Travel Daily UK interviews David Chapple, Event Director, Business Travel Show...
Wellbeing is one of those words that was practically unused in business a decade ago. Now, however, it is omnipresent. At the Business Travel Show offices, we recently had a whole week focused on wellbeing, with employees invited to take part in everything from positivity sessions to discounted lunches and free Pilates classes, the idea being that providing staff with attractive benefits like pensions, free fruit and gym membership improves their mental and physical health, making them happier, more productive and more loyal employees.
This culture shift towards focusing on what’s good for the employee based on the understanding it will also (eventually) be good for the organisation and its bottom line, is gradually being embraced in the corporate travel world, too.
In recent years, travel managers have been under intense pressure to cut costs, spend smarter and get more for less to the point where many have squeezed suppliers for everything they’re worth and there are no more savings to be had. Hence, they are now realising price can’t always take priority and are shifting towards adopting a more ‘traveller-centric’ mindset.
What on earth is travellercentricity?
Good question. Travellercentricity is about taking travellers’ needs into consideration when creating and communicating a corporate travel policy. By understanding what travellers value most from the travel experience, organisations can better manage and meet their expectations. Rather than simply enforcing policy on travellers, a travellercentric business will find out first what works for them and what doesn’t. After all, an unhappy business traveller is also likely to be an unproductive, low-performing, disgruntled employee.
For travel managers with thousands of road warriors under their charge, travellercentricity may sound like an invitation for chaos and loss of control. It really isn’t. Being travellercentric could be as basic as listening to your travellers, consulting them and communicating with them about their preferences.
It doesn’t require travel managers to rip up the rule book. It could be that an organisation’s policy remains unchanged, but travellers are given added extras like lounge passes, fast track security, a day off after an extended long-haul trip, access to an app to streamline their expense claims or flights that don’t require a 4am start.
More progressive organisations may choose to take things further still and give travellers the choice and flexibility to spend individual budgets however they choose; so if they prefer to travel in business and stay in an Airbnb, they can, and if they’d rather travel economy and book a plush four-star hotel, that’s fine, too. As long as they stay under budget and policy doesn’t suffer then it really is a win-win situation for both travellers and travel managers.
Companies adopting a people-first approach are seen as more progressive, caring, understanding, flexible and empowering; just some of the qualities proven to increase engagement, motivation, retention, loyalty and – interestingly for travel managers – compliance.
With this in mind, it’s interesting that not all organisations have welcomed travellercentricity with open arms – some travel managers still feel more comfortable retaining complete control over budgets, policy, suppliers and travellers, which is understandable. Change can be scary, as can travelling outside your comfort zone. But if I were a betting man, I would happily put a fiver on ‘travellercentric’ being as widely used in the next decade as wellbeing has become in the last.