An unfortunate sounding term whatever the context, leakage is a word you don’t want associated with your travel programme.
Leakage refers to employees booking business travel outside of their organisation’s agreed supplier. For example, your organisation may have a contracted travel management company (TMC), but your employees may prefer to book on different supplier sites and expense the fare.
When confronting leakage in your programme, you need to know:
- What is being booked outside of your current travel programme? Is the problem exclusive to accommodation, or to rail or air travel? Or is leakage occurring across your programme?
- Who are the main culprits? Is it a certain department, level of seniority or just particular individuals?
- Why are they doing it? Do they want to stick to a certain brand/chain? Did they not realise they were going out of policy? Or is it just easier?
This might be quite a simple task, or you may need to organise an internal survey or forum. Collating opinions across your organisation will lead to a more effective solution, so it’s worth putting in the legwork now. 9 times out of 10, we find that the reasons behind the leakage will come down to choice, cost and convenience.
Now it’s time to defeat the beast.
Step 1: Stakeholder buy-in
It’s important to get buy-in from senior management to tackle the problem effectively. In most cases it will require some form of behaviour or policy change to minimise the leakage, so be sure your senior management team are aware of the situation, the issues that it’s causing and the steps you want to take to address it. Without this high level support, there will usually be some backdoors or loopholes that let people off the hook to go back to their old ways!
Step 2: Booking tool
Ensure that your organisation can offer travellers and bookers a wide choice of options to book autonomously but with the ability to control what they are spending. Why should travellers have to book into your preferred 3-star hotel if they can take advantage of a brilliant special offer rate from a neighbouring 4-star hotel, assuming it’s still within budget? This is why it’s important to ensure that your TMC has access to a variety of content, and is not just reliant on the traditional GDS approach.
Step 3: Policy adjustments
A main driver has to be your organization’s travel policy; get the policy right and you will be able to give your travellers the autonomy to stay within policy but also book what they want, when they want via your TMC. This limits the risk of them going elsewhere and you losing sight of your travel spend, not to mention visibility of where they are, to comply with your duty of care needs. If you have a TMC, your account manager can advise on what policy adjustments will be most effective and realistic
Leakage is most probably not something that can be solved overnight, but as you can see there’s plenty you can do to tackle the problem. So, remember to take the necessary time to tackle the issue – time spent addressing the root cause of the problem will save you from bigger headaches later on.