6 Updates for your Corporate Travel Policy

Airplane wing

The last few years have brought some major changes to the way business travel works — from COVID-19 to vaccines to the “Great Resignation” and more.

In fact, so much has gone on that a lot of people are legitimately confused and anxious when it comes to business travel (and for good reason).

But, travel managers are also scrambling to make sure that all of the travel policies continue to serve the company properly.

So, here’s the big question:

Which parts of your corporate travel policy need updating?

What changes are needed to ensure that your business projects continue to be successful?

These are excellent questions. And in this guide, you’re going to learn how to make sure that your policy stays up to date with current world events, policies, laws, and risks.

By updating your policy to reflect recent changes, you can usher in a more effective and profitable travel program.

So, here’s a list of six important updates to make on your corporate travel policy:

Table of Contents

1. Update Travel Protocols to Account for COVID-19
2. Update Your Risk Assessment Process to Account for Political and Social Unrest
3. Incorporate New Company Culture Standards into Your Travel Policy
4. Focus on Values
5. New Tax Laws
6. Update Your Budget to Reflect Rising Fuel Costs


1. Update Travel Protocols to Account for COVID-19

Man walking through airport wearing mask

The ongoing pandemic has changed how business trips are handled from a safety perspective.

Nowadays, you must ensure that when employees travel, they take precautions to keep themselves and others safe.

This is especially true if you’re going to be booking any public transportation (ground transportation or air travel).

Taking COVID safety seriously not only keeps people safe but also helps your company to maintain a positive reputation within your industry.

Here are a few different travel protocols that you may want to audit/update in your existing travel policy:

Risk Assessment

Whenever you’re planning a business trip, it’s vital to perform a risk assessment analysis to ensure traveler safety.

To learn exactly how to perform a full risk assessment, check out this guide: Full Guide to Trip Risk Assessments to Keep Employees Safe

Below are some specific areas where your current travel policy may benefit from an update:

Virus Safety

Virus safety is critical.

Therefore, you always want to make sure that your company travel policy includes steps that align with the CDC virus safety guidelines.

This is especially true where COVID is concerned.

Consider Each Situation

There are a lot of different types of situations that traveling employees and team members can find themselves in when traveling for business purposes.

  • Flying business class, economy class, or via some other grade of airfare
  • Checking into hotel rooms
  • Engaging in domestic travel and/or international travel
  • Driving or riding as a passenger in a rental car
  • Consuming alcoholic beverages while networking or entertaining clients
  • Getting dry cleaning done
  • Sourcing methods for their own travel plans when engaging in personal travel while on destination for work

In other words, there are a lot of situations during travel where viruses could spread.

For this reason, it’s important to stress a few important steps in virus protection, especially in a post-COVID world.

1. Social distancing

Social distancing has become a “new normal” in many parts of the world.

You may want to update your policy with a travel request for social distancing compliance, along with information to make sure that all of your team members understand the importance of engaging in this practice when on assignment.

2. Vaccinations

There’s a huge conversation going on about vaccine mandates right now, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

The big question is this:

How does your company want to handle the vaccine issue?

Having an intentional conversation about this within your organization is a good idea. Plus, approaching this topic from a rational, well-thought-out place will help your travelers feel more at ease.

3. Masking

There are some parts of the world where masking is still an important step in virus protection.

You may want to include masks in your list of expected travel costs from here on out.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is going to become a new permanent fixture in the conversation about travel-related expenses.

Supplying travel insurance for your team (or at least insurance expense reimbursement) may also need to be included in your corporate travel policy.

Looking to save money on business travel? Hotel Engine can help you score corporate hotel discounts to save big on group travel arrangements.

2. Update Your Risk Assessment Process to Account for Political and Social Unrest

In some ways, our world is safer than it’s ever been.

But this doesn’t mean that it’s entirely without its dangers.

Without getting too specific, there are a lot of international (and even some domestic) tensions to be aware of as you seek to create a safe and risk-free travel experience for your team.

And as the person in charge of managing travel, you should make sure that your risk assessment process accounts for things like political, civil, and social unrest. Unfortunately, this has become a modern necessity.

If you need some help with this step, read this resource page that Harvard University put together on the subject.

It covers a lot of different avenues that you can use to look into the political situation of your destination before sending your team on their next assignment.


3. Incorporate New Company Culture Standards into Your Travel Policy

Like it or not, we’re living in the age of “The Great Resignation.”

Now, everyone has a few opinions about what this means, but for those of us in charge of facilitating travel as a normal aspect of business day activities, this basically spells out one thing:

Take care of your people, and create a top-down company culture that facilitates this standard in everything you do.

And this includes your travel policy.

In other words, try to do right by your employees and team members to ensure that they’ll continue to believe in the work they’re doing for your organization.

Whether you’re focusing on travel expenses, corporate credit card policies, expense reporting, per diem, etc., ask yourself this important question:

“Will our decision show our team that we value their contribution, that we support their vision, that they matter to us, and that they’re appreciated?”​

There’s a lot of evidence to support the fact that businesses that ask this question will build a stronger team and retain their most valuable employees longer.


4. Focus on Values

In a lot of ways, the United States is a hotbed for heightened cultural emotions right now.

As a company, it’s important that you think about who you choose to spend money with.

If there are certain companies that you’d rather stand with over common political, social, or cultural issues, then you may want to weave these types of standards into your traveling policy.

For example:

You may choose to prioritize a certain car rental company whenever you make reservations because you want to support their specific philanthropic programs as much as possible.

Here are some other examples:

  • Make sure that meal expenses are spent with certain companies
  • Ensure that your travel spend goes to corporations with similar values as yours
  • Purchase additional upgrades whenever you’re doing business with a travel agency who you believe is making the world a better place

Values matter.

They matter to your employees and team, for sure. But they also matter to your customer base.

And choosing to prioritize values over low-ticket expenditures or just ‘whatever is the cheapest option’ can send a powerful, positive message to your clients and the public.

Note: Hotel Engine is dedicated to making our world a better place. Learn all about our charitable initiatives on our Social Responsibility page.

5. New Tax Laws

Calculator, dollar bills, quarters, and red pen on a desk

Every couple of years, at least a few tax law changes come down the pipe that could influence how you handle very specific parts of your traveling finances.

Taking this into account is important to help you avoid making costly errors.

To stay on top of such issues, it’s advised that you regularly visit the IRS website and read their News And Announcements feed.

You can also communicate with your CPA to stay up-to-date on any changes you may need to make to your corporate policy as it pertains to travel and taxes.

For example:

Changes to how the IRS measures tax reimbursements could mean needing to update your incidental expense approval process.

And changes to how the IRS measures per diem could require you to update how team members handle things like room rates, receipts for road tolls, and other miscellaneous expenses.


6. Update Your Budget to Reflect Rising Fuel Costs

Since 2020, fuel prices have really surged.

Some people believe that this will be temporary. But as a travel manager or finance manager, it’s still important for you to plan for the worst.

For some unique and specific ideas on navigating this issue as it pertains to your corporate travel policy, you can read this guide: Outside-the-Box Solutions to Rising Gas Expenses in Business Travel.

Do You Need to Save Money on Hotel Rooms? Consider Using Hotel Engine

One method for balancing fuel costs is to find more affordable hotel room options for your traveling team members.

And this is exactly what Hotel Engine specializes in.

We make travel bookings simple, straightforward, and hassle-free.

You can join our platform for free. There are no annual fees, sign up fees, or required contracts.

Plus, group bookings are made super simple through Hotel Engine, as our team will handle everything from finding your hotel to helping with reconciliation.

When you book hotels through Hotel Engine, you also gain access to more than 700,000 hotels worldwide.

Plus, billing is easy. You can use Hotel Engine’s Direct Bill program to avoid using your company card for a bunch of rooms (which can lead to frustrations when your team is trying to check in).

We also offer 24/7 US-based customer support.

In other words, we’ve put quite a bit of effort into making business lodging better for traveling professionals.

Related: Our Full Guide to Corporate Travel


Conclusion

In addition to the points listed above, you’ll want to make sure that your travel policy covers your company’s use of airlines, rail, hotels, and rental cars.

It should also cover things like Uber rides, taxis, short-term housing, rules for on-site spending, entertainment expenses, rules for corporate credit cards, and risk assessment/security.

For a bit of help on the dos and don’ts of corporate business travel, consider reading this guide: 12 Important Dos and Don’ts of Business Travel Management.

And don’t forget to let us know if you need some help with better lodging prices.