BCD’s CEO Explains How to Combat Uncertainty with Smart Business Travel Spending
Lower corporate travel costs and boost sustainability with tactics that won’t hurt your business.
It’s good to be right, but sometimes you wish you were wrong. Brexit, trade wars and political unrest, such as what’s happening in Hong Kong and the Middle East, all have created the kind of uncertainty we’ve warned about in BCD Travel’s annual Industry Forecast reports.
Corporate travel programs are responding with cost controls. Many of our clients already operate lean travel programs, so they’re looking for new ideas about how to save on travel without undermining the revenue-generating efforts of their salespeople crossing the globe.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s times like these—when businesses are looking to cut travel spend—that travel management companies can really prove their value. Here’s some advice we’re giving our clients right now.
Don’t stop traveling
This may sound self-promoting (and, sure, we are in the business of business travel), but it’s also sound strategy. When times are tough, it’s harder to sell. But making your pitch in person is 34 times more likely to seal the deal, as the Harvard Business Review reports. In fact, companies realize more than $15 in profits for every $1 spent on business travel, according to analysis by IHS Markit. At BCD, we’re encouraging our clients to reduce trips in ways that won’t hurt their business, such as using virtual collaboration to reduce spend on internal meetings.
Help travelers spend smarter
Corporate travel, procurement, and finance leaders understand that every travel booking is a math equation with variables like negotiated rates, volume discounts, day of travel and much, much more. But travelers don’t need to know all that. They just need to make quick and easy booking choices that drive savings. The Traveler Engagement™ strategies we pioneered five years ago and continue to evolve do just that. Our clients merchandise to their travelers using consumer tactics that influence which hotels and flights they buy.
Squeeze spend from your travel processes
A business trip becomes less expensive if you reduce the back-office logistics that enable it. So, an end-to-end approach that combines booking and expense management in one seamless process is the holy grail of business travel. Our clients who’ve done it see significant results. We’re thrilled that our expertise in helping companies integrate travel, expense and invoice management enabled us to become the largest global TMC to earn Elite status from SAP Concur.
Tap into the cost-cutting power of innovation
Much of the transformative technology emerging in travel is coming from small companies with big ideas. Corporate travel programs want these new tools—but not the risks that come with them. That’s why we created the SolutionSource® marketplace in 2018. It simplifies how companies identify and add new travel technologies that drive program improvements. We vet the technologies before we accept them into our marketplace, reducing risk and speeding up implementation for our clients. More than 300 companies have adopted innovations from at least one of our 19 SolutionSource partners, improving savings and traveler experiences.
Make sustainability a priority
Both spend control and sustainability center on reducing waste. Tweaking—or transforming—your travel program to cut costs creates the perfect opportunity to set goals for shrinking your carbon footprint, too. You’ll save money, drive broader business goals and make cost control more palatable to employees by linking it to sustainability. That’s what our Sustainable Collaboration offering is all about.
At BCD, we’re so bullish on sustainability that we’ve embedded it into our financials. We recently extended our credit agreement with our banking partners and linked the interest rate to our assessment by global sustainability rating firm EcoVadis. If we keep our EcoVadis gold rating, our interest rate will stay low. If we don’t, our interest rate will go up. We’re one of the banks’ first clients to negotiate this kind of deal, and we’re really proud to be out in front.
We’ve been around long enough to know that business travel is cyclical. Even when we’re enjoying the good times, our talented BCD employees never stop thinking about new ways to make business travel more efficient and cost effective. So, when we look to the future and see trouble ahead, we—and our clients—are ready.
By John Snyder, President and CEO at BCD Travel, and CEO at BCD Group