As companies have resumed business travel, new challenges have emerged, driven by economic uncertainties, supply chain disruptions, and the adoption of hybrid work business models. To address these needs, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, in association with American Express Global Business Travel, conducted a survey in May 2023 with 425 respondents involved in their organisations' travel programmes.
The survey explored:
- Ways that business travel can best deliver value to an organisation to meet business goals.
- Areas where companies can focus their investments to increase efficiency and thrive despite disruptions.
- Key attributes of a business travel programme that fosters growth and scaling in an environment defined by hybrid and remote working.
- Insights on how to build and sustain a programme that best supports an organisation’s value, culture, and aspirations while keeping business objectives in mind.
The results showed that it isn’t the time to pull back on business travel. In fact, there’s an opportunity today for high-striving organisations to lean into travel as a driver of company growth and scalability.
Business travel has changed
One of the largest changes in recent years is the shift towards a remote or hybrid workforce. The survey found that remote and hybrid working is now the prevalent approach, with two-thirds of respondents saying much of their organisation works remotely today.
That shift suggests that travel is now even more necessary in order to meet existing customers to grow customer retention, potential customers to drive business development and grow the customer base, partners to review business growth strategies, or fellow team members to collaborate in person and brainstorm new business opportunities. But it also means that the why, where, and when of travel have likely changed.
The need to be aware of – and adapt to – evolving business needs also emerged in the data. The survey surfaced eight key attributes of a successful business travel programme, and adapting to the organisation’s evolving business travel needs was one of them.
Exposing the gap
The data uncovered a significant gap between what leaders saw as key drivers to a successful travel programme and the extent to which their organisation was adopting those attributes.
For instance, 71% of respondents said that adapting to evolving needs was critical, yet only 36% of respondents said their organisation does adapt. This double-digit disparity in metrics carried across every single one of the eight key success factors.
There's an opportunity for organisations who implement the eight factors outlined in this report to gain a strategic advantage over those who don’t.
And those benefits span the breadth of the organisation. Survey respondents cited in-person meetings to be beneficial for things like:
- Closing deals effectively
- Innovating quickly and creatively
- Troubleshooting issues collaboratively
- Growing employee satisfaction
- Evaluating merger and acquisition targets
One respondent said, “Travel is always going to be a cost to be minimised because it has such a big impact on the bottom line. But we know it’s a critical investment in our business growth. It’s an important investment in our people, our existing clients and new customers, our suppliers, and our employees.”
Finding the right partner for business travel
Enterprise-level travel management emerged as a common theme in the survey as well. Perhaps because of the greater intricacies of travel today and the need to optimise effectiveness, most companies (89%) have formal, centrally managed travel policies and many work with a single travel management company (TMC).
But the survey insights show that it’s not about just using any TMC. It’s about finding the right one. Leaders emphasised the importance of partnering with a TMC that has similar values and a growth opportunity mindset, in order to truly support your organisation's rapid growth plan in the long term.
To meet your company's growth targets, follow the eight success metrics outlined in the full report.