The MacNair Travel Leadership Blog

The Disconnect Between Policy and Travelers and What to do About it

Posted by Mike MacNair on Jan 19, 2017 12:00:00 PM

The Disconnect Between Policy and Travelers and What to do About itAccording to a recent study conducted by GBTA Foundation and HRS, most travelers believe that they are familiar with and understand their company’s travel policy. In fact, their research indicated that 96 percent of North American business travelers say they are knowledgeable about their company's travel policies and 79 percent of travelers say that company policy has the greatest impact on their travel decision-making. Yet, the high number of rogue travelers booking outside of corporate policy does not support these numbers.

What is the cause of this disconnect between wanting to follow corporate policy, but not? According to the whitepaper, “Travel Policy Communication: Understanding Disconnects and Increasing Compliance,” it is suggested that “perception is more important than reality” when it comes to corporate travel policy.

Travel Policy Vs Perception 2.png

Source: GBTA & HRS: "Travel Policy Communication: Understanding Disconnects and Increasing Compliance"

How Big is the Disconnect?

In the study, GBTA and HRS surveyed 492 North American and European business travelers who have traveled at least four times during the past year and whose companies have formal travel policies. Then, they compared those traveler responses to previously conducted research (2015 and early 2016) and responses from travel managers. The results were eye opening.

For instance, the study indicates that 50% of travelers believe travel policies are mandated, while only a third of travel managers say that is true. Drilling down even deeper, the gap between actual policy vs. perceived policy widens further. When questioned, 24% of North American travel managers say rideshare policies are prohibited while only half as many travelers believed that to be the case.

What is the Root Cause for the Disconnect?

When analyzing the report, it basically comes down to the fact that a travelers’ perception of their company’s travel policy is different from the reality of the policy. There is a miscommunication of information.

There are several important takeaways regarding how miscommunication of policy can contribute to non-compliance. Here are two:

  • Wrong mode of communication: A vital part of conveying travel policy information is making sure travel policies are easily accessible. The survey revealed a disconnect in how travel policy is currently communicated and how travelers prefer to be informed. In the chart below, the biggest gap was a 7-point spread in regard to email communication, indicating travelers want to be emailed information more regularly than is currently provided. This is followed by a two-point difference in both text messaging and a TMC travel portal. More non-technical modes of communication, such as through the company intranet, employee handbook and posted in high traffic areas are less desirable.


Source: GBTA & HRS: "Travel Policy Communication: Understanding Disconnects and Increasing Compliance"

  • Unclear or inaccurate travel policies: How your corporate travel policy is written is important. A report by Acendas, suggests that important terms (such as ancillary fees or restricted airfares) are often missing from policies and a cause for traveler confusion. Key terms and penalties for non-compliance should be well-defined. It is important to keep policies up-to-date, especially with new technologies and emerging trends, such as sharing economy and mobile apps. A yearly update to evaluate policies should be conducted and include the addition of new processes and the deletion of any old, out-of-date processes, so that your company travel policy is always current and clear.

  • Not enough training: Acendas maintains that new employee education is crucial, as are refresher courses for regular travelers. They recommend educating travel managers on policy and process, including training them on any online tools used by the company and making sure they have the appropriate contact information for directing questions. In the GBTA and HRS report, the desired method of training was also explored. Generation Y wanted to have in-person meetings to explain travel policy. Just over half of travelers between the ages of 18 and 34 prefer to have someone explain the travel policy in person, according to the report.

How Can You Bridge the Gap Between Travelers and Travel Policy?

So how can you bridge the gap and get travelers and travel managers on the same page? The report provides some insight on how to lessen the disparity between traveler perception and travel policy reality, including:

  • Collect more in-depth traveler data.
  • Alert travelers to noncompliant behavior before they book.
  • Keep traveler preferences in mind.
  • Disseminate information through effective channels.
  • Embrace new technology and tools designed to incorporate policy-compliant choices.

With easy and convenient access to corporate travel policy, the exchange of travel policy information between traveler and travel manager will improve. However, all the easy access and training will not be helpful unless policies are accurate, easy to follow, and easy to find. This will improve communication, reduce any disconnect and drive up traveler compliance.

Travel Policy Workbook 

Topics: travel policy, Compliance