60 countries in over 30 languages.
  • On-demand support with Egencia chat. Our AI-powered virtual agent empowers travelers to quickly amend their reservations, including past and cancelled bookings. Chat can help increase your travelers’ confidence with proactive virtual agent notifications of trip-related advisories. Travelers can also transfer their online chat to a live chat with an Egencia travel consultant.
  • Be able to contact travelers in the event of an emergency. In case of crisis, it’s crucial that you have the ability to identify travelers whose trips may be disrupted or are at risk. With Egencia Traveler Tracker, travel managers can search bookings by country, city or region. Expanded data filtering capabilities include the ability to search by name and bookings made on one or several airlines using marketing and code share information. You can download the reports for easy analysis, send emails or emergency push notifications to travelers, and get read receipts.

Upon return — removing the stress post-trip

  • Give travelers the ability to freely share feedback. One important element to traveler wellbeing, especially in today’s world, is making sure travelers feel heard. Putting a post-travel survey into practice will provide a venue for travelers to share their thoughts on how to make the entire travel process a smoother, safer one.

    Maybe they felt unsafe having to take mass transit and would prefer a larger per diem that would allow for taxis or private cars. Or maybe they would feel more comfortable booking a flight with an airline that’s blocking middle seats. This type of real-world data will help inform travel policy decisions so travel managers can be sure they’re serving travelers’ needs.
  • Streamline expense reporting. One of the biggest headaches travelers face upon return is expense reporting. With Egencia, trip expenses incurred when booking on our platform are in one place to greatly reduce time and hassle when it comes to expense reporting.
  • Easily access travel data. Traveler Tracker allows travel managers to identify where travelers are in real-time. You can view current bookings and up to 30 days of prior travel information. This helps to inform your risk reporting and contact tracing, if that’s needed. Traveler Tracker also lets travel managers look at trips planned for a specific date range or for any future 30-day time period.
  • Make it easy to apply airline waivers and unused tickets. When travelers have to change or cancel a flight, they shouldn’t have to go through the hassle of managing vouchers or jumping through tedious hoops to recoup unused tickets. Egencia makes it easy to apply credit from unused tickets to new bookings, displaying credits right in the search results.

Additional wellness support. What are the other ways you can support your employees in this new era of business travel? Travel managers can consider sending a company-wide poll asking employees to rank, according to priority of importance, a list of potential ways for enhancing their personal safety and wellbeing. Here are some options:

  • Free Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits. If hygiene and health are a high concern to your travelers, consider offering them free PPE kits before they travel. Kits can include hand sanitizer, at least three disposable face masks, sanitizing wipes, and a pre-travel safety checklist. Many companies are considering these kits as standard issue as laptops these days.
  • Free testing. If a traveler returns from a trip concerned that they may have been exposed, consider offering reimbursement for COVID-19 testing.
  • Bleisure. Business travelers often lament that they’ve been to a destination for back-to-back meetings, but never really experienced the place. Allowing travelers to add additional vacation days or a weekend stay to a business trip will give them the chance to enjoy where they are and alleviate overall stress.
  • Wellness apps. In a GBTA study, poor diet and lack of exercise ranked high in stressors travelers feel. We’ve compiled some tips to help keep your business travelers healthy on the road and recommend compiling a list of recommended wellness apps for travelers and reimbursing any premium costs.
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Communicate your risk management program

We’ve built communication loops into several of the suggestions above, which is crucial
when it comes to serving travelers because travel managers need to know what travelers
want so that they can deliver it to them.

But it’s also important to clearly and continually communicate all of the benefits
already available to travelers through your travel program.

Here are key messages to get across to travelers to make sure they’re aware of all that’s available to them:

Travel safety tips. Give travelers a pre-trip checklist for how to stay safe on the road. Here are examples of reminders to include:

  • Make sure your phone is approved for international roaming
  • Turn on notifications in the Egencia mobile app
  • Pack hand sanitizers, masks, and disinfectant wipes or the PPE kit you’ve been provided
  • For travel when infection is a concern, the CDC recommends following these basic guidelines:
    - Wear a mask in all public settings like airports, train stations and on public transportation
    - Keep six feet (about 2 arms’ length) away from others even when wearing a mask
    - Avoid crowds
    - Wash your hands often, and for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer
    - Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Mobile app. Our app puts the power to book, manage and view business trips in the palm of travelers’ hands. Send travelers a prompt to download it on their mobile phones (available on Apple and Android), along with a reminder of all they can do with it, including:

  • Access itineraries, receipts and get assistance.
    Easily change or cancel your travel plans with personalized searches, easy filtering and a clear display of available amenities.
  • Compare ground transport options and find the best way to get where you need to go.
  • Get better value for a lower price with special hotel rates — up to 70% less — and additional amenities available exclusively on the mobile app.
  • View and streamline payments with mobile expense reporting and receipt management.
  • Get fast access to a travel consultant — anywhere at any time, just by tapping the AssistMe button in the mobile app.

Personal safety and security. Some travel destinations could have a higher level of crime like pickpocketing. Provide guidelines to protect your business travelers by advising them how to guard their belongings or how they can avoid unsecure internet connections.

Lean into your TMC. We’re here to support travel managers with communication toolkits, helpful travel program relaunch tips, and a full suite of business travel solutions to keep your travelers engaged and satisfied.

Partner with the right travel management company

Your travel management company (TMC) is a big part of your corporate traveler wellbeing strategy. A TMC that’s simply a booking app will miss the mark when personal help and reassurance is needed. A legacy TMC without robust digital capabilities means travelers aren’t as empowered as they should be.

Egencia is a trusted source for both sides of the equation, and beyond. The combination of world-class people, partners, and a global travel management platform is why International Data Corporation (IDC) — the leader in market intelligence for the IT, telecommunications, and consumer technology fields — named Egencia a leader in the field of cloud-enabled corporate travel booking applications.

Now, more than ever, equipping travelers with cutting-edge digital capabilities backed by world-class support is key to optimizing travelers’ wellbeing, making them feel in control, knowledgeable, and cared for every step of the way.

Looking for better business travel solutions? Get in touch with us.