Key Factors in the Return to Business Travel

The first series of the SAP Concur Conversations podcast finished on a high, with a three-part special dedicated to all things global travel.

Alistair Kent, SAP Concur Senior PR & Social Media Manager, interviewed Darryl McGarvey, SAP Concur Director of Channel Development, and Tony McGetrick, VP & Director of Sales & Marketing at corporate travel management company BCD.

In the three podcasts, they discussed:

Listen now on our YouTube channel, Apple Podcast, Acast, Spotify, Amazon Music or search ‘SAP Concur Conversations’ wherever you get your podcasts. And read on for the key themes that emerged from their conversations.

Thinking About the Return to Travel

It’s clear there’s a need and a drive to return to business travel. A recent SAP Concur survey found that 91% of companies say that corporate travel is essential to their business.1

However, it’s also true to say that business is the last to return to travel following a crisis. And Tony McGetrick of BCD says that trends are very different across sectors. Businesses he is talking to are forecasting spend that is anywhere between 20% and 80% of 2019 levels.

One key takeaway: while business travel will undoubtedly return, Darryl McGarvey of SAP Concur thinks there will be differences. Face-to-face contact is essential for external meetings and building client relationships. On the other hand, internal meetings may take place remotely rather than in person.

The Vital Importance of Duty of Care

Duty of care has always been important, but right now it’s taking centre stage.

Pre-trip approval is much more likely than before, but what’s interesting is the criteria for approval. Whereas before it would have been cost, it’s now about duty of care. Darryl reports that HR and risk managers are often signing off trips now, not procurement. A three way approval requirement is also common – both the travelling and the host company have to be happy, the traveller has to be happy, and the regulations must be met. Only if all three are satisfied can the trip go ahead.

The top tip: apps and tools such as TripIt Pro add an extra level of reassurance. But don’t forget lower tech solutions. A simple buddy system, where someone in the office checks in each day with the travelling employee, can help to mitigate the loneliness that many travellers feel at the moment.

Sustainability in the New Normal

This time a year ago, sustainability was top of mind for many businesses in terms of their travel. Today, it’s taking more of a back seat, but it’s certainly still an issue. We’ve all seen the impact the slowdown in travel has had on the environment. It’s also important to remember that for the latest generations of workers, it’s critical.

Granularity in thinking is also an issue. For example, it’s easy to assume that rail travel is a sustainable mode of transport. But rail travel in China is coal-powered while in Germany it uses renewable power. One size doesn’t fit all.

The top tip: your TMC is a valuable partner when it comes to navigating sustainable travel. They can help with everything from sustainable hotel choices to carbon emissions reports.

The Value of TMCs

Talking about the value of TMCs leads us to the last point. Darryl comments that it’s taken a crisis for many businesses to see the true value of their TMC. He says it’s far from unusual for a trip to involve 15 phone calls to a TMC at the moment to make sure every box is ticked. Tony echoes this, saying that while travel has slowed dramatically, businesses still have lots of questions around regulations, policy changes, and more.

It highlights the problem with the transaction fee model. Both think there will have to be a new way forward, even if only in the short term, to help TMCs recover some of their costs. Is the way forward a management fee or subscription-based model?

The key takeaway: TMCs work proactively with partners such as SAP Concur to support their clients with their requirements, so lean into their expertise. For example, a key area for many businesses is navigating VAT reclaim on hotel bills with the re-introduction of paper-based claims processes post-Brexit. TMCs can advise and support, while tools such as Concur Tax Assurance by VATBox can help streamline the process. Being able to maximise reclaim has the capacity to make a tangible difference to the bottom line and will be critical for many businesses as we enter the recovery.  Find out more about partnering with a TMC from our “How A Travel Management Company Will Change Your Business Travel” eBook.

Get the Lowdown on Business Travel Right Now

To hear all the insights from Alistair, Darryl and Tony, listen to the podcasts.

How Global Business Travel is Responding to the Changing Environment

Highlights include:

  • how businesses are readjusting spend and the changes they are making to their travel policies
  • the key outcomes from two recent travel surveys and how duty of care is taking centre stage for traveller wellbeing.

What Sustainability Means to Global Travel

Highlights include:

  • how TMCs are changing their pricing models in the short-term to assist with pandemic in the long-term
  • how the pandemic has shifted perception of sustainability, the positive impact on the environment and what authentic sustainability actually means to businesses.

Changes to Business Travel Post-Brexit, What Can We Expect?

Highlights include:

  • the impact of Brexit on business travel and how TMCs and SAP Concur can help and support your organisation
  • an insight into new technologies and how they are helping TMC’s to service their customers better
  • the experience of flying during a pandemic.

You can listen now on our YouTube channel or search ‘SAP Concur Conversations’ wherever you get your podcasts.

  1. Wakefield Research: UK Travel Survey 2020


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