In an effort to reduce costs, travel and procurement managers are cracking down on enforcing travel policy ? and they are seeing results, according to BCD Travel?s 2007 Annual Client Benchmark Survey.

This year marks the first time in three years that mandating travel policy has ranked as the No. 1 initiative among travel managers. The renewed focus on policy is yielding results, as the number of companies enjoying air program compliance levels of greater than 80 percent increased 9 percent over 2006.

?Business travel is at an all-time high, but increasing demand has sparked higher prices and shrinking availability in both air and hotel sectors,? said Mary Ellen George, general manager of Advito, the independent consulting division of BCD Travel, which provided data analysis and forecasting for the survey.

?As a result, companies are being creative to keep costs down,? George said. ?They are striving to enhance communication to travelers to keep them focused, informed and on task; they are optimizing usage of spend data during negotiations to secure effective deals; and they are using differentiated pricing to push lower-cost transactions via online
booking tools.? BCD Travel released the survey today at the National Business Travel Association?s 39th Annual Convention & Trade Show in Boston. Conducted in May, the Annual Client Benchmark Survey represents the views of 219 BCD Travel customers from major markets across the globe. Consultative analysis by Advito, together with recommendations for supplier negotiations in an increasingly challenging procurement environment, makes the survey an invaluable benchmarking and planning resource for those who manage travel.

The survey examines air, hotel, rail, meetings and the other major areas of travel. It also discusses the latest advances in expense automation, crisis management, payment cards and online booking adoption.

Below are some of the survey?s key results and predictions:

- Air Program Negotiations: Eighty-seven percent of respondents said that cost is the most important driver of their air program. In the current market, BCD Travel sees a number of savings opportunities for buyers who are willing and able to shift market share. Carriers are shifting capacity to secondary airports, thereby increasing competition; new all-business-class carriers are increasing price pressure on high-volume intercontinental flights; global travel program consolidation is bringing more air travel under the umbrella of the managed program.

- Expense Automation: Sixty-eight percent of respondents utilise an automated expense system (73 percent of North American respondents and 58 percent of EMEA respondents). Only 28 percent indicate that the system is implemented globally.

- Online Booking: The average reported adoption rate was 47 percent. Participants noted a substantial increase in travel manager satisfaction: 80 percent of respondents rated their online booking tool as good to excellent, compared to 60 percent in 2006.

- Hotel Challenges: Only 46 percent of respondents reported that their hotel policy requires booking through the preferred agency channel. Survey respondents indicated that the percentage of hotel bookings made through the agency of record or online booking tool has actually decreased since 2006.

- Travel Program Responsibility: The top three departments with primary responsibility for travel management are procurement, finance and corporate services, with close to 70 percent reporting into the first two groups.

- Card Program: Mandates for corporate charge card use are up 7 percent from 2006. Year-over-year survey results indicate that air travel booking payment methods are shifting from individual card/individual pay to centrally billed accounts (up 22 percent from 2006).

- Meetings: Approximately 50 percent of all online booking tool implementations now include meeting travel bookings within the solution. Meetings of fewer than 50 attendees grew as a percentage of total meetings, while meetings of 50-250 attendees decreased.

- Corporate Social Responsibility: The CSR movement is slowly gaining traction in the travel sector, as 50 percent of respondents indicated their company has a CSR program, but only 23 percent indicated that travel is included as part of that program

- Global Consolidation: Respondents reported a 9 percent increase in globally consolidated travel programs over 2006. Of those reporting consolidation, North America and Europe continue to dominate the regions of consolidations, followed by Asia Pacific and Latin America.