Return on investment (ROI) is critical for any organisation’s bottom line. Reed & Mackay Group CEO Fred Stratford shares his insights into where and how business travel can deliver ROI.

Travel can work for business

Clients are reporting that the desire to travel is strong, particularly for prospective employees or new hires.

The pandemic dramatically altered what employees expect from their employers. We’re all familiar with ‘the great resignation’. Offering travel incentives or a team-building conference abroad can really help build a company’s profile. With employee engagement now such a key component of a company’s success markers, the ROI on travel can be invaluable.

However, it’s certainly more difficult to measure in granular data and on the bottom line. Yet leaning on the expertise of TMCs allows companies to short-circuit a lot of the quagmire. And they can focus on defining what ROI looks like; engagement and enjoyment for participants.

Embrace the changing ways of working

Team availability and resources in the hybrid world have recently become key considerations. Pre-pandemic, you may have had all staff working from one central office. Remote work may now be the norm for many team members. So there are now additional logistics involved in facilitating corporate travel costs or events and how you factor that into ROI.

Furthermore, companies are having to look at who will own the management of the trip itself, given staff shortages and perhaps a lack of expertise in the area. Of course, colleague safety is paramount. It’s essential companies feel confident they have the required knowledge, and the health and safety admin, to run a successful, secure trip. TMCs can provide the assurance and expertise to ensure success across all those metrics.

Factor in new costs

Nothing beats face-to-face connection and the most advanced, seasoned Teams or Zoom user cannot replicate energy in the room on a virtual platform. As a result, we’re seeing companies are re-allocating budget lines formally reserved for ‘bells and whistle’ elements, such as entertainment, speakers and activities.

In a more general sense, wellness, downtime, bleisure options and team-building opportunities are the key requests being made to our international travel management teams.

Sustainability is also important to many clients. Reed & Mackay offers measurement solutions to ensure companies can continue to travel, while meeting their ESG commitments.

Obviously, cost is always a central conversation in the planning process of travel budgets. Yet there are more factors in play than a simple, flat, cost saving. When it comes to large-scale events, specifically, companies are now having to consider employee needs and desires in addition to their own deliverables. They also have to consider which destinations can facilitate a number of requirements rather than the old ‘conference centre only’ approach.  

Set up a structure for ROI in business travel

There is no established best practice for how to manage the true return on investment of a business trip. Only the business itself can set the goals for its trips and measure against them, but many are leaning on their travel partners to help put structure around this.

Companies need to consider measuring success factors, such as deals closed, across both virtual and in-person meetings. That then enables an overall ROI metric by looking at how many deals included in-person meetings versus those handled virtually.

Few companies currently measure corporate travel ROI at this granular level, instead embedding robust approval processes and empowering senior management to make the call. But gone are the days when trip ROI was largely another way of measuring savings. We’re now looking at how you balance employee wellbeing and the benefits of cultural cohesion alongside traditional metrics such as increased sales for a company.

We’re also seeing greater integration of travel and expense policies, which enables companies to report on the true cost of winning a deal, from the plane ticket to the dinner. With new advancements in granular sustainability data, we can even begin to wrap in the CO2 impact.

Capture key data

We’re consistent advocates for the use of pre, mid and postevent surveys, for companies to capture sentiment and key learnings, for the benefit of ROI and beyond. We provide a number of datacapture technology platforms for our clients; employee engagement is one of our many specialities.

Furthermore, as companies seek to retain and attract talent, there is now an HR element and benefit to corporate travel. We know it’s a candidate’s market right now and it’s extremely competitive. By offering staff travel opportunities and improving the ease with which executives can plan and enjoy travelcompanies are sure to see returns in both colleague engagement and in their edge as an employer of choice.

Discover where TMCs can help deliver ROI

There’s a real opportunity to drive the ‘why’ by leaning into the expertise of a professional TMC. Having an expert lead the process allows better planning, cost saving and efficiency as companies reintroduce corporate travel to their agendas.

Additionally, companies need to approach the topic of corporate, group and incentive travel from a place of purpose. For example, being completely clear on what the desired outcome of the trip is, from the outset, a great way to ensure measurement and will, in itself, justify the travel.

There was an emerging narrative for a while that, with the need to reduce carbon emissions, internal travel would be slower to return, with business travel ROI focused on financial recovery post-pandemic and therefore weighted towards the role of travel in closing new business deals. But we’re not seeing that. For many clients, their internal/office travel has ramped up beyond pre-pandemic levels.