How to leverage advanced data and analytics in your business travel program

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How to leverage advanced data and analytics in your business travel program

By John Trigg, Vice President, Global Technology, I&A

In a world where data is everywhere, harnessing your travel data can be the key factor in building a strategy to successfully achieve your program goals.

We’ve discussed how consolidating your data gives you the opportunity for unparalleled insight into the operation and health of your business travel program. But what’s next?

Once you’ve pulled the right data together into one place, it’s time to focus on what’s most important to your program, whether that’s reducing costs, increasing policy adoption or even reducing emissions. Then, narrow in on the data that supports that goal. With so much data at your fingertips, it may seem overwhelming at first. But with the right strategy in place, you will be able to pinpoint significant opportunities for improvement across your key focus areas. Here are some examples of how a data-driven strategy can help you address three of the top challenges travel managers face today: spend management, traveler wellness and sustainability.

Spend management: lock down leakage

Believe it or not, almost 1 in 4 travel managers have no insight into out-of-program bookings. Leakage runs at an average of 25-30% for most companies and may even be higher for some. Plus, these days, it’s not just a question of leakage in the hotel category, but across air too. This provides a big opportunity to discover cost savings.

By comparing agency data alongside credit card and expense data, you can easily identify how common leakage is in your program. But, to make a change within your program you’ll want to identify when and where you have leakage problems first. You could analyze spend by region or business unit and look at which specific actions are incurring the most cost, such as booking out of policy, adding bags, forgetting to fill gas tanks on rental cars, and so on.

Keep in mind, most times, when travelers book outside the program they think they’re saving the company money, when actually their actions are undermining the company’s negotiating power. Once you understand the key sources of leakage, you can use traveler engagement strategies to encourage travelers to stick to your policy. For example, to increase hotel adoption you could add custom messaging when travelers are booking their flight in the online booking tool (OBT), reminding them to book their hotel at the same time.

Traveler wellness: pinpoint policy change

As traveler wellness rises as an important priority across many travel programs, it’s important to understand how travelers experience their trips, and the policies that guide them. Looking at your data can help you identify where there are opportunities to make improvements. For example, your travel data can help you discover how often your travelers fly on the weekend, the frequency of short trips, and even how often your travelers are visiting high-risk destinations.

With some tools, you can even dig down into the experience of individual travelers, which can be especially useful analyzing the wellness impact on your road warriors. Using these insights, you can consider making travel policy updates that improve upon your top friction points in the traveler journey.

Strategize on sustainability

Sustainability is still in the spotlight for many travel managers and travelers, making it more important than ever to measure your progress. If you want to create a more sustainable travel program, following your data can provide valuable insight like which airlines are the most eco-friendly and where you have opportunities to shift share to more sustainable options on key routes. You can also use your data to uncover routes where rail travel is a good substitute for air; which hotels are eco-friendly, and where else you can make changes to reduce your environmental impact.

Using data as a foundation, you can then start to strategize. For example, when you know which routes, carriers and regions most affect your carbon emissions you can use that knowledge to create a communications plan to shift traveler behavior in alignment with your goals. You can educate travelers by displaying sustainability messaging in the OBT and other communications channels (such as by recommending rail instead of air where that’s an option) to empower them to make sustainable choices.

With the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence on the rise, you’ll soon have even more ways to use your consolidated data, get an overall view of your travel program and be more strategic. Ready to optimize your travel program with data-driven insights? Contact us to get started!

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