With hotels ramping up direct booking campaigns and corporate travelers often booking their rooms in the same manner as their leisure trips (i.e., through online travel agencies or via hotel websites), your traveling employees have many reasons for going rogue. Just take a look at American Express Global Business Travel’s (GBT) recent “Traveler 360°” report highlighting the behaviors of travelers from around the world and you’ll see they have many excuses for straying.
While all these out-of-policy bookings may have travel managers thinking about giving up the hotel attachment fight, there are many reasons they shouldn’t.
For starters, a higher hotel compliance rate can help with your cost-savings objectives. When more travelers book through company-approved channels — and at the negotiated rate the procurement manager has fought so hard to obtain — it can mean a significant reduction in annual T&E spend.
Having travelers make in-policy bookings also is vital for reporting and analytics, helping you to understand if you are in fact obtaining the best available room rates from your preferred suppliers, giving you a more accurate picture of your total spend and allowing you to identify which properties are the most impactful to your program. All this data then can be used to improve your negotiating ability with suppliers.
When your travelers book within policy, it also makes it easier to fulfill your duty of care obligations since you will have increased visibility into where your travelers are staying if some kind of emergency occurs.
In fact, with just a few simple changes, one of our clients, a global technology company, was able to get its hotel compliance rate up to nearly 100 percent in the United States when previously only two out of three bookings were compliant. How?
First, it began a campaign to educate its employees on the importance of including a hotel reservation by adding a reminder in the online booking tool (OBT) to pop up when travelers made their air reservations. It also began collecting a custom hotel reason code during online and offline travel bookings to learn why travelers omitted a hotel reservation when booking a flight. Those who gave an answer like “I plan to book my hotel later” would receive a follow-up message from the travel team encouraging them to make their reservation promptly. From that step alone, there was an 11 percent bump in compliant hotel bookings.
The client also ensured new employees were being educated about the proper protocols from day one, reinforcing to them the importance of reserving their hotel with each overnight air reservation during onboarding and OBT training sessions.
Because of this and other initiatives (which you can read about here), the client was able to achieve a 100 percent hotel compliance rate in the United States (excluding hotel stays for corporate meetings and events with room blocks, an acceptable reason) and to significantly increase in-program bookings worldwide. All this translated into an estimated cost savings of $1.4 million in 2017 alone.
Meanwhile, another client, an HR management software and services leader, took a totally different approach: implementing a universal booking mandate that required employees to book all overnight accommodations through American Express GBT. To make travelers aware of the change, the travel team posted the updated policy on its company intranet sites and OBTs across all regions where it has operations and launched a quarterly newsletter that in addition to news and hints included incentives to encourage employees to book their air and hotel reservations together. Additionally, American Express GBT supplied the clients with daily reports on bookings that didn’t incorporate hotel stays and, with the client’s support, followed up individually with travelers who had not included a hotel in their reservations to prompt them to do so.
The company also discovered that a large portion of its out-of-policy stays was connected to employees visiting company locations in the Philippines and India who were relying on local administrative assistants to make hotel reservations for them instead of using the OBT. The client was able to halt this behavior by instructing administrative assistants to refrain from booking on visiting employees’ behalf and requiring the travelers to do so themselves.
As you can read more about here, within a year, the number of compliant overnight bookings grew by 30 percent, which in turn reduced the cost of the nightly hotel rate and saved the company nearly $185,000.
So you see, steering your travelers toward in-program hotel bookings need not be difficult. And there are multiple other avenues to getting there, whether you adopt a to pull up travelers’ in-policy preferences in seconds (making noncompliance simply inexcusable) to sending business unit and department leaders compliance reports so they also can get involved in correcting rogue behavior.