Getting a Great Return on a Business Trip

For many companies, T&E costs represent the second highest controllable annual expense, so how can you measure the effectiveness of a trip compared to budget? Eliminating or reducing travel to keep compliant may work well for the operational side of the business, but let’s examine the impact it has on top and bottom line revenues. The question becomes about drawing correlations between the benefits, including increased profits, weighed against rigid standards that are being enforced.

According to a business traveler survey by Oxford Economics, 3 out of 4 customers prefer face-to-face contact, regardless of how far technology has evolved. Ramifications are shown to be as high as losing 25% of existing clients and 28% of revenues to the competition by not scheduling regular personal visits.  The study also found that every dollar invested in business travel results in $12.50 in added revenues and $3.80 in new profits.

A leading expert in the field of travel analysis Scott Gillespie, CEO Managing Partner of Clara, coined the term Trip Friction® for scoring traveler wear and tear during a business trip. This travel fatigue and frustrations are often the result of a restrictive travel policy inhibiting the ability to optimize a business trip which can translate into lost incomes.  If your organization is working with a Travel Management Company (TMC), they will have access to the data and costs associated with each trip. While it is good to set standards for travel expenses such as using negotiated rates with hotels, flying coach during domestic flights and calculating the difference between ground transportation and renting a car – the reason and rationale behind each trip differs.

Guild of Travel Management Companies  chief executive Paul Wait believes we should review how we view business travel. “Rather than just looking at reducing costs, we should be thinking about building businesses,” he says. “If we start seeing travel in this way, he says, it will be easier to connect the investment with the return.”

Besides analyzing the numbers, considering the goal and purpose of a particular trip are essential. In some cases, calculating the ROI is easier if a project has a travel budget incorporated into the fees the company collects. Travel Management Companies can provide the data insights behind the trip and help you determine if the metrics fall within the agreed upon policy parameters.  However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the business or traveler to tie those expenses into the actual value obtained from an in-person meeting.

Cornerstone prides itself on not only providing accurate data to the TMC and their corporate clients – but also in helping them understand the value and potential upside of traveling to meet in person with existing and potential customers. The real winners in the marketplace will be those TMC’s and enterprises willing to partner with innovative technology companies to leverage better information from their data sets. Joining sales data with traveler data to measure how productive a trip is should be something that is easy to obtain, however, with a myriad of data sets that need to be harvested in order to garner the right actionable information, technology is the key.  

Why it’s Time You Start Incorporating Data as Part of our Airbnb and Uber Decisions

I have written recently about the importance of using travel data to execute better business decisions. Companies are approaching the use of data as a core element in their day-to-day decision making, especially when it comes to managing their costs, policy compliance and future travel and expense strategy. We all need data to define our travel trends, to measure trip effectiveness, to understand our behaviors and activities and to understand our financial patterns and limitations. So what happens when there is a missing component in your business intelligence? Enter the shared economy and the growing usage of services like Airbnb and Uber by business travelers.

Whether you like them or not these shared economy giants are quickly becoming a formidable option as more business travelers are bypassing their travel management companies and booking directly with this exploding channel. According to Airbnb, 10% of their sales are to guests on business trips. Without including this data, along with other shared services like UBER, the analysis is skewed by the lack of relevant information.

There is something you can do to incorporate this missing business intelligence back into your program. First educate your company on what Airbnb is doing and how it is possibly impacting your business.  Far from the rudimentary system used by Airbnb a year ago, in July 2015, they launched a new tool that centers on a dashboard for corporate travel planners. With more than 250 business clients including Google and Salesforce, the dashboard provides centralized billing, financial reporting data, and information on employee itineraries booked through the service. Companies like Cornerstone recognize the need to incorporate this data for their TMC clients and are working toward that integration in the near future.

Before panic starts to set in – let’s take a look at the type of traveler and accommodation is being sought after through Airbnb. It’s hard to imagine that a major CEO of a company would want to stay on someone’s couch or in their spare bedroom. The majority of alternative accommodations business guests fall into two core categories, extended stay and corporate meetings and retreats.

For workers on long-term projects, or in the middle of relocating, especially in a big city, Airbnb provides a home-like atmosphere that even the best of hotels can’t duplicate. To inspire team building, imagine having your next corporate meeting in a big house or villa with all participants staying together under one roof. When examining the type of clientele that Airbnb Business is attracting, it begins to make more sense and gives both the TMC and company a place to start tracking the itinerary data.

The next step is to encourage TMC’s to help their clients design a program policy regarding Airbnb. If they do allow it, there is an assigned place on their website to enter the corporate ID. This step will bring the data back into the hands of the TMC and will provide the necessary intelligence to make future decisions on policy and budget.

It’s not the perfect solution, but TMC’s and corporations need to recognize that, as the 4th largest supplier of accommodations, Airbnb is not going anywhere anytime soon. Start with understanding their program, identify what type of traveler this would benefit and create a policy to collect the data. From there you have a laid a good foundation on how to manage the growth and adaptation of the shared economy.

The Sharing Economy, Virtual Cards and Mobile topping the headlines at GBTA 2015

This year’s GBTA Convention in Orlando showed a record attendance of over 6000 participants.  For Cornerstone, we were thrilled with the overwhelming positive response to our two new travel solutions 4site™ and TravelOptix™. Topping the event headlines and creating the biggest buzz was the shared economy and its effect on travel policies, virtual payment and the involvement of the major credit card companies. Another hot topic one everyone’s radar was mobile and its impact on the industry.

Speaking on a panel was Marc McCabe Airbnb’s head of business travel who urged buyers to trust their employees when it comes to selecting and staying with ‘sharing economy’ companies. McCabe stated, “Most of the time when a business traveler uses Airbnb they are picking it because it’s the best option in terms of cost and convenience.” This statement ignited numerous discussions around the traveler’s use of companies such as Airbnb and Uber.

At Cornerstone, we believe enterprise companies need to make sure that whatever direction they endorse regarding the sharing economy, it needs to be coupled with clear, concise communication about what is compliant with their organization’s travel policy. We know the key to supporting any corporate decision is good data management to ensure policies and suppliers can be measured.

When it comes to avoiding fraud it appears that virtual payment cards are a well-supported solution. This is an emerging topic that is starting to get serious traction.  Suppliers such as Enett,  CSI GLOBALVCARD, and Conferma are working with major brands such as Mastercard, Visa, American Express. Cornerstone see virtual cards as an efficient method of driving secure and consolidated payments and travel data for the enterprise.

I know we have heard for years now – however mobile is still huge for our industry! With 19 vendors offering mobile solutions at this year’s convention, it seems like everyone is trying to figure out how to deliver their product offering via a mobile device.  According to the first-ever GBTA Global Business Traveler Sentiment Index™, mobile technologies – including Wi-Fi, travel apps, and digital wallets – are transforming business travelers’ experience around the globe.

Emerging technology continues to revolutionize the business travel experience and Cornerstone is embracing that challenge.  As pioneers in the industry, we continue to lead the pack with our latest products. With the combination of driving itineraries to mobile devices and integrated information services that provide travelers with actionable choices, we are helping travel companies, and travelers improve and optimize their trips.

Proud to be known as an innovative company and thought leader in the journey management space, this year’s GBTA conference validated Cornerstone’s launch of our two new solutions 4site™ and TravelOptix™ as timely and relevant. It was an exciting week and an honor to be part of The Business Travel Event of the Year®. We want to reiterate our appreciation for the support we received and applaud GBTA 2015 for producing an outstanding conference.