5 Tips to Innovate your 2020 Travel Program

Business Travel is booming, and while growth may be down from 2019, costs continue to increase. As a travel manager, you’re likely faced with a growing list of critical responsibilities just to keep your head above water. It may be difficult to find the time to focus on innovation, but it doesn’t have to be! There are so many opportunities for quick wins in your travel program. Here’s a quick list of 5 simple tips to help innovate your 2020 travel program.

1.    Establish a clear foundation for updating your policy. 

Are you updating your travel policy?  That must mean it’s time for everyone with 3 letter pre-fix in their title to come out of the woodwork and lend their two cents.  Let’s face it – this is a long and painful process for most companies.  Take a fresh start in 2020 by adding some structure around exactly who needs to be involved, and leverage existing internal technology to help streamline the mechanics of your review process.  Corporate Travel changes so quickly today that it’s more important than ever to keep a fresh policy, but updates to your policy shouldn’t be rushed. Start early and give yourself time to map out your objectives and partner with your stakeholders.

2.    Give the sharing economy another go.

(Apologies in advance to folks of the legal profession).  It’s almost 2020, and you can now get Airbnb content in SAP Concur, and hotel content in Airbnb (with the acquisition of HotelTonight). If that’s not a sign that the lines are blurred between the types of lodging content, I’m not sure what is.  Your internal legal or risk team may have shot down home-sharing a year ago; but again, things change quickly, and now’s a great time to give it another go. (Read more about the measures Airbnb have taken to keep guests safe.) On a personal note, I just returned from Sunnyvale, CA, and felt safer in Airbnb’s versus some of the hotels there.  

3.    Build a brand.

Turn your function (however lean it is) into a brand.  Wrap everything together, and become more proactive with communications. Make it so travelers expect your monthly ABCTravelTeam newsletter, and they rely upon your insight. Your travelers will start to feel more supported (and perhaps more loyal..) if being serviced by a cohesive “entity” and less of a hodgepodge of internal resources, external service providers and tech platforms. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. LinkedIn is a great example of a company who has successfully accomplished this. (ProTip- Feature one of your Road Warriors in your communications on a quarterly or monthly basis. Give them a column to offer their tips, tricks, or thoughts.)

4.    Pilot new things.

We are fortunate to be in a time where our industry is seeing a rapid rise of new ideas and technologies. Ask for change and you shall receive it.  There’s never been a better time to disrupt the status quo and try some new things that may fit well within your program.  Making global decisions to change things at a big company is complex – but piloting something? That should be simple.  And what better way for you to gauge the results and for the supplier to prove their value.

5.    Leverage your TMC.

There is no denying that Travel Management Companies perform transactional functions.  That said, over the past two years, we’ve seen a rapid shift towards innovation, strategy and thought-leadership.  You should be leveraging your TMC as a thought partner – helping to make your program better – supporting you beyond just the day-to-day.  Hopefully you’re doing that, but if you aren’t able to, maybe it’s time to shake some things up.