Running a successful global travel program

The fundamentals of running a successful global travel program

Moving from a locally managed to a globally managed travel program makes perfect sense for global organizations. The consolidation into one booking tool and the simplification of data collection are among the major benefits, but it may still seem like a daunting exercise. Organizations must consider multiple factors, from traveler well-being and cost savings to communication and policy.

At the Business Travel Show, held in London, three senior corporate travel and procurement managers gave advice on how to best manage global travel programs during the panel discussion “The fundamentals of running a successful multi-country travel program — from a travel management and procurement perspective.”

Build a global framework with local nuances 

If your multinational company is managing travel across numerous providers in multiple countries, it’s time to consider moving to one global travel management company (TMC).  A global TMC can support you worldwide and dramatically improve efficiency.

“We saw the need to start simplifying – rather than use separate suppliers where there are synergies, we put Europe together [and] then global,” Ana Gibson, GB supply manager at Hilti GB Ltd., said,

Using your global scale and volume of travel can help buyers deliver huge savings and strengthen negotiations with suppliers. Once suppliers see the reported numbers — thousands of room nights and flights all in one view — it can give buyers the upper hand in negotiations.

It’s important to remember that not all routes and locations can be covered by a globally negotiated contract. Consider whether you can move to an 80 percent globally negotiated contract and keep 20 percent for your local teams to negotiate. While it can be tempting to streamline processes globally, local nuances should also be considered.

Gibson explained that “it’s a global process, but don’t make it a dictatorship. Remember that you have different cultures that you need to bring into it… People will not be able to follow your travel program if they don’t have that flexibility.”

Take cost savings and traveler satisfaction into account

It’s important to consider cost savings and traveler satisfaction when moving to a global travel program. Your CFO may be focused on the bottom line, but there’s more to consider than travel spend. Unhappy travelers can have a huge impact on your business.

“If you put travelers in a hotel that they are not comfortable in, then after the third night they might ask themselves ‘What am I doing here? Did I choose the right job?’ Of course, the company might save money, but if people are unhappy, they are leaving or are unproductive,” Dr. Christian Spieker, head of corporate services at ZEB, said.

Unhappy travelers can often mean noncompliant travelers, so communication is key. Each of the panelists prioritized communicating with their travelers through surveys, the company’s intranet and educational content.

“You have to listen to your people. There is no one truth,” Spieker said.

Allowing travelers the simplicity of booking in one tool with a well-defined, integrated policy makes it easier for users to stay compliant. When travelers book ad-hoc trips on different platforms it affects reporting and negotiating power and puts travelers at risk because it’s difficult to track where they are. Egencia allows policy to be embedded in the booking tool which promotes compliance.

“Everyone uses the same system, no matter where, or their role – 96 percent [of travel is] done online in the booking tool,” Spieker said.

When building a global travel policy, you need to consider your company culture and the cultural nuances of every region you operate in.

“Talk to [your travelers] and say, ‘We have to find a mixture of expectations.’ A German traveler in London might say the rooms are too small and too expensive and vice versa,” Spieker said.

How to make the move

To get started, Gibson suggested keeping your processes simple. “Understand what you want to achieve when moving from local to global before you do. Unless you know that, you are not going to put the right framework into place.”

Moving to a globally managed program will involve a number of stakeholders – whether it’s travelers, travel arrangers or local travel managers. Your strategy can easily be derailed if you don’t secure the mandate from management. The panel agreed that it’s important to show the numbers. What is the return on investment? How many deals must be closed to make that flight worthwhile? And while it’s harder to measure, how do you show the impact of traveler satisfaction on the company’s success?

Your company culture can also dictate how to best sell your strategy within your organization. If your company culture is cost-conscious, show them numbers and calculate the ROI. If the focus is on employee well-being, show them how the global experience, with local nuances, can support traveler satisfaction and safety.

Study and understand the different countries in your travel program and take their views into account when you start to design your new program. Spieker recommended to “involve people and make them aware of what you are doing.” If stakeholders other than the C-suite are involved early on, you can expect less pushback on your strategy and build in the local nuances that make your global program successful.

Finally, select a travel partner that’s flexible enough to adjust to your needs. Ask yourself, can they cover all the regions in your company? Can they serve your travelers locally? Can they provide the global reports you need? Can they support you over the next few years if your company grows?