If well-run higher education travel programs deliver significant financial value and benefits to schools and their travelers, why does travel program adoption continue to be a pain point for so many schools? Why do some travelers and even whole departments resist making their travel reservations through approved channels? Marketing, or a lack thereof, is often the culprit.
Think about when your institution partnered with your current travel management company (TMC). How did you market the new partnership to faculty and staff? For many schools, a brief blurb about switching TMCs is placed on the procurement department’s webpage, the school’s travel webpage, or sent out via institution-wide email blast. That’s not exciting, though, and doesn’t entice travelers to book through approved channels.
It’s more effective to market the travel program by making announcements outlining the benefits that travelers will enjoy when booking through the TMC: better air, car and hotel rates than booking outside of the program, dedicated agent team assistance, after-hours help, travel risk advisories/incident alerts, time-saving/simplified reservation processes, etc. Also, stating the benefits to the institution, as a whole, helps faculty and staff understand that their participation in the program enables their school to leverage T&E spend with suppliers, which further benefits the travelers themselves through better rates and upgraded services. Ask your TMC about their customizable marketing materials that you can disseminate to your travelers.
You can also reinforce the value and benefits of the travel program when your TMC shares good news during your program reviews. Often times, it will only be a representative from the procurement department that sits down with the TMC to review how the program is performing or you may get a controller to participate from time to time, but the information discussed doesn’t always make it out of that meeting. The school may have saved 5% on their travel spend booked through preferred air carriers or 14-day advance air purchase cost avoidance was quantified for you. If you have that kind of information, why not share it with faculty and staff to tout the benefits of the travel program and dispel the belief that managed travel lacks value to the institution?
Lastly, it’s a good idea to convey to your faculty and staff that you chose your TMC partner due to their expertise in managing higher education travel programs. Let them also know that managing travel is not just about the savings. It’s inevitable that your faculty, staff and students will experience some type of trip disruption at some point in their travels and knowing that the support and resources of your TMC are at their fingertips is a powerful incentive for them to book through approved channels.
Only a fully utilized travel program can deliver the complete benefits and value that it’s capable of, so regularly reminding your faculty and staff of this is necessary when so many other booking methods are vying for their attention. For assistance with marketing your travel program to your travelers, contact Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited for assistance.