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Mobile Technology at the Center of Debate between Travel Managers and Business Travelers

Business travelers say they lack knowledge of company booking guidelines

Mobile devices have made life easier and more productive for business travelers, allowing them to stay in touch and adjust schedules on the fly, among many other benefits. But mobile technology can create headaches for travel managers trying to keep tabs on employees and expenses. As a result, a new eMarketer report, “Digital Disruptions Redefine Corporate Travel Policy,” finds that many travel managers are making travel policies tougher to ensure travel budgets stay in line.

“The gap between travel policies and actual usage of mobile tools is causing tension on both sides,” said eMarketer. “Marketers and service providers looking to engage the corporate travel sector will need to be alert to the competing demands of travelers and travel policies.”

That tension is not expected to abate any time soon. According to AirPlus International’s “International Travel Management Study 2012,” 95% of travel managers worldwide said they were either making policies more stringent or keeping them the same going forward.

Mobile technology is at the center of this debate because, in general, travel marketers are focused on creating mobile apps and solutions for the end user vs. for someone managing bulk travel planning. These consumer solutions often operate in contrast to the needs of corporate travel managers.

According to Google and Ipsos MediaCT’s August 2012 study “The 2012 Traveler,” 57% of US business travelers reported using mobile devices to access travel information this year, whereas just 38% of US leisure travelers did.

These new mobile touchpoints give travel managers the opportunity to connect with their employees at any given point in their business trip. At the same time, more devices means an increasing likelihood that business travelers will use non-sanctioned, consumer-oriented tools, such as last-minute booking apps.

The main reason travelers give for engaging in activities contrary to corporate policy is lack of awareness of company guidelines. And many managers are doing little to define how mobile bookings fit within their company’s policies. According to the GBTA Foundation’s July 2012 report, “Travel Policy Trends: ‘Control’ —What Does It Mean and Who Has It,” only 18% of travel professionals worldwide had integrated information designed to educate travelers on travel policy into mobile booking tools.

Since mobile policy creation and compliance is predicated on communication between corporate travel managers and company employees, marketers that develop solutions addressing the needs of each side will have significant opportunities to stake their claim in this sector.

The report addresses key questions both managers and travelers should consider when planning business travel strategy, including:

  • To what degree are business travelers using mobile technology during their trips?
  • What types of mobile technologies disrupt corporate travel policies, and in what ways?
  • How frequently are specific guidelines for mobile technologies communicated through corporate travel policies?

The full report, “Digital Disruptions Redefine Corporate Travel Policy,” is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. Total Access clients, log in and view the report now.

Posted on October 24, 2012.