Does a ‘Strong Travel Culture’ Pays Off for Companies?

A cultural view of business travel as a strategic investment.

Business travel costs should, of course, be managed. But CFOs who care foremost about managing the expense may not be aligned on travel priorities with a majority of leaders throughout their organizations.

Harvard Business Review Analytic Services surveyed 587 executives and managers who indicated they were familiar with their organization’s corporate travel policies and culture.

Two-thirds (68%) of them identified “treating travel as a strategic investment that adds business value rather than a cost to be minimized” as an important aspect of corporate travel culture. Respondents could select up to three such aspects from a list of 11. The next-most-cited one, at 43%, was “providing a suite of corporate travel tools/technology that are effective and easy to use.” Close behind at 42% was “having a flexible travel policy (e.g., being able to travel any distance at any time to any location to support the business).”

Oddly, perhaps, “providing appropriate funding for corporate travel” and “having executive buy-in/support for corporate travel” were cited as important aspects of corporate travel culture by only 30% and 19% of respondents, respectively.

Four in 10 survey participants said that having a strong travel culture is extremely or very important to their organization’s performance.

However, less than a third (31%) of them self-identified their organization as actually having a strong travel culture.

Two-thirds of those surveyed cited “increased collaboration” (67%) and “the ability to build stronger relationships within the organization” as important internal business benefits of a strong travel culture, while 55% selected “better management of geographically dispersed teams.

As to external business benefits, the most popular choices were “building closer relationships with key customers” (62%), “better collaboration with key partners and suppliers” (55%), and “increased understanding of customer needs” (51%).


The breakdown of survey participants by job title was;

  • (20%) Senior management/department head.
  • (18%) Director.
  • (15%) Manager / Supervisor.
  • (11%) C-suite/president/chair.
  • (10%) Executive management — EVP, SVP, GM, managing director.
  • (10%) Vice president.
  • (8%) consultant.
  • (7%) Other.