Expert insight

Does your travel policy cater for different groups of business travellers?

4 April 2018

Forget about tailoring travel programmes to millennials. Travel policies need to be flexible and cater for different personas instead. 

There are clearly many behavioural trends around millennials in relation to leisure travel, but there is a blur when transposing these trends to business travel – perhaps because business travel is dictated by a corporation’s budget instead of an individual’s budget.

Rather than focusing on millennials, however, I believe organisations should group their business travellers together by ‘persona’. By 2020, millennials will be the largest demographic in the workforce, and I think organisations won’t worry about age demographics in the future. They will create personas around the behaviours that certain groups display, so in this way you could argue that organisations need traveller policies, rather than travel policies.

Should organisations offer ‘bleisure’?

Take the trend of ‘bleisure’ – adding leisure time onto the beginning or end of a business trip. Is that driven by age? If you don’t have dependents, you may have more time for leisure travel; however, this could equally be someone younger or someone older whose kids have left home.

The phenomenon of bleisure requires a different approach to the way policies are applied. How would business travellers pay the company back? Most systems don’t allow travellers to add on, say, two nights, so processes would need to change to give them that ability.

You also then have liability and safety. Say a business traveller extends a trip to China. Is the company then still responsible for them? Or are they personally liable? At the same time, companies have a responsibility to educate and inform newer and more vulnerable travellers, and ensure they are preplanning and conscious of any dangers.

Does bleisure make economic sense?

There is another lens you can look through, however. Say an employee adds a weekend stay to their business trip; they might be in better shape after it. So do you focus on the trip cost rather than the individual items? A business traveller might have stayed an extra two nights, but as a result they are more productive. They may have even accessed a cheaper airfare as they travelled over the weekend. It’s thinking less about the unit costs and more about the total trip cost.

Adapting your travel programme for the sharing economy

An organisation may have a group of travellers who are more willing to try new and creative things. Airbnb and other sharing economy type providers have been driven by millennials, who I think are more social in their attitudes.

I think you have more opportunity with exploratory persona groups to introduce new ways of doing things, whether it’s different types of accommodation or car sharing, as their minds are like parachutes.

Again, you have got to think about how this impacts your travel programme. If you don’t embrace this type of accommodation, is there a danger of non-compliance or will people spend more money than they need to?

If people are trawling around trying to find the best value in their home lives, they will also do this in their working lives. Organisations should encourage this culture. Business travellers need access to the same kind of content, and organisations need to build programmes that are responsive to those needs.

Using a different style of network also means that you not only have to plan for your policy, but also for your supply chain. You need to think about what your preferred partners are going to look like in five years’ time, and you may find that they are different to the ones you are dealing with today.

Is change coming?

I’ve not seen a significant change in thinking around travel policies and tailoring them to different personas, and it would require a broad shift on the part of organisations.

Where I have seen a shift is in organisations looking at travel benefits as a way to attract new talent. Some major accountancy firms, where the profile of the organisation is lower, are vying for talent by using incentives around travel. This isn’t about millennials as much as it is about talent traction – good-quality travel equals a retention tool for them.

Flexible travel policies that cater for different groups of business travellers could likewise act as a retention tool.

For more information on adapting your travel programme, contact our experts at Capita Travel and Events.

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