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September 30, 2012

Travel experts gaining control of travel policies in Asia-Pacific: Study

     Gurgaon: Travel professionals are playing an increasingly large and influential role in shaping and controlling travel policy, a new report on Asia Pacific trends by the GBTA Foundation has said. According to the report, this has been made possible with the help of online booking tools, as well as a growing focus on cost-saving efforts.

“As recent studies by GBTA indicate, we expect double digit growth in business travel to Asia. With companies eager to capitalize on business expansion opportunities in this thriving region, corporate travel departments will be critical to their success,” said Welf J. Ebeling, regional director of GBTA Asia. Ebeling added: “This study shows that travel managers are gaining more control over budgets to help contain costs and ensure that road warriors can be as effective as possible.”

This third annual study, “Travel Policy Trends: ‘Control’ – What Does it Mean and Who Has It”, surveyed nearly 1,500 travel professionals in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America to determine, for the first time ever, what “control” over travel policy means to them, and how travel professionals are adapting to new and evolving business travel requirements. The majority of travel professionals worldwide, i.e. 60 percent, indicate that they have more control over travel policy compared to a few years ago.

“Our study shows that in Asia Pacific, social media and technology, such as mobile devices, is reshaping both the traveler experience and travel manager’s role in simultaneously supporting traveler needs and corporate objectives,” said Cecilia Routledge, managing director of Egencia APAC. Routledge added: “We set out to understand how travel professionals can better apply travel policy to make sure their travelers have the important nformation they require to manage travel details without losing sight of policy compliance.” More than half (54 percent) selected “driving savings and controlling costs” as one of the most important definitions of travel policy control.

The report reveals the top ten most important definitions of travel policy control, worldwide and across key regions. They include the following: .Driving savings/controlling costs. Setting policies and procedures. Driving compliance. Ensuring travelers are using corporate travel tools .Ensuring travelers are using preferred suppliers. Motivating traveler behavior rather than mandating policy. Having a travel strategy. Not paying travelers if they submit expenses that are out of policy. Producing reports on non-compliance. Authority to change policy. Compared to a few years ago, large majorities of travel professionals in Asia agree they now have more control over reporting (69 percent), visibility in the organization (68 percent), and travel spend data (63 percent).

When asked why they have more control over travel policy, travel professionals said: Stronger support from C-level executives (73 percent); Having a broader role in their company (70 percent); Access to traveler profile information and data security (66 percent). Despite having more visibility and control over policy, 19 percent of travel professionals are more likely than the rest of the world (12 percent) not to pay travelers if they submit expenses that are our of policy.

Mobile and Social Media: Changing the Game In Asia, travel professionals are increasingly using mobile phones and social media to keep in touch with travelers and improve the traveler experience. About two-thirds (60 percent) indicated that they stay connected with travelers to let them know they’re watching out for them. Fifty-one percent, compared to 45 percent worldwide, say their travelers use social media channels or mobile device apps in their daily travels to connect with other business travelers and quickly find information they need while on the road. There is greater communication / transparency with travelers through social media and or mobile platforms in Asia compared with the rest of the world (60 percent, 49 percent worldwide).

However, there is still room for improvement. When it comes to educating travelers on travel policy, only 18 percent of travel professionals in Asia integrate information into mobile booking tools. Technology – Improving Policy Compliance Technology used for trip planning, booking and data is key to providing managers with better insights and more control to improve travel policy.

Over the years, travel policy has advanced in lockstep with technology improvements. In fact, 63 percent of respondents in Asia agreed that they have more travel spend data and improved reporting tools today compared with a few years ago, providing more information to find gaps in compliance and bolster their ability to negotiate with suppliers.

Online booking tools (OBTs) have been instrumental to travel policy improvements. Travel managers in Asia report 62% of travelers use OBTs to book travel. Nearly half of travel professionals in Asia (47 percent) are integrating more information into OBTs to educate business travelers about staying within policy.

The compliance rate of travelers using approved corporate booking channels in Asia is 79 percent, indicating that technology has become an essential tool to create and implement effective policy.

The full report is available exclusively to GBTA members and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org.

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