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"Achieving Best Practices in Business Travel Payment" Seminar Held in Beijing

On 16 August 2016, an AirPlus China sponsored seminar entitled "Deepening Wisdom. Gathering Forces – Achieving Best Practices in Business Travel Payment" was held at the Rosewood Beijing Hotel.

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Transparency, Compliance, Big Data and Centralised Travel Management System: Long-term Trend For the Future Development of Enterprises

Ms Lucy Wang, Managing Director of AirPlus China, said in her opening keynote speech that according to the latest statistics, China had surpassed the US as the world's largest business travel market, and with large state-owned and central government-owned enterprises the core of the Chinese economy, there was still a huge demand and growth potential for business travel. Additionally, with cost control and improvement in efficiency their future objectives, the challenge for these enterprises was how they could progress from the current fragmented style of management to a centralised and unified platform for procurement and business travel expenditure integration. Meanwhile, to meet the requirements of the country's policies, which focused particularly on transparency and compliance of business travel payment and reimbursement, Ms Wang proposed that a centralised management and payment solution could effectively improve the transparency of expenditures and assist in monitoring, controlling and reporting business travel spending.

Changing Mindset: The First Step Towards Achieving the Goal of System Integration

Mr Luan Xinlian, Business Director of North Asia at Universal Air Travel Plan (UATP) analysed that with the development of the airlines and the restructuring of corporate travel policies, the integration of business travel management platforms of large-scale enterprises was essential and inevitable. Mr Dong Suhua, CIO of China Air Service Ltd summed up the main requirements of corporate travel management with these five keywords: compliance, security, safety, fairness and cost-saving. He also said that corporations needed to follow the four steps – system development, policy development, vendor management, and billing and claim centralisation in order to transcend from manual to systemised management, with policy development the cornerstone of the transformation process.

As an experienced industry player, Ms Wang fully agreed with Mr Dong. She added that the existing difficulties faced by corporations when introducing business travel management system integration were largely due to employees' reliance on the old business travel policies and delays in financial processing. To carry out a drastic restructure so as to improve efficiency, a top-down approach from the corporate leaders to effect a mindset change and new policy developments are key to a successful transition.

Attention to Detail and Individualised Management: The Ultimate Path to Success

As the meeting entered into an in-depth discussion, other corporate participants also actively joined in the discourse. "With the help of UATP, we have expanded our ticket purchasing from 100 to 300 global airlines," said a participant from a state-owned enterprise that owned an advanced business travel management system, concurring that a corporation could make use of a professional platform to centralise management. She elaborated that her employer was an extremely large state-owned enterprise with over 900 independent entities and thousands of business units under its care. Therefore, establishing a unified and centralised business travel management system had its difficulties. Another participant from a state-owned enterprise that served many overseas markets listed an array of urgent needs for a centralised international business travel ticketing and travel-related payment system. He mentioned that his corporation hired over 50,000 overseas employees for their international projects every year. From a platform that could support the ticket booking across the different time zones to a centralised platform that could settle payments in different currencies, building one that could serve all needs was a challenge. When speaking of comparing airfares, another corporate participant highlighted some practical operational difficulties. She said that while requiring employees to compare and book the lowest airfare available sounded like a reasonable request, it was hard to implement in reality when one considered other factors such as returns, flight changes, visas, etc. Very often, they realised that in the end, it "does not save much money". Another corporate participant offered a solution to her problem. The participant stated that when implementing corporate travel cost control policies, one should not focus on controlling a single fare, but instead, attempt to educate and change the travel behaviour of the employees as a whole. At the same time, a highly customised reservation system built according to the corporation's travel policies could help employees achieve parity by automatically comparing the prices of air tickets, hotels and other travel products.

After three hours of lively discussion, Ms Wang concluded that it was overall a very down-to-earth seminar. She said we were fortunate to be able to understand the corporate clients' business travel management challenges and needs through such an objective and animated platform. From the remarks made by the various participants, we could see that centralised management and customised service were key to a successful transition for the current stage of the state-owned enterprises' business travel management. She also shared that it was AirPlus China's first attempt to organise such as a seminar that catered for the state-owned enterprise market. We hope that through this channel, we could have more opportunity to hear directly from our clients and partners in the future.

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