by Alex Palmer | February 14, 2012
Workplace mobility company Runzheimer International has launched the SmartTrip program, which allows employers to reward their employees for booking business travel on the cheap, turning the usually mundane task into an incentivized game that nets cost savings. 

In SmartTrip, a traveler enters his or her trip information, and the system determines the estimated cost, drawing on Runzheimer’s benchmarking data. If the traveler then books travel that meets or costs below the benchmark, he or she can be rewarded with gift cards, merchandise, or travel prizes.

“Say the data expects your trip to cost $1000, and you find a trip that costs $900, the employer could keep $50 of the savings and then pass the other $50 back to the employee,” says Matt DeWolf, Runzheimer’s director of new product development. “Or you could run a contest, with the top three most efficient travelers getting a prize of two free roundtrip tickets to anywhere in the U.S.—the prizes are up to the employer.”

Also, DeWolf suggests not only gift cards and merchandise but also charity incentives as options that employers could consider. Companies can donate a percentage of the savings on behalf of their employees. Companies can set benchmarks in SmartTrip to meet their needs.

SmartTrip is currently in beta mode. Runzheimer is sourcing additional companies to use the product as beta clients.

With business travel, organizations often put procurement systems in place to ensure cost-savings across the board. But DeWolf emphasizes that this can influence employees to book corporate travel without thinking about saving more money in the way they would when booking personal travel.

DeWolf notes a San Francisco company he visited where an employee had booked a trip with a stopover in order to save the organization money but received no recognition for the effort.

“This program shines a spotlight on those who are trying to save the company money,” says DeWolf. “It’s employee empowerment to trust people to figure out a better way to book a trip.”

More information on SmartTrip can be found at Runzheimer's site.