According to the 2019 Travel Trends and Expectations Survey by WEX and Mastercard, the line between business and leisure travel continues to blur. The survey, which polled over 1,500 U.S. travelers, shows that more than half (55%) of respondents who traveled for business in the past year extend their trips to include personal time.
The “bleisure” trend is growing, and surveys show that the younger generations in particular see business travel as a perk that makes added-on personal travel accessible. A 2018 Hilton Hotels & Resorts survey reported that 39% of respondents aged 23 to 35 claimed they would not join a company that did not offer travel as part of the job. A 2018 TripActions report showed that 90% of respondents see traveling as a job perk.
While these trends create opportunities for employers to attract new talent, they also create challenges for corporate travel departments. With combined business and personal travel, managing expenses and reimbursements can get complicated. Muddying the waters even more, the WEX report showed that 65% of the respondents use personal credit cards for business trips, while only 37% are using corporate cards. The use of personal cards for business travel is likely at least somewhat motivated by earning points toward personal travel, as 62% of frequent flyer program members claim to be very likely to redeem their loyalty points for travel in 2019.
The use of personal cards along with combined business and personal travel can be problematic. Monica Sanchez, the GBTA Foundation’s director of research stressed to Skift the importance of “establishing clear rules for reimbursing expenses incurred by non-employees, helping travelers understand the resources available to them on the leisure portion of their trip, and developing a policy regarding preferred suppliers and booking channels.”
One way for companies to reduce the confusion and have more control over business expenses is through the use of Virtual Card Numbers (VCNs). Corporate travel managers, or Travel Management Companies (TMCs), can use VCNs to book business travel for corporate travelers, eliminating the need for the traveler to use a card for their set travel expenses, such as flights and hotels. This takes the burden off the traveler for fronting the costs of the business portion of their trip and waiting weeks for reimbursement.
VCNs are also beneficial to the company because they allow controls to be set that can limit the date range of charges, the amount charged, and the merchant categories, so they can ensure the VCN is only used for approved expenses ensuring improved adherence to travel policies. VCNs also provide much greater fraud protection than traditional credit cards and include data capture that makes tracking expenses seamless.
The good news for corporate travel managers is that the majority of respondents use their corporate travel agent (either online or by phone) or an in-house travel planner to book their business travel, at least some of the time. 48%, however, also book directly with hotels and airlines, and 20% book with their own online travel agent. Understanding that corporate travelers are motivated by getting credit for their loyalty programs, and that they desire assistance in booking added-on personal travel to their business trips, can help corporate travel departments develop programs that incentivize booking through their approved corporate channels.