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The Travel Manager Priority That Business Travelers Will Endorse

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Business travelers and travel managers each have their own priorities, but everyone agrees that the travel experience itself could use improvement.

— Hannah Sampson

Comparing the wish lists of corporate travel managers and business travelers reveals a major point of agreement — travel could be better — and a wide range of other areas where travel management companies could improve.

A study by the Global Business Travel Association based on surveys of both groups shows that travel managers said improving the traveler experience was one of their top priorities for the next five years. Business travelers said making travel more convenient was a major concern.

That result — at least from the travel manager side — came as a surprise to Joe Bates, vice president of research for the business travel and meetings trade organization.

“That’s always a tough area, simply because the travel manager has to balance traveler convenience with cost controls or cost savings for the company,” he said.

Bates said he believes corporate travel management is evolving because many companies have already become adept at saving money on travel programs.

There’s a new question for companies to consider, he said: “How can we make our travelers happier? Maybe we can reduce turnover and save our companies money that way.”

Travel managers are still worried about cost savings, according to the survey. Just over half of those managers who responded said that they wanted their outside travel management company to help them achieve better cost savings. The most-wanted improvement from travel managers was in data analysis and performance measurement.

“They have all the data they could need, but now they don’t know what to do with all the data,” Bates said. “Travel managers aren’t by nature statisticians or mathematicians; that’s why they need a lot of help from the experts. Travel managers need data because they have to prove they’re saving the company money; that’s where they’re having a pain point right now.”

For business travelers, major pain points revolved around convenience. The top request was for travel — including flight times, hotel locations and number of layovers — to be more convenient. Travelers also said they wanted to more easily be able to change or modify plans on short notice and said the booking process needed improvement.

Bates said the study, which was released late last year, was the association’s first to examine travel management companies from the perspective of both travel managers and business travelers.

Travel management companies “play such an important part in the business travel chain,” he said. “We really wanted to understand where they could improve.”

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