I’m one of those lucky women, who in her whole life has never put on weight! The gods (well, maybe my father and my grandmother) have bestowed me with a set of very generous genes, which over the years have allowed me to eat whatever I wanted with absolute zero impact on my weight! I could indulge in sweets and chocolate whenever I fancied with no consequences; my weight would remain steady.

Even after three pregnancies I bounced back to my original weight without any effort! I’m not the sporty person, who burns calories at the gym. I try to lead an active life, walking to places whenever I can instead of using the car, but not more than that. 

And this has proven true until 2 years ago, when I woke up a morning and I found out I had put on some extra kilos! Agghhh! 

I said to myself “Grazia this can not be: you have to go back to your normal weight now!” I tried to find a diet online and started doing something. Changed a bit my eating habits, completely cut the occasional treat, to no avail. My weight would not drop! I even tried some of those diet supplements, which promise immediate weight loss. But nothing worked: the results didn’t stick and I would bounce back to my original (over)weight. I started feeling desperate, my clothes were tight at that point, and I didn’t really feel myself anymore!!

And then a friend of mine referred me to her nutritionist. Talk to Giulia she said. She’ll help you.

I made an appointment with Giulia. She was very thorough in her interview with me. And she went in real depth around my habits (eating and non-eating), around my lifestyle, and so on. And she gave me a very clear lesson about how our system metabolizes sugars and in general the food we put in. And this was enlightening, because in that moment I understood what in my diet didn’t work and why I was putting weight! It gave me the key to understand how I should eat to prevent further weight gain! 

Giulia prepared a meal plan, which was perfectly tailored around my personal tastes, the time I had for food preparation, my shopping habits and the amount of weight I had gained. 

It was not a drastic change vs what I used to eat before. You could not call it diet, it was more a kind of dietary regimen.

And you know what: it worked!! Within 1, 5 months I shed all the weight I had gained!! And now 1 year after my first meeting with Giulia my weight is still the same!! Yeah!!!!

You may be wondering what this has to do with Business Travel.

Well, for a second try to imagine that in place of Grazia (me!) there’s a company. Let’s call it company X. Now, Company X has never thought a lot about business travel. Yes they have a policy, but in the end there are a lot of exceptions, and people tend to book outside the policy directly on some websites. None has control over what goes on in Business Travel. The spending maybe high, but in the end the market is booming, Company X key product is a great success and profits are growing nonetheless. 

Maybe you start seeing the analogy: Company X (Grazia in the analogy) has never really thought about its Business Travel (what she ate and her diet) and everything continued to work very well for a long time (no weight gain). Until that fateful moment when the CEO of company X looks herself at the mirror, no sorry..until the CEO of company X looks at the last financial report and finds out that travel expenses have incommensurately grown. Agghhhh!!!

What to do now?

Company X sets up plans and strategies to reduce Business Travel expenses. The latest tricks and tips in the field are  put in place. Research is done. Something has been devised. But Business Travel expenses are there: stuck! 

Well, continuing with the analogy , this is the Business Travel’s equivalent of finding a diet on the internet or trying the next diet supplement. As you have already guessed, these not always produce the desired results. 

The effect of these tactical measures (internet diets and diet supplement) is not long term. It’s just a temporary measure which produces effect in the short term, but doesn’t work on the very original cause of the overweight, so when you stop with them you immediately bounce back. 

And it works the same in the Business Travel area: the short term measures which are put in place to remedy to a sudden increase in BT costs produce short term results , but as they are “fancy” fixes which most of the times  don’t have influence on the way and organization work and spend its money don’t produce results in the long term. 

And this is something I often hear: after a first big push, usually after few months the results start fading and expenses go back to their original levels!

So, if companies want to keep their Business Travel expenses stable,  they should abandon the tactical and reactive approach usually found and move to a more strategical and pro-active approach. In other words, they should learn what is their “diet regimen” aka the model which best fit their needs while keeping the basics (aka the key elements of any diet) at the right level.

In the food and diet field, we’re used to the food pyramid which looks like this.

The healthy eating Pyramid (picture from Freepik)

Each layer of the pyramid has a purpose and it’s there for a reason.

So you need daily exercise and lot of water to ensure your body is in perfect shape, cereals are at the base of the pyramid because they provide us with the energy we need to function. Fruit and vegetables provide us with vitamins, mineral and fiber. Proteins help building our bones and muscles, and in the end fats, sugar and in general sweets should be eaten wisely as they have bad long term effects on our system.

In the business travel area, we could draw a pyramid which more or less would looks like this:

The Business Travel Pyramid

At the very base of the pyramid are the company’s vision and culture together with the type of business. These profoundly affect the way people travel.
We find then the governance of the Travel Programme (how decisions are made, who and how the BT is controlled and so on, see also “The anatomy of a Travel manager” for further details) which helps beat the time, give rhythm to the operations, creates the right control moments. In the end, ensures that all the elements of the Travel Program work together seamlessly. 
A layer up, we find the Travel policy, which sets up the general rules to be followed, creates a robust base the travellers can use at any moment. It’s the backbone of the Travel Program.
Technology, process and payments build the infrastructure and lay out the tools the different elements and players of travel program will daily use.
Partners and suppliers populate the travel program with all the services you need to meet the needs of your travellers. You’ll need a lot of them as each of them has a specific function, just like vitamins and minerals!
At the top of the pyramid, we find perks, flexibility, and wide range of choices. You have to have them! They’re right, and they boost the mood of the Traveller. But watch out: as fats and sweets, they have just a limited influence on people wellbeing if the other elements are not present. So use them wisely!!
In the same way the food pyramid ensures that we get the right food to sustain us in our daily activities, the BT pyramid provides that your business is fueled by a BT travel working in the right way, with the right elements in place, keeping the costs under control and last but not least helps your travellers to focus to what matters most: your core business.

Is your Travel Programme in good shape? Let’s talk about it!