The President of the United States’ European business trip

by Business Travel iQ | 12 June 2019

The lavish bills grabbed the headlines. But what does this executive’s trip tell us about travel policy?

The employer’s costs for this trip were mind-blowing – $1m for cars for one day in Ireland, and that didn’t even include the business traveller.

The magnitude of the bills – as enormous as they were – only kicked off the bigger story of who was paying for the children and partners of the business traveller. It was his employer, the US government.

The current POTUS might have an unorthodox approach to the role of US head of state but he is a paid employee and his trip was in part in his capacity as that employee so it’s worth reviewing what aspects of travel policy may or may not have been addressed.

1 The trip approval process

Does the policy specify what constitutes a business trip, the traveller(s) who will be making it and the corporate processes to be followed for any trip?

When the costs and liability are the responsibility of the employer, who gives sign-off for the most senior employee? All chief executives are more senior than their travel managers, but none are exempt from due diligence, so the boss’s travel plans can get tricky.

Senior employees bear responsibility for sharing their travel arrangements with the travel department so that any risk can be assessed and managed.

2 Identification of the business traveller(s)

What constitutes a traveller for which a company has responsibility? If an employee attends a conference on behalf of the company and the conference hosts make it clear that partners are also welcome, does the company have any financial or duty of care obligations to the partner?

What partners’ costs, if any, should be the responsibility of the employer?

3 Guidelines for travel elements that are the company’s responsibility

Choice of suppliers and specific product or service options must take both risk and cost into account. It should be clear whether only specified suppliers can be used and, if not, what criteria need to be addressed whether that be price ceilings or safety considerations.

4 Risk management

A risk management team can identify what is required to protect the employee(s) travelling on business but, like the example of the partner attending a conference, there must be clear guidelines about responsibility for security for the non-business elements and for those on the trip who were not authorised to travel for the business objective.

5 Bleisure

It is vital to identify which items are the financial responsibility of the organisation and which are the responsibility of the traveller and for what periods of time.

The Trump case highlights an interesting example. There were clear business requirements for the President to be in the UK, France and Ireland but, being a modern business traveller, President Trump also added a bleisure portion by using the trip as an opportunity to drop into some of his other businesses’ locations in Ireland and Scotland.

Rather than the more straightforward tacking of bleisure onto the end, the President’s trip was punctuated with it.

For example, there was a well-publicised official meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar after attending a D-Day ceremony in Normandy on Wednesday, June 5. The President wanted that meeting at a Trump golf course at Doonbeg. The Taoiseach – not unreasonably – declined and the two ultimately met in a Shannon Airport lounge. On Thursday the President left his golfing to return to France for the official D-Day commemoration ceremony.

Is your travel policy robust enough to stand up to today’s C-level travellers?

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