Calculating the true cost of business travel is harder than you might think.
Of course, working out the total amount of money that has been spent on travel is fairly simple, but that figure doesn’t take into account factors affecting the productivity of the traveller.
Scott Gillespie, an experienced travel industry thought-leader, offers a simple equation to calculate the total cost of travel:
Total Cost of Travel = Trip cost (£) + Traveller Friction
So if you think of traveller friction as equating to half of your total business travel cost, it’s well worth giving it the attention it deserves to find out where and how you can reduce it.
But what is traveller friction, exactly?
Put simply, it’s the ‘wear and tear’ that regular travellers accumulate over time. One 2017 study concluded that business travellers even lose an average of 6.9 hours per trip through traveller friction.
Traveller friction may arise from a number of causes, some of which are out of your control. They include unexpected delays, jet lag, time spent in unfamiliar surroundings or even bouts of illness caused by stress.
We all know the welfare of frequent business travellers can suffer, through physical ailments, often caused by poor quality sleep and jet lag. But have you considered the long term, more emotional ramifications? Periods of time spent away from loved ones or travelling at unsociable hours, on top of trying to fulfil their role, can take its toll on business travellers.
Traveller friction can also be either exacerbated or appeased depending on how well travellers’ lifestyles are taken into consideration. For example, do they have a family? Might they need to arrange child care for their time away?
The support you offer both before and during the traveller’s trip can affect how productively they spend their time. If you can implement a reasonable travel policy and allow your bookers autonomy, they will go into the trip with a more positive mindset. If you’re able to make suggestions of where to eat or how to get around during the trip, you’ll reduce their feelings of displacement and can make them feel more comfortable and confident while representing your organisation outside the office.
There are numerous areas you can give support to your travellers, so it may be worth asking them for their feedback on trips they’ve taken in the past and what they prioritise when travelling for business.
As well as helping you calculate the total cost of business travel in your organisation, being aware of your traveller friction can also improve your employee engagement and can make travelling for work a perk instead of a chore. So it’s worth getting a handle on your traveller friction now, to harness business travel to your advantage in the future.