Friday, 19 October 2012

The hidden cost of relaxing policy and embracing rogue

Much has been written about the rise of the rogue traveller this year. The fine balancing between policy enforcement and happy and productive business travellers has been the centre of many a debate since it was first raised (to me, anyway) at the ITM Intelligence Conference back in May (you can read my blog on that here) and, most recently, at the GBTA Europe Conference in Budapest (my blog on that session is here). 

Corporate travel buyers are being warned that managing policy too closely leads to traveller friction, which in turn impacts on the wellbeing, productivity, motivation and loyalty of the traveller. Introducing flexibility, on the other hand, can lead to happier travellers; travellers less likely to ‘go rogue’.

On paper, the traveller turned self booker appears to be a no brainer, saving money for the company thanks to religiously booking within policy price parameters or even under budget because of internal incentives and reward programmes.

But it can’t be all win win for the organisation, surely? There must be some pay back? And perhaps the answer is, yes, of course there is, and that pay back lies in the time it takes for these employers to self book. And therein lies the problem: because this cost isn’t visible it can go largely ignored.

Whether the traveller turned self booker uses a self booking tool, an internally-designed travel portal (a la Google), or simply surfs their favourite leisure portals, they are wasting hours and hours of time online booking their trips; time that could be spent working; time that costs the company money. In fact, a company that has 20 senior execs each taking 20 trips a year and each taking a morning to book each trip is throwing away the equivalent of more than £51,000 worth of billable hours.

So what’s the answer? Well, frustratingly, that seems to be far from decided and still very much up for debate. The Business Travel Show will attempt to throw some light on the issue with a panel session called ‘Policy – how vogue is rogue?’ at the event next February, but I’m sure a lot more will be said about it – for or against – between now and then and I’d be interested to know what you think, so why not join the debate on Twitter @abtn_online or @btshowlondon?

David Chapple is event director for the Business Travel Show, which takes place at Earls Court on 5-6 February 2013. Registration is open at