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Stimulating business travel

June 23, 2012

The Wall Street Journal had a somewhat intriguing report a couple of months ago headlined "The Trust Molecule". Centered on the hormone Oxytocin the Journal article showed how "appears to be the chemical elixir that creates bonds of trust" and "why some people give freely of themselves and others are coldhearted". As a feel good chemical messenger Oxytocin seems to promote positive outcomes in a number of areas including business travel.

The latter seems to be a real if tongue-in-cheek basis for advice on promoting business travel in a report in Britain's Financial Times. The FT's report entitled "Business Traveller: Getting Travel Approval" has suggestions for corporate executives on how to snag permission for business travel from superiors. One pointer held out by a psychologist notes that the "best argument is Oxytocin as it's the bonding chemical generated by touch, such as handshakes, and proximity. You cannot generate it without phsyically being there". The expert points out that "they (business contacts) are likely to interpret your behaviours more positively". Further, apart from "reading body language" business trips also enable personal opinions.

 However, straitened travel budgets may be on the wane per a recently released report from American Express Global Business Travel. The financial and travel services giant says business travel pricing from its Business Travel Monitor shows the average prices business travelers are paying to be higher. American Express goes on to offer some advice to companies on "proactively supporting employees in making the best travel purchasing decisions to help them stay within budget as they continue to hit the road." The travel giant reports all around growth in hotel and airline business on both the domestic and international front ranging from 1 to 6%.

The Financial Times column also addressed another perennial factor that dogs travel approvals: the tendency to view them as boondoggles as was the case for travel to Las Vegas which was (in)famously pilloried in the aftermath of the financial crash of '08. The FT suggested the tried and tested response to the tendency for people to view business trips as “jollies". An explanation to the powers-that-be of the business benefits accruing from the trip even if it seems obvious would be a good place to start.

Ultimately, as this report in the Harvard Business Review points out, so long as the handshake and not a written contract remains the most effective way of conducting business, business travel, when smoothed for business cycles, has only one way to go: up.




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