Paying You to Save Money on Travel


By Robert McGarvey


Suddenly there’s an avalanche of tools designed to coax business travelers into saving money on their trips – there’s Rocketrip, TripActions, Upside, probably more.  

Will you use them?

Do you care about saving your employer’s money?

An astonishing amount of money is in play. Global business travel spend is $1.2 trillion, per GBTA.  US share of that is around $290 billion.  

Question: how cost effective are we in our travels?

Can we be motivated to help our employers save?

A lot of the present innovation traces back to Google which, for some time, has presented a traveling employee with a budget for an upcoming trip.  Come in under budget and the employee can claim up to half the savings, redeemable on future travel upgrades.

Would that motivate you to cut costs?

My sense is that when my travel is managed by a client, a third party agency selects a flight and a hotel in keeping with its view of my status in the organization. I have stayed everywhere from a Ritz Carlton to a Hilton accordingly.

Generally, by the way, I accept the hotel assignment without a grumble. I can recall refusing only once in the past 10 years because the hotel was in a wildly inconvenient Las Vegas location that would have required long, expensive cab rides to get to/from the convention center, a reality apparently not understood by the booker.

When I pointed that out the rez was changed to the Vdara in City Center which quickly became my favorite Las Vegas hotel.  

As regards flights, as long as the times sync with my needs, I accept them without a grumble too.  I long ago gave up loyalty to a particular carrier and that eliminates a lot of potential friction.  Personally I won’t fly the ultra low cost carriers, or accept similar fares on legacy carriers, but I haven’t been asked to do either so no problems.

When the client selects the travel, usually I am not much asked for input or for suggestions about where to save.

My other reality is that I do all my own travel planning for many trips and, frankly, that happens more often than not these days.  I may get broad instructions from the client – “keep the costs under $1500.”  In some cases, the client also directly books a portion of the travel – often a hotel.

But the norm is that I make most or all of the choices.

Am I incentivized to save money?

Does the client care if I do?

The answer to both question is, not so much.

Maybe it’s because I am by habit a frugal travel.  I am cheap on my own vacations and I am cheap on business travel.

In that latter regard my most common dinner spot on a business trip is Subway.  Yep, under $10. I may eat dinner as a guest of the client at a fancier place but that won’t be billed by me.

My most common breakfast spot is Starbucks. Yep, also under $10.  

Usually lunch is with the client or at a meeting/convention, that is, that is not billed by me.

I prefer mass transit – BART in San Francisco, the subway in NY – and that’s cheap too.  

Would I save the client still more money if half the savings accrued to my benefit on future trips and, yes, I’d welcome a kitty for buying flight upgrades (to business class)?  The answer, definitely, is yes.

Do it the Google way and tell me I have $1500 for a three night stay in Tampa and I am sure I can bring in my total at $1200 or under.

Probably I can deliver similar savings on many trips, mainly by downgrading hotel accommodations.  In Phoenix , for instance, I could skip the Westin, stay at the Sheraton Grand and save $11/night in early September.  

Would you do likewise?

Are you offered half the savings?

Would your behavior change if you were?

Right now, a lot of players believe we will change our behaviors – and cut our travel costs – if we get to share in the savings.

I think that’s a win-win move.


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