See what went into the travel management program that won the BTTB-GBTA 2017 'Travel Program of the Year' award.
We’re sure you already know that that the mainstay of successful and efficient business travel is a carefully thought out and even more carefully managed travel program.
In 2017, an exceptional travel management program will be driven by automation, tailored to mirror the booking and travel behaviours of employees (which inherently encourages travel policy compliance) and complemented with competitive supplier deals and purposeful relationships with travel providers.
We could go on all day (and night, depending on who you ask) about the important elements of a truly comprehensive travel management program. Instead, we thought we would hand it over to an organisation whose travel management program is so distinguished, it won an award.
Earlier this year, the Australian Government won the BTTB-GBTA 2017 “Travel Program of the Year” award (pictured below), an accolade that recognises the best of the best in travel programs. We asked Kate McKay, Director of the program to share some advice to help you improve your own travel program.
Tell us about the Australian Government travel program?
The Whole-of-Australian Government (WoAG) Travel Arrangements (the Arrangements), which commenced on 1 July 2010, provide a coordinated approach to servicing the government’s broad range of travel needs. The Department of Finance undertakes the procurement and management of the related contracts on behalf of the government.
The Arrangements offer a simple, seamless and efficient travel solution that:
- reduces cost of supply of travel services for agencies and service providers through competitive pricing and value for money outcomes
- contributes to a competitive and viable travel industry
- meets the business needs of agencies
- results in fair, equitable and transparent processes
- optimises government savings through cost reductions, improved efficiencies and promotion of behavioural change.
The Arrangements currently comprise of:
- Travel Management Services supplier – QBT Pty Ltd.
- Panel of three domestic and eighteen international airlines.
- Accommodation Program Manager – The AOT Group Ltd.
- Travel and Related Card Services provider – Diners Club Pty Ltd.
- Two Car Rental suppliers – Thrifty and Europcar.
What makes your travel program unique?
The Arrangements are unique in terms of the volume and diversity of travel requirements. Over 140 agencies book travel through the Arrangements, and each agency can have different needs and priorities.
The level of travel changes year to year and reflects the operational needs of agencies in delivering programs and services for the Government.
The reasons for travel can range from deploying Australian Defence Force personnel; transporting military veterans to medical appointments or commemoration events; supporting security operations to assisting with local and international natural disasters.
What are the achievements of your travel program over the last 12 months?
As part of a continuous improvement agenda, new technology is continually considered and existing processes reviewed to ensure the most efficient tools and practices are in place. Despite the large scale of travellers and differing travel requirements, a number of significant achievements and innovations have been delivered in conjunction with the contracted suppliers over the last 12-months.
An integrated single-sign-on portal from QBT that provides agencies with a one-stop-shop to:
- Create, edit and delete traveller profiles.
- Book and manage travel through the online booking tool.
- Access dynamic travel data (updated daily) through QBT’s reporting tool, Travel Analytics.
- Receive travel notifications and alerts from QBT and International SOS.
- Download copies of invoices and itineraries.
Enhancements to the online booking tool that:
- Improves functionality and streamlines booking processes to allow the tool to process over 90 per cent of all domestic and less complex international bookings.
Processing Tickets in Credit (TIC) through an automated system which:
- Significantly reduces the Commonwealth’s exposure to TIC forfeiture.
- Realises significant savings and efficiencies by better utilising available TIC and refunding expiring TIC.
- Removes the need for travel managers to maintain external TIC tracking registers.
- Automatically processes any refundable amounts (including taxes) from airlines as credits approach expiry.
In conjunction with AOT, introducing:
- A Savings Tool that drives better accommodation booking behaviours and savings irrespective of the booking channel.
- A duty of care reporting tool to assist agencies in managing their employee duty of care obligations.
What’s the secret to WoAG Travel’s success?
There is no secret, but rather building and maintaining effective working relationships with both agencies and suppliers is a key contributor to the success of the Arrangements. Without the support and trust of agencies and their willingness to engage with change, the significant achievements of the Arrangements would not have been realised. Similarly, the cooperation of suppliers and their willingness to understand and meet or exceed the government’s requirements is fundamental to the successes.For the Department of Finance this means:
- Consulting and collaborating extensively with agencies during the procurement process.
- Maintaining open communication, flexibility, responsiveness, and an awareness of changing business needs during the service delivery phase.
- Working with suppliers in strategic partnerships to deliver high quality systems, services, and reporting that are adaptable, keep up to date with technology enhancements, and minimise risk.
What advice would you give to other organisations looking to make improvements to their travel program?
To achieve the best outcomes from a travel program:
Understand your organisation’s travel
Opportunities for improvement are reliant on knowing the travel profile of the organisation. An organisation should consult extensively with staff and obtain reporting to understand information such as:
- Who is travelling, why, and where?
- Are there any special requirements?
- Is travel last minute or can it being booked well in advance of departure?
- What class of airfares are staff using?
- Are staff booking fully flexible or restricted airfares?
- What are the accommodation and car rental needs of travelling staff?
- What are the incidental expenses?
- Is travel booked online or through a consultant?
- How are the travel elements paid?
Once this information is known, the areas where improvements can be achieved become much clearer.
Establish a practical policy
To manage travel and the related expenses effectively, it is important to establish and maintain a practical travel policy. The policy should document, for example, the principles and/or rules around:
- When staff should travel (what other options are there? is travel necessary – when should a meeting be conducted via teleconference or videoconference?).
- What safety considerations need to be taken into account?
- How should staff travel? (are business class or fully flexible economy class airfares allowed).
- What type of accommodation or rental car should be booked and what incidental expenses are allowable.
- What approvals are required to book travel?
- How do staff pay for travel?
- Are there travel allowance arrangements?
- How do staff achieve value for money in selecting and booking travel?
It is equally important to monitor compliance with the policy through regular reporting. The treatment of non-compliance should also be documented and understood by staff.
Nurture open communication
To help ensure the planned outcomes of a travel program are achieved, staff need to be aware of and understand the program particularly the underpinning policy. At the same time, travel managers need to review the program regularly to confirm that the travel needs of staff are being fulfilled or that modifications are required. Maintaining open communication and consulting with staff through two-way conversations is key to accomplishing the travel objectives of managers and staff.
Don’t Stand Still
Technology in the travel sector is dynamic and constantly evolving. Staff expect the experience of booking travel at work to be the same or better than the experience of booking leisure travel. Challenge suppliers to analyse their technology offerings at regular intervals and establish a clear roadmap for the delivery of improvements and enhancements in the short and medium term.
To find out which areas might be lacking in your travel program and how QBT can help, click here for a free online travel assessment.