How To Build A Winning Ground Transportation Program During Business Travel Recovery And Economic Uncertainty

Amiad Solomon is the founder and CEO of HQ, an end-to-end enterprise solution for corporate mobility.

For the ground transportation industry, the Covid-19 pandemic was a full stop that punctuated over a decade of disruption in the way we move from A to B. For every before, there is always an after, and I believe now—the summer of 2022—is that after. It’s a period that’s seeing travel managers and employees alike embrace the corporate travel comeback amid inflation (paywall) and recession fears. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that corporate travel is rapidly recovering, and I expect the numbers to continue to rise in September as employees return to the workplace after the summer.

For ground travel, it’s imperative that cost-efficiency and cost containment underpin the post-pandemic recovery in a way that encourages face-to-face meetings while being mindful of travel spend. It requires attention to important details, especially the booking process and travel policy compliance, that if gone unnoticed or are simply unattainable, impact your company’s costs.

I feel that to make decisions for long-term success, business leaders need access to the full picture of all aspects of ground transportation for maximum control, choice and convenience. This allows for a more hands-on, holistic steering of the corporate travel wheel. We’ve seen throughout this year that prices for common commodities are reaching record levels, and inflation is rising, with World Bank President David Malpass stating that “recession will be hard to avoid.”

I believe that the way to move from setback to success during these uncertain times is by streamlining ground transportation with a platform that can handle all business ground travel in one place. At a time of record-high gas prices (paywall) and fuel surcharges, diving into the details is critical. According to our HQ research, this year, we have witnessed a 28% average increase in ride price as suppliers hiked prices in the face of surging demand and prices at the pump (paywall).

Following the pandemic, things have equally shifted as the lines have blurred between in-person and hybrid work. This has opened up an opportunity for businesses to create travel programs and policies that are in line with this new working world. It’s about centralizing company-wide ground travel into a single platform for greater visibility—in particular, corporate travel spend and policy compliance. While for employees, it’s about an enhanced passenger experience that provides comfort, convenience and control.

More than ever, business travelers are seeking flexibility and freedom during the booking process. Without definition and alignment, businesses can find themselves with costly out-of-policy rides and inefficient processes that hurt their bottom line.

Booking Flexibility And Freedom

Despite the term “bleisure” being coined back in 2009, it’s this year that the word’s relevance has taken hold. Employees increasingly expect their corporate mobility program and policy to be flexible. If anything, Covid-19 has shown that plans can change and that we need to adapt and adjust accordingly. Corporations need the functionality to compare, contrast and choose ride providers and vehicle types with ride prices that are within the business budget.

Goodbye To Out-Of-Policy Rides

In my experience, corporations often have a clearly defined corporate travel policy, and yet they still struggle to ensure employee ride requests are compliant. That’s why embedding client travel policies into the booking process can address and avoid out-of-policy rides to guarantee compliance company-wide. With hybrid working models, clients should be able to update and amend existing travel policies or build new ones based on particular business functions, team members and office locations.

From your employee’s perspective, they have the autonomy to book their own rides while remaining policy compliant. It makes it simple to stay on budget, share the trip purpose and select the most suitable vehicle. In doing so, the time-consuming approval process is replaced with a seamless booking experience.

With the lines between personal and professional travel increasingly intertwined, this is the right time to review, revisit and rewrite business travel policies. It is through having a better understanding of your employees’ mindsets and needs that you can create more effective, up-to-date travel policies for maximum compliance.

It is equally important for your company to reassess the value of face-to-face meetings compared to video conferencing at a time when the workforce actively seeks and longs for human interaction. In a recent BCD Travel survey, 74% of respondents said that in-person client meetings are the most important reason for business travel, with 66% expressing the lack of human interaction as a major drawback to virtual meetings.

Sustainability Still Center Stage

Sustainability was already high on the agenda before the pandemic and is still there for good reason. As businesses reshuffle their priorities, the shift we’re seeing with our Fortune 500 clients is from one of talking and planning to doing and creating. It’s about creating change that’s actionable, measurable and financially responsible.

According to findings from SAP Concur and GBTA, almost all respondents—an incredible 99%—confirmed that sustainability is still an integral part of their travel policy. However, in the post-pandemic world, there’s greater economic pressure, with 65% stating that demonstrating an ROI on corporate mobility is now more important than ever before. In this light, having a successful sustainable corporate travel program rests on a solution that provides the clearest picture of all ground transportation activity, including, but not limited to, GHG emissions reporting and offsetting.

Ultimately, a clear understanding of the overall environmental impact and the true cost of all ground transportation can only be achieved with a holistic, enterprise solution. The data and insights traditionally obtained from analytics and booking history provide a limited view that lacks both valuable granular level data and the full picture globally.

The thread that ties reporting, ride booking, travel policy compliance and sustainability may not be an overly explicit one. However, when looking under the hood, it’s clear that information and insight lead to better decision making that benefits the business, employees and the environment. After all, with an enhanced, deeper understanding of the impact of ground transportation, it’s possible to operate more efficiently and offer sustainable alternatives, including corporate shuttles and electric vehicles.

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