A recent study from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, in association with Egencia, finds that companies with strong travel cultures experience greater competitiveness. This is due to better customer loyalty, internal collaboration, and multi-region management, among other factors. The priorities of companies with strong travel cultures reveals the vital role data and technology has in tracking travel costs and aligning travel with business outcomes.

The report, Travel culture: Your competitive advantage in a global market, found that treating travel as a strategic investment —  one of the hallmarks of a strong travel culture — depends on executives understanding the business value of travel. An understanding that is greatly informed by clear reporting and a well-tuned travel and expense management capability.

The benefits of a strong travel culture

A strong travel culture translates into tangible business results, according to a survey of 587 executives. Fifty-eight percent of them said that it’s very important to their organization’s business performance. Another 67 percent said that a strong travel culture contributed to increased collaboration between internal groups. Another 55 percent viewed a strong travel culture as a driver for better management of geographically dispersed business units, and 40 percent felt that it helped unify business culture across the globe. And, 62 percent connected a strong travel culture with better relationships with key customers.

Qualities of a strong travel culture

What characterizes a strong travel culture? An organization with a strong travel culture sees travel as a strategic investment, rather than just an expense. It provides appropriate travel funding. It also gives its employees access to corporate travel booking tools. In this context, the report highlights the contrast between companies with a strong travel culture and those without:

  • 62 percent of companies with a strong travel culture see travel as a strategic investment compared to 19 percent for those companies without a strong travel culture.
  • 72 percent of companies with a strong travel culture provide appropriate funding for travel compared to 30 percent without one.
  • 61 percent of businesses with a strong travel culture provide a suite of corporate travel tools compared to 20 percent of those without one.

What makes a strong travel culture?

Executive support for corporate travel is hugely important for those seeking to build and maintain a strong travel culture. Sixty-one percent of companies with a strong travel culture have executive buy-in for travel as an investment, versus 27 percent for those without a strong travel culture. Executive buy-in is informed, in part, by the provision of effective reporting on the organization’s travel program data. And, that travel and expense data needs to come from a well-implemented and comprehensive travel management platform.  

Employee satisfaction also emerges as a signifier of those organizations with a strong travel culture. Thirty-five percent of companies with a strong travel culture said it contributed to improved employee satisfaction versus 15 percent without  a strong travel culture. Egencia’s customers report that access to user-friendly and intuitive travel and expense management technology leads to higher levels of satisfaction among employees who either book travel for themselves or others. With expense management, in particular, modern tools reduce the time spent reconciling, which was previously seen as overly time-consuming.

Overcoming obstacles to a strong travel culture

The report reveals obstacles to creating a strong travel culture and hints at how efficient and effective travel and expense management can help overcome them. Twenty-eight percent of business leaders said that leadership did not see business travel as valuable. This perspective led to a lack of a strong travel culture.

Effective travel and expense data management has the potential to break through this barrier of misunderstanding. With clear and concise reporting on the value of travel and related expenses, executives can see how travel benefits the business. Travel managers can visualize data on travel policy compliance and cost savings, while at the same time highlight where travel has supported key customer relationships. The resulting awareness of the business value of travel can open the door to building a strong travel culture with executive buy-in.

Inefficient or unclear travel and expense processes were mentioned by 25 percent of business leaders as an impediment to a strong travel culture. This makes sense, given how difficult it can be to initiate an investment in travel if the process of traveling itself is complicated, unproductive, and confusing. Travel and expense management tools help overcome this difficulty. They enable efficient travel booking, low-hassle on-the-road experiences, and efficient post-travel workflows.

Another 19 percent of business leaders indicated that difficult-to-use travel and expense systems got in the way of developing a strong travel culture. The adoption of a modern travel management platform and a holistic expense management solution is the remedy.

Conclusion

The Travel culture: Your competitive advantage in a global market report identifies the business value of a strong travel culture. Travel and expense management technologies make such an approach to travel possible. They give managers the data they need to justify travel as a business investment while adjusting the travel program to suit the needs of the business. Travel and expense tools also facilitate employee adoption, which is critical for success. At the same time, a lack of useful technology creates obstacles to the development of a strong travel culture. The implementation of Egencia as a travel management company, and using their single digital travel platform, can set the foundation for a strong and successful travel culture.

Head over to egencia.com to read the full report.  

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