Redefining Care: Changes in Travelling

Redefining Care: Changes in Travelling

Our last blog post, Changes in the Workforce, continued the discussion around the trends that are bringing care-led strategies within business travel to the fore.

Just as we have seen shifts in the expectations of our customers, so too have we seen huge changes in the workforce – both in the ways that we now work and in the attitudes and values now on display.

This latest blog post tackles another trend we believe is driving forward the need to redefine care in business travel: Changes in travelling.

We all know travel has changed. Within the industry, we’re slowly acknowledging that looking backwards at 2019 figures as a metric of recovery isn’t where we need to be focused.

But are we being too slow to lift our heads up and look at the travellers and what has changed for them? How are we embracing travel-centricity and the changes in both expectations and workforce are having on travel in general?

According to BTN editor, Elizabeth West, these questions are leaving travel managers facing a clash of objectives.

“Traveller-centricity isn’t always the most rewarded strategy for the travel manager. Conversation at a recent industry event turned to the concept of “putting travellers at the centre of the programme, and while programme managers always have that goal in mind, they said they are often rewarded more for year-over-year savings and cost avoidance."

If we are to take this comment at face value, friction between traveller-centricity and cost savings makes a care-centric travel programme feel like a long shot.

However, the tide is turning. 

Just as we have seen the consumer trend of individuals wanting to be treated as such and employees bringing their personalised selves to work, so too are we seeing movement in travel.

In BTN's Traveller Experience Index, 83% of travellers said business travel was “important” or “very important” to the success of their current jobs. But while this previously meant a blind acceptance of travel policy, now travellers are actively voicing their needs – and most importantly, organisations are listening.

But with so many travel managers feeling conflicted, what are the benefits of placing the traveller first? Tom Trotta, Vice President of Sales and Partnerships – USA at Allianz Partners, claims “Travel brands are now recognising new opportunities to provide full-service care for passengers and guests across every stage of the journey — which is having a buoyant effect on customer loyalty.”

Just as taking time to understand employees’ drivers builds loyalty to the business, taking the steps to place the traveller at the centre of the programme builds loyalty to the programme.

But this doesn’t just apply to the travellers. Travel managers are key players in the business travel eco-system too. They need to be considered and cared for by their suppliers, as much as the traveller is by their business.

Care isn’t necessarily then purely about traveller-centricity. Care is acknowledging individual needs – be that the traveller, travel booker, or stakeholders.

Approaching people from a place of care brings loyalty and confidence, turning travel programmes into an extension of the workplace - not a policy-driven, legally mandated chore. 

In the midst of all these external forces – changing expectations, changing workplaces, and the need to recognise the individual – the question remains: why do we need to redefine care now?

For care to work, and a care-centric travel programme to be fully realised, care must become culture.

External forces are clearly at play. Travellers, travel managers, suppliers, and stakeholders may all be at different stages of the journey towards an individual, life-centric, care-focused culture. But the wheels are in motion and this is a trend which is clearly set to continue.

However, just like the infamous “greenwashing” trend when we talk about sustainability, companies, suppliers, and individuals need to beware of “carewashing” - the outward appearance of care and individualisation, but reverting to traditional modes of segmentation and assumption about their travellers and employees. Like greenwashing, it may work in the short term, but unless these claims can be substantiated, and are truly integral to your culture, the house of cards will quickly fall.

Instilling care as a culture takes time.

It is something that unites and creates community, throughout the business. It also requires supply chains and third parties to buy into the culture and support a care-centric programme through their support and offering. This is not a quick fix, or a marketing initiative. It is woven into the fabric of the business and can be seen in all areas, not just the travel programme.

Eliza Thornton, Associate Director at Teneo and a Travel Counsellors for Business client, recently commented on the “years of industry expertise [that] were evident in both planning and delivery.” This didn’t come about quickly. It is something that has been part of our culture since we were founded in 1994.

While there is undoubtedly work to be done for many buyers and suppliers in the business travel industry, there are clear benefits to creating a culture of care within both businesses and travel programmes.

Loyalty, confidence, and employee retention are just some of the more tangible aspects a culture of care can bring, as well as increased sales and referrals.

But before we can reach this stage, where care becomes culture, we need to redefine what care actually means for us all in the business travel industry.

In our fifth blog of the series, we look at the role that tech plays in terms of helping us to redefine care in business travel. 


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