There's a gap between what travel buyers believe travelers want from overnight stays and what travelers actually seek. RoomIt and GBTA recently launched a survey to identify what is making up this gap, and why it doesn’t seem to be going away. Unsurprisingly, many of the misunderstandings identified in the survey were about how to improve compliance and traveler satisfaction.
Seven in ten travel buyers say enforcing traveler compliance is the most challenging aspect of managing a travel program, which makes sense given only about 52% of travelers say they always book hotels that follow company policies. While many travel buyers wished travelers knew they had their needs in mind when designing travel policies, 65% of business travelers still feel their policy could be better suited to the reality of their needs.
So why does this gap exist? Here are four reasons.
1. Limited choice
Increasing accommodation choice within corporate tools is the best way to show travelers you are listening to their concerns. 35% of travelers said they hate having to book corporate rates that are higher than what they can find on their own. Increasing accommodation choice within your booking tools allows travelers to do the comparison shopping they are accustomed to right within the appropriate channels.
2. Lack of loyalty
Travelers identified loyalty points as a major reason behind their out of policy bookings, yet 9 out of 10 travel buyers surveyed said they never or only occasionally allowed the booking of more expensive rates if key amenities like loyalty are included. Furthermore, less than a third of travel buyers always or often use loyalty points or loyalty status match to drive compliance, and there are easy, free ways to do this.
3. Uninformed Travelers
A major contributor to this gap is the education, or lack-there-of, about travel policies. Many companies believe they are doing a sufficient job, but travelers continue to show low familiarity. For example, only 34% of travelers surveyed knew about required booking channels despite the fact that 80% of companies have booking channel requirements.
More than 1 in 5 travelers say they accidentally book out of policy, because they feel the policy is unclear. Non-compliance is often blamed on traveler behaviors, but when more than 20% of travelers try and fail to follow directions, it may be time to reassess.
Cancellation remains a contentious point among travelers and travel managers, yet one third of companies do not address cancellation in their travel policies at all. Other concerns worth detailing in your policy are whether preferred rates or the cheapest rates should be booked, and if all properties within pricing guidelines are considered in policy.
After clarifying your policies the next step is to effectively communicate them. If the only time you are communicating is during onboarding, or when bookings and expenses are not approved, it is time to think about communicating in your travel tools or with marketing campaigns via your travel department.
A simple way to improve communication is to use automated tools like Program Messenger and Missing Hotel Email, which allow you to send templated emails reminding employees of preferred hotels and congratulating them for compliant bookings.
4. Non-traveler focused programs
Stress inevitably accompanies travel, and there are many ways travelers seek to combat this stress. Among the most desired stress-relieving activities identified by business travelers were work-out classes, food delivery, and watching on-demand movies. Many companies do not allow these activities to be expensed, but expanding travel expense rules to incorporate some of these things may be the best way to improve traveler satisfaction.
Although the gap between travel buyers and their travelers is still very wide, a simple change of mind and behavior, along with a concerted effort to clarify policies, can help to bridge this gap leading to happier travelers who are booking more of the right rooms in the right way.
Blog author: Peggy Studer, Vice President Marketing, RoomIt by CWT