Skift Take

Smaller companies are using new solutions to incentivize employees to make smarter travel buying decisions. Big companies with entrenched travel policies are lagging behind, and wasting money in the process.

Encouraging business travelers to make the right travel buying decisions has long been a challenge from the perspective of both their companies and travel management companies tasked with implementing an appropriate travel policy.

Companies like Rocketrip and Upside offer a set of solutions that essentially pay travelers to buy travel that saves their company money, and small-to-mid-size companies are beginning to embrace the idea that incentives change the behavior of business travelers

When Skift spoke to Priceline founder Jay Walker about the upcoming launch of his incentive-based business travel service Upside, he said that merely providing the option to earn money or gift cards provides ample incentive to most business travelers.

“When you offer value to people, at certain prices certain people start to bother [taking up your offers],” said Walker. “It’s not that I’m a $100 person, and you’re a $200 person. It all depends on what trip, and what’s going on in your life. The fact of the matter is that for the vast majority of Americans who travel, $150, which is what our VIPs are guaranteed to get, is a lot of money when you can use it at Amazon or Target or on a gas card. That’s real money to people.”

Skift spoke to two companies that have recently implemented incentive-based solutions from Rocketrip to help manage business travel spending.

One company which recently adopted Rocketrip found that it was effective in shifting traveler behavior without making them feel like they are being forced to make decisions contrary to their own comfort.

“People were booking trips relateively helter skelter,” said Dan Figenshu, senior vice president of finance at media company Mic Networks. “By putting the rewards in place, now people were being much more thoughtful about the trip they were taking in the first place.”

In terms of changing company culture surrounding travel, Figenshu thinks that those who embraced the travel rewards help bring along those who were more hesitant to try Rocketrip.

“When we announced it, some people immediately got it, other people were wait and see,” said Figenshu. “There is a group thats saying there is an extra step in here, I have to create a budget. The reality was they were saving time compared to when we forced them to use Concur… This definitely is the carrot instead of the stick.”

Now, Mic’s travel program is sustainable and operates effectively without having to be overseen.

This seems to be one of the crucial benefits for small, growing companies to adopt behavior-based corporate travel solutions; corporate leadership is freed to up focus on important things instead of how to constrain spending on travel.

Bigger companies can also use services like Rocketrip, which can tie in to an existing travel policy through a travel management company.

“For young companies that are not bound by the idea of what corporate travel has been, this makes a lot of sense,” said Charlie Mayer, vice president of operations and investor relations at Opower, which provides a customer engagement platform to utility companies. “It’s getting every traveler to think of the company’s money as they think about their own money. For young tech companies this is an easy sell. The more complicated conversations are with big companies in many cases, and corporate travel managers still really need to be convinced… I guess this is different if you’re an oil company sending hundreds of employees to war zones.”


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Tags: business travel, rocketrip, upside

Photo credit: Hotel employees at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. Dan Peltier / Skift

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