5 Reasons Why Travelers Book Out-of-Policy (And How to Mitigate It)

As companies update and overhaul their travel programs in a post-pandemic environment, safety concerns linger and new travel implications have emerged. Complicating this shift is the wide array of booking options available to business travelers, which often encourage travelers to book outside of the established travel program.

When travelers don’t comply with their organization’s travel policy, they reduce financial transparency, diminish savings potential, damage contractual relationships with suppliers, and can even cause serious duty of care concerns. Below we offer top takeaways on how to achieve program compliance and ideas to help make it easier.

1. Proximity to where they need to be

Now more than ever, travelers want to stay close to event locations. Staffing shortages and supply chain issues have resulted in longer wait times, and travelers fear that staying too far away could result in late arrivals and missed connections. However, an out-of-policy hotel room might be in a less safe area and a discounted airfare may not offer flexible options in the event of cancellation or delay. 

Those tasked with managing travel can foster compliance within a few key areas that help travel programs stay on track and promote a safe travel experience. First and foremost, it’s essential to keep policies updated and employees informed. Incentivizing employees towards compliance has increased in popularity, with many companies offering gift certificates to employees who book within policy. Additionally, some organizations even utilize gamification features like badges and leaderboards for point reward systems. Travel managers can also provide a flexible upper limit on hotel accommodations to meet traveler and company goals.

2. Save the company money

Employees might be tempted to book out-of-policy due to a cheaper rate. “I’m saving my department or organization money,” is often the first thought, but face value fares don’t show travelers the whole story.

Through their travel management company (TMC), travel managers have access to strong relationships with suppliers and negotiated rates that cater to the business traveler. Often, this may include benefits not available with regular tickets, such as no-change fees, flexible fares, and unused tickets or credits, which can be applied to the purchase. Booking out-of-policy also hinders the travel manager’s ability to negotiate better rates with preferred suppliers, a vital aspect of the B2B relationship.

Travel managers are advised to thank employees for in-policy booking and remind them of the many advantages of compliance. Assure them that your travel policy takes a wide array of factors into consideration and is designed to remove the burden of cost-containment off travelers. This in turn allows employers to redirect their energies towards the reason why they travel: fueling growth and meeting key goals.

3. Ease of booking through a third-party

When employees venture out-of-policy through deals within the digital realm, it presents risk and more room for mishaps.

Employees need to understand that limited support is available when something goes wrong with an out-of-policy reservation. In most situations, a travel manager does not have leverage to help with cancelled flights or an overbooked hotel. Employees also need to understand that travel policies crafted with the most current industry data and safety information in mind to help ensure a healthy journey for employees.

A common scenario occurs when employees are misled by third-party promotions with ever-changing content and fares. Simply put, “what you see is what you get” may not be the case when travelers book outside of policy. It’s important to educate employees on compliance and regularly disseminate company travel booking policies and guidelines. A great idea for fostering in-policy booking is to highlight the benefits within a company newsletter, on-line bulletin board, or through regular email updates.

4. Bleisure

Remote work gained acceptance on a grand scale during the pandemic and continues to occupy major space within the corporate environment. The new hybrid workforce gives employees flexibility and opportunities to extend trips, thereby maximizing their time away. Savvy travelers often combine business with leisure activities, resulting in “bleisure”—an ongoing buzzword within the corporate travel sector. The AHLA’s 2022 report revealed that bleisure skyrocketed during the pandemic, and further evidence shows that it’s here to stay.

Often times, bleisure travelers may stay with family members or friends. While staying with a family member or friend is certainly more affordable, it can make it more difficult for the employers to reach employees in the event of an emergency. To mitigate this, establish a database of emergency contact information to help reduce the risk of being unable to reach your travelers. 

As a compliance incentive, companies can also offer special programs that allow employees extra PTO days at the end of a business trip if they book through the company’s preferred suppliers. This accomplishes two important aspects: keeping you supplier relationships strong and rewarding your employees for adhering to policy.

5. Leverage their loyalty programs

Work-life balance has taken on a new meaning post-pandemic as employees redefine priorities, and employers face major hiring challenges. To help offset employee shortages and enhance retention, companies are offering more travel benefits and flexible options than ever before. Enhancing employment packages through travel rewards and increased time off provides allure for potential employees and keeps key players happy.

“[Employees] are looking beyond compensation to seek employers providing flexibility, prioritizing wellbeing and mental health, delivering growth and development opportunities, embracing diversity and inclusion, and creating an opportunity to work towards a higher purpose,” said Thomson Reuters’ chief people officer Mary Alice Vuicic.

With more available vacation time and remote work options, employees might wander outside of compliance and book out-of-policy. A major influencer is personal- loyalty program memberships. Managers can foster compliance by encouraging travelers to join loyalty programs with policy-compliant suppliers and reward them for signing up. This is an effortless way for employees to earn miles along with hotel and rental car points without out-of-pocket expenses, a major benefit of booking through approved suppliers.

A Trusted Partner Can Help Lift the Burden

Out-of-policy bookings can cause travel management nightmares and create additional work for travel managers whose plates are already full. Most importantly, it also reduces savings potential and negatively impacts duty of care, presenting safety issues for employees.

Evaluating programs, updating policies, and encouraging compliance can be daunting tasks, but our team can help lighten the load with high-touch service from our industry experts and tech tools designed to simplify travel management. To learn more about our efficient time-tested strategies, reach out to a Direct Travel advisor