'Indian travellers are becoming mindful of how they travel'

BW HOTELIER speaks to Kumar Gaurav Gupta, VP & Country Manager - Indian subcontinent, SAP Concur to understand business side of sustainable travel

The buzz around sustainable travel has been increasing over the past decade or so, as the average traveller is becoming more conscious of the choices that they make. With this, the businesses are also evolving to adapt. To understand how businesses and employers are adapting to this change, BW HOTELIER spoke to Kumar Gaurav Gupta, VP & Country Manager - Indian subcontinent, SAP Concur, which looks after for integrated travel, expense, and invoice management solutions.

Excerpts from the interview:

What are the challenges employers face around ensuring sustainable travel?

Sustainability as a topic is quite complex, and employers across sectors are facing one common challenge while trying to implement and achieve their sustainable travel goals; that is the uncertainty on where to begin.   Few other top challenges we uncover from the survey conducted in 2022 was lack of budget, internal stakeholder alignment and lack of professional tools.

This is resulting in businesses to rethink their travel programs and establishing new practices that embrace sustainability, safety, and convenience. An example is in our own online booking tool; we see guidance from the organisation on how an employee can contribute to the organization’s sustainability initiatives.

How do employers and companies contribute to global climate change and sustainability?

Climate change has become a serious concern for organisations across the globe. The number of organisations setting climate reduction targets has roughly doubled every year and, at the end of 2021, represented more than 40% of the global economy. The sequential trend that we have seen our customers taking to meet their targets is to “Avoid, Reduce & Compensate” emissions. 

We also notice companies evolving their T&E programme to infuse sustainability in following manner:

  • Starts by making sustainability a pivotal factor; the moment the decision to travel is made, adding approvals and guidelines to make sure each trip demonstrates ROI 
  • Guiding employees to the most sustainable choices using professional tools
  • Measuring the overall impact and report unavoidable emissions to balance in financing verified high-impact climate solutions 

How is SAP Concur helping its clients with sustainable travel?

SAP Concur solutions has an extensive network of travel suppliers to orchestrate an automated, integrated corporate travel eco system that helps the organisation achieve their T&E goals keeping sustainability at the core.  

  • Solution offers measurable analytics to ensure policy compliance and an E2E visibility on carbon emission with reduction recommendation. 
  • With the support from our partners such as Thrust Carbon for Concur Expense & Travel or Choose for Concur Travel, SAP Concur helps businesses to report, reduce and remove carbon emissions at the click of a button.

Additionally, SAP Concur is leading the GBTA APAC Sustainability Committee to guide organisation across APAC region to incorporate sustainability in their T&E programme. In 2022, we partnered as an advocate with leading Asian Financial Institutions bringing digital transformation with the focus on sustainability. 

What is the future of sustainable travel in India?

Indian travellers are becoming mindful of how they travel. According to SAP Concur, almost nine in ten organizations across the APAC region highlights that their companies are actively considering sustainability when managing corporate travel. About 56% of the respondents have said that their “senior leadership” is actively driving the sustainability agenda for corporate travel within their organisations. Many APAC organisations (71%) already realise the need to harness technology to become sustainable effectively.  

How can tourism stakeholders contribute to sustainable tourism?

With travel getting back to normal, sustainability and managing carbon compensation programs have become a priority for most of the organizations. As India is a well-recognized tourism destination globally, it is imperative to ensure the sustainability remains at the centre of the industry.

In our view, highlighting how various stakeholders are contributing towards the sustainable tourism: 

  • Government: The Indian Ministry of Tourism has drafted a national strategy on sustainable tourism that focuses on promoting environmental sustainability, protecting biodiversity, promoting economic sustainability, and promoting socio-cultural sustainability. Many central and state programs and initiatives have been launched to bring the different stakeholders of the community together and promote Eco tourism. 
  • Suppliers: The tourism industry relies on a wide range of suppliers who can be held accountable for maintaining the sustainability of a local community. The suppliers need to adapt innovative eco conscious methods to support sustainable tourism.  
  • Employees: One of the key stakeholders in tourism is the workforce. The travel and tourism industry employs more people, directly and indirectly than any other industry in the world. Employees in the tourism industry are commonly undertaking low-paid jobs in areas such as hospitality, catering, and customer service. Employers and governments need to focus on spreading awareness and training the employees to adapt and execute environments friendly practices to conserve and sustain the local communities.  

Sustainable tourism often involves community-level briefings, consultations and ongoing communication to ensure that stakeholder is empowered throughout the process of tourism development planning and operation.

How do players in the travel industry protect the economy of the local communities that people are visiting?

The peer-to-peer model of sharing economy makes travel more affordable, convenient, and efficient – putting the traveller in control of their itinerary and, more importantly, their experience. As business travellers continue embracing new tools to help get them to where they need to go, many organisations are adapting the proper policies and technologies to continue to meet their travellers’ needs. 

Organisations should take a proactive approach by empowering travellers with the right knowledge, tools, and support to meet the safety and security challenges. These tips help mitigate risks and meet travellers where they are:

  • Gather pre-travel reports: The report can help the traveller to give actual information on destination risks, advice on situational awareness, and preventive security recommendations, so they can choose appropriate accommodations and transportation options.
  • Send travel updates and alerts: City-specific and real-time travel alerts will inform individuals about destination-specific issues and incidents that could impact their safety so they can avoid risks where possible.
  • Ensure there’s an established two-way means of communication: Assistance and response services will provide immediate support to travellers should they experience negative incidents. Applied correctly, these mechanisms will enable travellers to make better decisions to reduce their travel risk.

We at SAP Concur connect every part of the unique travel ecosystem - online booking tool, suppliers, intermediaries, or any other place travellers’ book or buy. So, whether employees/travellers are booking a room, a flight, a car, a train ticket, or even driving their own car— the data from every itinerary or purchase they make is secure, captured, and connected while keeping your travellers safer and more productive than ever before. 

Can sustainable tourism help make businesses more profitable? If yes, how? 

The sustainable tourism can make businesses more profitable. Six key benefits that tourism businesses gain by adopting sustainable practices are: 

  • reduced costs and greater efficiency, 
  • risk management and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, 
  • staff involvement in corporate social responsibility practices (which has proven to be an engine for employee satisfaction), 
  • obtaining a competitive advantage by offering differentiated experiences to customers, 
  • compliance with trends in consumer demand and business protection to also conserve the environment on which it depends.

The practices in sustainable tourism are not new in India, entrepreneurs are focusing on sustainable development through new models, practices, old systems, and new social behaviours. With travel continuing to rebound and get back to normal, sustainability and managing carbon compensation programs has become a priority for many companies. SAP Concur research found that 37% of businesses have carbon compensation as a key objective for their 2022 sustainability agenda. 


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