Buyers share how to deliver the best business travel experience

Focusing on corporate culture, employee empowerment and bleisure can transform the business event environment.

A happy traveller: finding the right formula to deliver on the business travel experience.
A happy traveller: finding the right formula to deliver on the business travel experience. Photo Credit: Adobe stock/Jacob Lund

Employees are now looking to get more out of business travel, including better productivity support and a wider consideration for the personal enrichment that comes from travel.

This thinking was explored during a recent panel discussion themed around different ways to deliver on the business travel experience, moderated by Elizabeth West, editorial director at the BTN Group. It featured contributions from three travel buyers, including Michelle DeCosta, global head of travel meetings/events and fleet for Takeda Pharmaceuticals; Suzanne Boyan, global meetings & travel manager at ZS Associates; and Dorian Stonie, senior director global travel at Salesforce.

DeCosta highlighted how it is vital to provide travellers with a link to being in an office, even while on the move. The company’s travel programmes reflect the values of wellness and the importance of feeling rested and refreshed. “We looked at ways to improve business travel for employees who on the road and who are travelling to our various offices - our travellers are not just in airports, they're visiting different offices, and so we looked at ways to enhance that experience, whether it's creating lounge-like spaces and luggage storage,” said DeCosta. “With any Takeda office you land in, you feel at home. We also asked our suppliers to come up with ideas for what wellness looks like for travellers on the road and in the office.”

For Boyan, travel programmes are based on respect and empowerment, giving employees the opportunity to make their own decisions around business travel. “We have a big emphasis on duty of care, especially post-Covid,” explained Boyan.

“Our duty of care has always existed but there is definitely more of a focus now than previously - we want to know where people are so we can provide appropriate support systems.”

Boyan added that getting the right data is a priority - it enables them to produce an enhanced duty of care for example. She also highlighted how a business travel experience and productivity go hand in hand.

“[The right data] allows travellers to reach back out to you if something does go wrong and you can catch up with them and make sure they're okay,” she said.

“Employees are taking time out of their personal days to go on trips so having this level of experience furthers their productivity.”

Salesforce’s Stonie pointed out how the personal element of business travel can be more pronounced with infrequent travellers. “We want travel to be about personal support and often, it’s those who travel less who need the most support,” he said. “We like leisure travel - it’s not a negative word in our programme. Interestingly, the element that kept up the momentum post-Covid, when discussions around corporate travel and expense reports went down to a bare minimum, was exploring this personal/bleisure side of travel further. Our employees wanted to understand what personal discounts were available and which places were open in the destinations they travelled, as well as information on our preferred hotel directory.”

Stonie added that adopting an omni-channel approach to business travel has helped the company create more flexible business travel programmes, enabling it to easily deliver [destination] content when travellers require this. It’s important to mitigate risks too; by encouraging those employees considering a bleisure trip to submit their personal travel plans, it prompts Salesforce to consider providing an extra level of duty of care.