Bosses need to show the way on business travel expenses

Cutting down those minibar bills isn't just good for your company; it inspires your underlings too. Yet lots of bosses haven't cottoned on yet...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 22 Oct 2012
Business class may once have been the only way to travel for corporate flyers – but these days, you’re more likely to find yourself wedged into a budget airline seat. According to a survey, though, staff are taking it on the chin, with 46% saying they’ve been inspired into cutting their own travel costs by their managers, who are apparently leading the way by downgrading flights, taking the train and, impressively, publishing their travel expenses so employees can see what they’ve been up to. Then again, that leaves more than half who have adopted more of a ‘do as we say, not as we do’, approach. Which doesn’t exactly set a great example, does it?

According to the survey by American Express, although 78% of staff say they’ve cut down on their travel costs, that doesn’t necessarily mean businesses have cut down on travel. More than half of the 500 executives who took part in the survey say they’re still travelling as much as they were before the recession – while 4% are travelling more than they previously were.

Instead, staff are opting for public transport, with 46% saying they use tubes or busses instead of taxis, and 42% removing business and first-class travel for flights under a certain number of hours. 18% also say they are now using ‘high-speed rail’ instead of flying. Although here in the UK we might have to wait another decade or two before we can take advantage of any high speed rail...

Granted, it’s probably no great surprise that travel budgets have been trimmed. But it does raise an important point. Apparently, businesses have managed to save ‘up to’ £50,000 a year with this new-found frugality – but if bosses are leading by example, it’s much easier to motivate staff to make changes to their own travel habits.

And the good news for expense junkies is that all this dreary cost-cutting won’t necessarily last forever. A third of managing directors say (or hope) that it probably won’t go on much longer than two years – so all this practicing what you preach stuff might just be a temporary phenomenon. Once the world economy is back off its knees, then you can go back to caning the minibar again.

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