By Charlotte Griveaud, senior product marketing manager
When you manage travel for an international business, your days are probably never typical. One day, your head of sales, Hans, might need to book rail reservations to take his team from Dusseldorf to Berlin for a department-wide meeting. Another day Sally, your vice president’s executive assistant, may need to fly two members of the leadership team from New York City to Buffalo for a day trip to tour a plant. How should each of these trips be arranged? Chances are, Hans and Sally have different needs that reflect local travel and traveler expectations. These nuances can affect the design and function of a global corporate travel program.
Local content in a global travel program
The old saying, “Think global, act local,” is most apt in the context of managing global corporate travel. Your employees live in places that have unique travel and cultural nuances. Whether they’re traveling to a city that’s nearby or internationally, they have expectations of a seamless, locally relevant experience. A travel program that recognizes local variances and what travelers want contributes to a positive business travel experience. This is good for your organization — traveler satisfaction can help you facilitate a higher level of compliance.
Why meeting local content needs matters
Local adaptation can help you ensure your travel program is meeting travelers’ unique needs. For example, two trips may look similar on the surface, but the individual travelers may have very different ideas about how to get from A to B. For Hans, Berlin is 564 kilometers away. Should he fly his team there or would rail be the better choice? Sally’s travelers will journey about the same distance from New York City to Buffalo as Hans’ team will travel from Berlin to Dusseldorf, approximately 374 miles. But, because Sally’s travelers don’t want to spend the night in Buffalo, she needs to find a flight schedule that allows her team to fly in and out the same day.
Hans’ team would benefit by taking the train to Berlin. Even though it’s a four-and-a-half-hour ride, the team members can work together while they’re traveling. The flight is only an hour, but by the time everyone gets on and off the plane, they’ll have spent almost as much time as they would have on the train and will have lost the opportunity to collaborate. Even if the train costs more, having an entire team avoid the loss of productivity can easily support a return on the investment.
For Sally, it’s ideal if she can select a flight from a regional airline that offers the best fares and schedules on the NYC-to-Buffalo run. Access to robust regional flight schedules means Sally’s travelers can stay more productive by being able to quickly get to their meeting and return the same day without losing an extra day to travel.
Your global travel program should offer Sally and Hans local choices. Offering local options to your travel arrangers and travelers helps you optimize your travel spend while simultaneously increasing compliance and providing the best travel experience for everyone.
One platform for any travel program, anywhere
We recognize a global travel program is not one size fits all. Having that insight helped us develop a business travel platform that delivers a global travel program with support for local preferences and norms. Part of this is functional, involving content, currencies, and so forth. It’s also cultural.
Details can make a difference in certain cultural contexts. For example, applying a uniform car rental policy across multiple regions could be a business mistake. In some countries, if an executive or salesperson shows up to a meeting driving an economy car (per company travel policy), it might give the appearance that your company is overly frugal or worse, unsuccessful.
In other areas, understanding and accommodating traveler expectations and comfort may help support traveler productivity. A traveler new to London might be shocked at the small size of his hotel room for the price he’s paying. He might feel unable to do any work in that room, while a UK-based employee might not have this issue. Your travel management solution must be adaptable to traveler expectations that affect your travelers productivity and your business outcomes.
Local language customer service, currencies, and metrics
Making sure your travelers can access the right type of booking is important, but so is ensuring they get the right level of support, whether it’s local or global. We speak your travelers’ language — literally. We have customer service agents in over 66 countries who speak more than 30 different languages. The self-help capabilities of our app are also multi-lingual.
To make booking easier, our platform and the app display fares in a variety of local currencies. Metrics also reflect local custom. Sally doesn’t want to see the distance from Manhattan to Buffalo in kilometers when it’s a cultural norm for her to measure distance in miles.
Respecting local nuances
Local content is another critical element of running a global travel program that respects local expectations. In the Hans/Sally comparison, you can see the importance of showing rail options for people traveling in Europe. The US regional airline that Sally wants to book flights on is part of the same story. We provide direct connections to multiple airlines around the world. This gives your travelers a choice of air carriers, even when those routes aren’t available through the SABRE global distribution system (GDS).
We take on the responsibility of keeping up with local content so you don’t have to. In the UK we negotiated a discount for Premier Inn, a hotel chain many of our customers consider essential for economical business travel. For travelers in Sweden, we simplified the process of booking ground transportation with taxi and bus options. Our customers in the UK and France can speed up their car rental experience by using the platform to arrange for a rental car to be picked up or dropped off at a location other than the car rental agency site.
For travelers negotiating the fragmented and local-centric rail lines, we created online booking tools for the US, UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Sweden that reduce the challenges of booking with rail services that don’t have online reservation systems. Our global rail management solution allows your travelers to see specific local details for rail travel, such as availability of a UK day travel card.
A global network of suppliers powers travel for customers, locally
In more than 10 years, we’ve built a growing network of partners and suppliers at a global and local level to ensure every travel need is met. Our network means that we can cover over 30,000 cities in 200 countries with options that are relevant to our customers. When it comes to hotels, we have more than 2,000 market managers who are dedicated to getting the best business travel rates for you, whether your travelers are booking global hotel chains or local boutique properties.
Impacts of local content
Working with a large number of global organizations, we’ve seen how paying attention to localization leads to increased compliance for our customers. When your business travelers have the most appropriate, familiar and economical local options for booking travel, they’ll gravitate toward them. Implementing local nuances translates into consistency in booking regardless of traveler location.