Reigning in the Rogue Business Traveler

Sain Godil, a Montreal-based financial analyst who travels quite often for work, says he’s willing to spend hours booking his own flights and hotels – all just to “save the firm a bit of money.” This is the common refrain of the rogue business traveler, the conscientious employee who bypasses the corporate policy in order to pinch a few pennies. And now that self-serve booking options have expanded to include providers like Airbnb and Eatwith, travelers can circumvent agents and industry professionals, opting instead to sleep and dine at the home of a local resident. So how does open booking impact the travel and tourism industry? We’ll look at some trends in non-compliance and how companies attempt to reign in the rogue business traveler.

The lure of open booking

For professionals like Godil, part of the lure of rogue traveling is the chance to try a new and perhaps novel booking method. With the explosion of peer-to-peer options like ride shares, short term rentals, and in-home dining, some road warriors are drawn to both the savings and the more personalized travel experiences that sharing provides. For others, the potential for big savings justifies open booking. Price-comparing and hotel bidding sites offer travelers unprecedented opportunities to negotiate their own rates and find great last-minute discounts. Savvy hotel and resort management increasingly utilize these services to offer bargains on empty rooms. With so many innovative alternatives, it’s easy to imagine why frequent travelers would go rogue.

The drawbacks of off-policy travel

Some managers are eager to reign in the maverick traveler because open booking disrupts corporate arrangements with travel agents and hospitality business management. Open booking hinders the company’s ability to meet sales targets with suppliers, and sabotages their negotiating power for the next agreement. Another increasingly relevant concern is the lack of “care duty” associated with peer-to-peer or off-policy arrangements – who will inform the traveler of scheduling or gate changes? And who is held accountable if an Airbnb booking falls through at the last minute?  Unpredictability is a big factor when it comes to untested or un-vetted providers.

Reigning in the rogue

There is no fail-safe strategy for ensuring that professionals completely abstain for open booking. However, one approach discussed at the recent Global Business Travel Association conference in Toronto focused on education. Employees often have no idea that going rogue can be bad for business. And sometimes, even the penny-pinchers are unaware that their travel expenditures are actually higher when they avoid the corporate policy.  A meeting with the CFO to compare prices and spending habits is a good way of exposing any misguided attempts to save the firm money. There are also some innovative apps and software on the way to make corporate booking more attractive – ultimately, finding a customizable option is central to reigning in the rogue.

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