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Company cost cuts put limits on business travelers Печать E-mail
Новости - Зарубежные новости
Автор: Newsmaster   
06.01.2009 11:39
Business travelers, like the rest of the country, are tightening their belts.

Stephen Hecht, a technical manager, recently logged online to book a room at Courtyard by Marriott in Norwood, Mass., his favorite hotel when he regularly visits a client. But the Orbitz website, tailored to follow his employer's new cost-conscious travel policy, showed the hotel was too expensive. It steered him to a cheaper property, Four Points by Sheraton. Reluctant to stay at the recommended hotel, he called a local Hampton Inn and found a cheaper room.

"It's a waste of time, something that my travel agent could have done," says Hecht, who lives in Concord, N.C., and works for a building products manufacturer. "My travel budget was cut 25% across the board."

With the economy in full swoon, more corporate travel departments are requiring cost-saving measures. Employees are increasingly pressured by travel managers to book tickets further in advance, opt for limited-service hotels, take public transportation and refrain from paying for others' meals.

To be sure, revenue-generating trips, such as meeting new clients or appeasing repeat customers, are still high priorities at many companies. But others deemed less critical — internal meetings, trade shows and training sessions — are being shelved.

In a 2008 survey of business travelers updated in December by Orbitz for Business and trade magazine Business Traveler, 79% said they're pressured to cut costs. While about 70% said they traveled as much or more in 2008 compared with 2007, only 55% anticipate that'd be the case in 2009.

In the same survey, 51% said they had scaled back on their travel in the fourth quarter of 2008 but were still traveling.

With the heightened pressure to cut costs, travel managers are also more aggressive about monitoring employee habits, often through their travel-booking sites. When employees book plane tickets or hotel rooms that are more expensive than their company policy allows, the site will ask employees for their reasons and seek manager approval.

Orbitz for Business says 41% of its survey respondents are tightening travel policies and implementing more restrictions. At least three of Orbitz's corporate clients have cut their pricing "tolerance level" — the difference between the purchased price and the maximum allowed — from the industry average of about $100 to $1. "If it's not cheaper, they're going to have to take the (company's) preferred option," says Dean Sivley, chief operating officer at Orbitz for Business.

Business traveler Tom James, a construction sales executive from Montgomery, Ala., says his employer has been pressuring employees to book trips using its Orbitz site instead of calling an internal travel agent. It hasn't been an easy transition for James. "I have no interest in going online and fooling around. Some swear by it. I swear at it," he says.

Other trends:

Meeting attendance monitored. Meetings considered non-essential are getting the ax. Travelocity Business' research of its corporate travel bookings in the first quarter of 2008 showed that about 40% of air ticket spending was for internal meetings. But in the last six months, the amount has fallen by 48%. If an employee is booking a trip for an internal meeting, Travelocity Business suggests videoconferencing or a webcast before completing the booking, says DeAnne Dale, vice president of sales. An unusually high number of employees attending the same conference will also trigger alerts to the travel manager. "They're trying to tie more things together," Sivley says. "If you're going to a conference, you're also trying to visit customers."

Restricted air travel Travelers are flying less or are opting for itineraries that are less convenient. In the latest data available, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported that the number of passengers on U.S. airlines during September — 54.2 million — was down 8.4% from a year earlier. It was the seventh month in a row to show a decline from a year earlier, and had the largest year-over-year decrease since August 2002.

William Iliff, a field service engineer in Toledo, Ohio, says he used to fly from Toledo Express Airport to catch flights in the late morning at Detroit Metro. But recent company restrictions now have him catching early-morning flights from Detroit, a 60-mile drive, which forces him to get up earlier or drive the night before.

While insisting that employees book further in advance, more companies are also pushing them to buy non-refundable tickets, which are typically $150 to $250 cheaper, Dale says. "Even if the traveler makes a change, studies show that it's more economical to pay the change fee."

Less hotel spending. Orbitz says 69% are staying at less-expensive/lower-rated hotels. About one in four travelers are selecting more day trips when possible to avoid a hotel stay.

Iliff has gone from staying at Drury Inn when he visits his corporate headquarters in Albuquerque for about $80 a night to staying at ultra-budget Extended Stay America ($29). "The beds weren't very good."

Pursuing cheaper transportation options. In November, Hecht traveled to Milwaukee to see a client, but he couldn't rent a car because a new company rule requires him to be driven around town by a colleague who works in the city.

In the Orbitz survey, about half said their company's rental car policy had changed, including requiring the least-expensive car available and returning cars with a full tank of gas to avoid surcharges.

Later this month, Dale and 18 of her colleagues are traveling to Washington, D.C., on a business trip, all arriving at about the same time. This year, they plan to carpool in a rented van to their downtown hotel. "In the past, a dozen might have booked their own car," she says.

Per diem cut. Orbitz says 17% of those surveyed had their per diem spending for meals cut. Marc Hall, a program management director of an aerospace manufacturing company in Seattle, says he used to be able to pay for colleagues' meals when he traveled to visit them. The practice has largely been stopped.

Hecht says his employer encourages hotels that serve free breakfast so that he won't incur $10 for toast and eggs. "I feel some of the new rules are unreasonable, but I'm still employed," he says. "I guess I can suck it up until things get better."

Найдено в интернете: http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/~r/UsatodaycomTravel-TopStories/~3/iY0PfrT27PE/2009-01-05-cost-cuts-for-business-travel_N.htm

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