Reimagining Business Travel Procurement

By – Amol Bhosle

(Product Marketing Manager | Digitate)

One of the biggest challenges we are facing today is Travel. Be it international, domestic, or even local. When something as simple as travelling from home to our offices is one of the biggest challenges right now, Business travel to other cities or countries feels as difficult as going to the North or the South Poles! Since the pandemic hit the world, Business travel has pretty much come to a standstill. All critical meetings, conferences and events have taken the Digital route to Video conferencing calls, and surprisingly, they are still effective!

For many organizations, business is still running smooth despite restrictions on Business travel. Some businesses do not really have a need to see their clients in person. Moreover, in-person communication has reduced drastically.

Is this the ideal scenario to have? A popular opinion will be a resounding ‘No’. Business travel still is very important and necessary, especially now more than ever. People are itching to go out, travel and meet people. Meeting in person has its own advantages. A simple handshake helps us to build trust and sustain cooperation.

So, here are some questions that pop into our minds.

  • What was the extent to which Business travel was being procured in the pre-COVID-19 era? And how much was really necessary?
  • Is there a way, we can restrict or reduce Business travel even after vaccines show up and the pandemic is no more?

Business Travel procurement in the pre-covid19 era might have been unnecessary in several cases, but it is still required to a large extent.

According to the Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA’s) September 2020 Coronavirus poll, 42% Travel executives expect that Business trips will return to their pre-pandemic level within the next three years of a vaccine being discovered or other public health measures eliminating or greatly reducing the risk from COVID-19.

Three years is still a long time and Travel category managers will still face challenges to lay down the right policies to manage Business Travel procurement. With video conferencing proving to be effective in most cases, leaders and Top management for most businesses will reduce budgets on Travel procurement.

Even with vaccines, there is definitely going to be a new normal to Business Travel procurement. Apart from the health and safety of the Business travelers, gauging the necessity of the Travel is also of utmost importance for organizations. While in the pre-covid19 era, only managers or immediate supervisors were required to provide approvals for Business travel, it will now be necessary for the Top management to approve such requests.

Some very important questions that will be asked while requesting for Travel are:

  • Will the Business suffer serious impact if you do not travel?
  • Is there any material impact or justified output that can be shown for your travel?
  • Which type of Business verticals/Departments will always require travel?

Team-bonding sessions, interviews, customer support and closing Sales deals are still being managed in some cases through Video conferencing. So, travelling for these cases will surely have higher chances of being restricted. With budgets being sliced and travel costs increased, there is an imminent need to analyze what had been happening earlier in Business Travel procurement and predict how it will be changing in the future.

A logical solution for this problem will be to use Procurement Analytics or Business Intelligence platforms which can understand historical data, mine patterns of Employee Travel behavior, manage contracts and prices of Hotels and Airlines, and so on. Such insights will equip the Travel Procurement managers with the right information to lay down Travel policies for employees and organizations.

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