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Why Indian businesses’ travel policies are routinely ignored
Fri 6 Jul, 2018 at 12:00 am

Indian companies’ business travel policies are rarely adhered to. According to a recent survey of business travellers by American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), 92 per cent of Indian business travellers believe earning personal loyalty points or rewards is a good reason to book outside of company policy. The top reasons Indian business travellers provided as a rationale for booking outside , policy were desiring accommodation closer to a meeting or business event venue (96 per cent), staying in a more convenient location (96 per cent), and staying in a better quality hotel (96 per cent). All are good reasons, but is booking outside the company’s policy acceptable?

With airlines and hotels offering a range of personal incentives for continued loyalty, it appears that personal rewards provide sufficient justification for some employees to ignore standard company policies. While a large majority of business travellers from India acknowledge the value of travelling for work and are aware their company has a travel policy, many are reluctant to comply, citing issues including wanting business lounge access (93 per cent), using preferred airlines not within current policy (88 per cent) and a desire to stay in a safer location (94 per cent).

Ashish Kishore, GBT’s managing director, India, said companies need to regularly review their travel policies and ensure they are fit for purpose. “There are many reasons why Indian business travellers consider it appropriate to book business travel outside of company policy and while some are practical, some would be considered insufficient by most companies,” said Kishore.

“Most employers would happily accept safety reasons or practical business reasons such as staying closer to a meeting business event venue as justification for booking outside policy. However, 96 percent of Indian business travellers believe wishing to stay in a better quality hotel is a good reason for booking outside policy and it is unlikely that excuse would pass scrutiny. Businesses can set themselves up for success by ensuring their travel policies cover the most suitable airlines and hotels. Offering a wide variety of appropriate options will help encourage employees to book within policy while also enjoying luxury of choice. Automated travel approval technology can also make it easier for travellers to make the right decisions,” Kishore added.

Personally earning a percentage of the money saved (61 per cent), receiving bonus days off (60 per cent) and internal company points systems that can go towards rewards or future travel (56 per cent) were the top three options that Indian business travellers believed would increase their likelihood of booking within policy. The survey also revealed Indian businesses are more likely to find themselves saving money on their travel expenditure through incentivising staff and 97 per cent of Indian business travellers stated they would prefer incentives to book within their existing company policy!

“Our research indicates that Indian employees prefer greater autonomy and flexibility when arranging their travel and that companies may benefit from embracing this. If Indian companies combine this with some perks for sticking within travel policy, they’re likely to see a considerable increase in how many people obey company rules,” affirmed Kishore.

In addition to incentives, clear and regular communication of company travel policies can also assist in policy adherence with 53 percent of Indian business travellers believing their company does not have clear policies relating to business travel and expense reporting.

When employees book within travel policy it not only helps companies keep track of their staff and fulfil their duty of care obligations, it also provides valuable data which companies use to negotiate good deals with airlines and hotels. Policies need to be re-evaluated from time to time in order to make them more acceptable and therefore enforceable.

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