No more budget hotels or cheap flights - I want an upgrade!

You’re away from home, perhaps missing family commitments, probably working like a dog and shattered as a result. Business trips are no picnic. So how would you feel if you had to head to a budget hotel at the end of the day, for your few moments of R&R?

Budget accommodation is becoming more popular

It seems more and more businesses are opting to bed their travelling staff down in cheap digs rather than pay out for a little more luxury. Budget chain Travelodge said in October that business travellers account for more than half of its sales and it was seeing businesses of all sizes switch from high-end hotels to value travel brands.

And research from the Business Travel Show, published in November 2018, showed that companies allocated more of their corporate travel budgets this year towards serviced apartments, mid-range and budgets hotels, with fewer buyers increasing spend on five-star accommodation. “For the last four years, the number one challenge facing buyers has been how to cut costs while maintaining quality and keeping travellers happy,” says David Chapple, portfolio director at the Business Travel Show.

Not all companies are going down the budget route, says Melanie Quinn, commercial director at travel management business Amber Road. “It depends on the industry sector. In recent years there has been a drive towards perceived budget properties from certain industries like retail”.

The simple reality is that there is always pressure to cut costs. Melanie says: “We encourage our clients to have rate caps by region in place in order to keep costs under control.”

Treat employees like ambassadors

Of course, accommodation isn’t the only expense where companies can go cheap to save costs, or spend more to make things a little more comfortable and rewarding for employees. Another major part of overseas travel spend is the flights.

It might well be worth spending a little more on getting from A to B. Eamon Tuhami, CEO & founder at Motivii, says: “When employees are travelling on work, they’re ambassadors for the company, so it’s important that they feel like they’re being looked after by their company.”

Providing a higher class of travel could be a worthwhile investment, he explains: “If you’re heading to a pitch on the other side of the world, it’s important that you’re well-rested.
If your company has cheaped out and only paid for economy class, you won’t just feel tired, you’ll feel as though your company isn’t all that valuable. Adding a little luxury is a subconscious thing, but it matters.”

One rule for all?

Should senior executives expect a little more luxury than more junior members of staff when travelling for business? Opinions are divided.

While David says that’s ultimately a question for individual companies, he sees clear benefits to upgrading senior execs: “If you think about how much these executives cost and how much they are worth to the company in terms of business, you start to see how it can make sense to let them travel in luxury as makes it easier for them to be productive en route and arrive fresh and ready to work,” he says, adding: “There is a huge focus on traveller health and wellbeing, too, and senior executives may well travel more. As glamorous as that sounds, it can actually really take its toll physically and mentally so organisations do have a duty of care to those travellers to minimise any negative side effects.”

Better travel class and accommodation can be used as an incentive for moving up the corporate ladder. But, Eamon says, “it also risks creating an imbalance that leads to negativity around those that get the extra perks vs those that don’t.”

He adds: “Ultimately it comes down to the sort of culture you want at work. Maybe you’ve inherited a culture where only the senior staff get perks like travelling business class. If your company has the money, giving more lux accommodation options to non-senior staff is a great way of showing you care.”

Melanie says: “Mainly we see senior management leading by example, unless the company is privately owned.”

And what about really frequent travellers?

If an employee travels particularly frequently then that may influence decision-making over the class of flight they take or standard of accommodation they bed down in.

David says it’s common for companies to book economy class tickets for domestic and short- haul flights, and business or first class for long- haul, meaning anything over 6-8 hours.

Offering better class flights to frequent travellers could help with talent retention, Melanie says: “The cost associated to recruiting new talent or losing staff to burnout should be a consideration when making policy for any responsible employer.”

Take control of travel expenses


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