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TRAVEL BUDGETS


Despite a growing awareness of traveller wellness and environmental impact, most travel bans are motivated by the balance sheet. “Travel bans or cuts are common practice in many corporates as they approach year- end and the risk of missing financial targets becomes evident,” explains James Newns, head of account management and supplier services at Fello. “The main driver for travel bans, whether a cut in business class travel or a cut in non-essential travel, is financial.” Steve Banks, director of business development at Capita Travel and Events, agrees. “Travel bans can sometimes be a knee-jerk reaction to spiralling costs, with a blanket ban believed to be a short-term solution.”


A NEW MINDSET Trimming its travel budget was one of the primary motivators for emergency repairs business and Click client HomeServe. It also wanted to challenge how its employees viewed travel. In May 2018 it implemented a month-long ban on all but essential trips. Staff were engaged in the process via an internal


poster campaign communicating the reasons for the ban, while the chief executive announced it himself via a process adopted by the company known as “Red Sofa” sessions. Directors weren’t exempt either, says Palmer, and “there was much positivity around it”. It had a positive budgetary impact in the short term. The company saw a 46 per cent reduction in overall travel spend that month compared to the previous year. Perhaps more importantly, that saving spilled into June too, despite the travel ban having ended, where spend saw a reduction of 18 per cent year on year.


HOW TO IMPLEMENT A TRAVEL BAN


concise communication is imperative – why have a travel ban? What is its purpose and expected results? What are the alternatives staff should consider doing, and ensure they don’t do?” says Steve Banks, director of business development at Capita Travel and Events.


1


Communicate why the ban is necessary. “Clear,


2


Flag up the huge variety of digital tools now avail-


able from Google Hangouts to Zoom video conferencing and other platforms.


3


Ensure it comes from the top. “Any initiative like this


would always have the board’s approval and back up,” says one senior buyer. “Without that it wouldn’t succeed.”


HomeServe after a month-long travel ban, compared to the previous year


Drop in overall travel in May at


June year on year despite the ban having ended


94 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 Drop in travel in


46% 18%


“One of the fears when you implement something like this is that people save up all their travel and do it the following month, so you have a 150 per cent increase in the next month,” warns Palmer. “But that didn’t happen for HomeServe. There was a continuing reduction in travel because people realised they didn’t have to have these internal meetings. They were thinking about different ways they could get the work done and avoid the need to travel.” It’s a combination of these factors – financial and environmental – that one senior travel buyer says is leading her law firm to consider such a move. But she has concerns as to how well it might work in such a large operation. “Will some people think it won’t apply to them and carry


on booking as usual? In which case we’d need to put some strict blocks on the booking tool. Would we say that client chargeable trips can continue as normal? Or do we want our clients to be part of this big project on sustainability? “What do we do about conferences? Would travel still


be permitted to those? Or emergency travel? Who decides what’s urgent or not? Would we be putting the onus just on our chief operations officer to approve all this travel in this one week and will he give up by the end and cave in? There are so many caveats.” Of the experts that Buying Business Travel spoke to, there is some conflicting advice on how to resolve each of these obstacles, too. For instance, Click Travel’s Palmer recommends making adjustments to an online booking tool, either by introducing additional layers of approval or inputting new communications that remind staff of bans on all but essential travel. “Or add questions into the booking process, asking what are the reasons for the trip, which gets printed out and read by management.” But for Eoin Landers, vice-president of product at


SalesTrip, “the problem with this, of course, is that it creates additional workloads for managers and sales and


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