Survey Report - Business Travel Management in Japan
(Digest Edition)

shutterstock_203752900.jpgIn recent years, with the globalization of Japanese companies, major changes have been taking place in business travel management in Japan. The conventional approach to business trip management, which is "just to arrange business travel at a low price, " is gradually changing, and the number of companies that compile, analyze and manage business travel arrangement data is gradually increasing. In addition, attention is starting to focus on the introduction of tools that contribute to the efficiency of business travel management and establishing corporate rates through negotiations with airlines and hotels.

American Express Global Business Travel Nippon Travel Agency conducted a survey between June and August in 2019 to show the current status and challenges of business travel management for companies in Japan. This report summarizes the results of the survey, which was sent to Human Resources, General Services, Finance/Accounting or a department related to business travel management in listed companies or unlisted companies with annual travel budgets of JPY 70 million or higher with five or more overseas bases.

Topics covered include (1) Departments in charge of business travel management (2) Business travel arrangements (3) Use of online booking and travel management tools (4) Travel policies (5) Policy management (6) Data utilization and (7) Target areas for improvement. Of all respondents, 128 answered all 26 questions. We consider these responses as valid.

1. Departments in Charge of Business Travel Management
  • ✓The supervisory departments are mainly General Affairs or Human Resources.
  • ✓It is rare that a specific department is solely responsible.
     Multiple departments including Finance/Accounting are most likely involved.
  • ✓There are only a few companies where Procurement manages business travel (typical of foreign companies).

2. Business Travel Arrangements

International Travel

  • ✓The greater the scale of travel expenses, the higher the ratio of consolidating arrangement requests to a single travel agency.
  • ✓Companies with smaller travel expenses are more likely to allow employees to use multiple travel agencies and the      proportion of direct bookings by travelers themselves is greater.
  • Domestic Travel
    • ✓The ratio of direct bookings by travelers themselves is high regardless of the scale of business travel expenses.

    • 3. Use of Online Booking and Travel Management Tools
      • ✓There is a high adoption rate of pre-approval and expense settlement tools.
      • ✓The higher the travel expenses, the higher the rate of using online booking and risk management tools.
      • ✓When the travel expense scale exceeds a certain level, there is a tendency to shift from in-house to externally developed      tools.
      4. Travel Policies

      International Travel
      • ✓Many companies set air travel policies based on business title. Hotel policies are based on business title and city.
      • ✓Companies with higher travel expenses are more likely to recommend or mandate the use of lowest airfare in their travel      policies.
      • ✓Companies with higher travel expenses are more likely to recommend or mandate the use of company designated hotels.
      Domestic Travel
      • ✓Compared to international travel, fewer companies mandate the use of company designated airlines or suppliers in their      travel policies.

      • ✓More companies set rate caps for domestic hotels compared to overseas hotels.

      5. Policy Management

      • ✓Responsibility and management of out-of-policy travel is mainly handled by supervisors and approvers.
      • ✓The smaller the scale of business travel expense, the less likely to use travel agency's response and management functions.
      • ✓To reduce out-of-policy arrangements, companies consider internal training for travelers, supervisors and approvers as      important.

      6. Data Utilization

    • ✓Companies with greater travel expenses use travel data for risk management, negotiating corporate rates and      improvement of travel policy compliance.
    • ✓Companies with smaller travel expenses are more likely to answer unused, uncollected or unknown when asked about their      travel data usage.

    • 7. Target Areas for Improvement

    • ✓There is high awareness of challenges related to pre-approval and expense settlement processes.
    • ✓Companies with greater travel expenses are more aware of the need to improve the processes involving travelers
           (pre-approval, online booking tool implementation, payment and expense settlement).
    • ✓Companies with mid-level travel expenses are strongly aware of the need to improve travel management challenges (data      storage, analysis and policy reviews).
    • ✓There is a high need for human resources with expertise in travel management to solve travel related issues.

    In Closing

    The survey results show that challenges of business travel management for companies in Japan relate to dispersion of business travel data by arrangement through multiple purchasing channels (including reservations made directly by business travelers), dispersal of management responsibilities by the involvement of multiple departments and dependency on the policy compliance at the field level by supervisors and approvers.

    However, business travel management by non-Japanese global companies is based on unification management of travel data by utilizing a specific purchasing channel, consolidation of travel data in one system, concentrating management responsibility to Travel Managers and having effective control based on travel policies at the time of reservation using Travel Management Company ("TMC"). For companies that are aiming to enhance their travel management using global standards, one of the largest issues is developing and procuring professional resources.

    As a solution, we suggest companies consider using a TMC, which has specialized knowledge of business travel management.