Re-opening the world is a rare opportunity to start fresh with your company’s travel management policies. Whether you oversee travel management for 5 or 5000, now is a great time to set up new guidelines for communication, reiterate the company travel policies, and streamline your workflow.
The return to travel in 2021 has been immense as nearly 500 million U.S. business travelers will complete domestic trips by 2022 — and next year could be even more popular for travel than before the pandemic, according to a new report from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in Travel + Leisure. This boom in travel again has meant that many organizations are eager for their road warriors to get back to it.
Why? Because it makes sense. The ROI for business travel is $12.50 per every $1 dollar spent. Yet, at the same time, organizations recognize the millions of dollars saved over not traveling last year, so they’re more likely to look even closer at what’s deemed ‘necessary’ travel.
While finance teams train an eagle eye on travel and expenses (T&E), business travel managers are concentrated on simplifying processes and saving time. So, how can you enhance convenience with comfort and offer the flexibility your business travelers want with the visibility into T & E spend that keeps the CFO happy?
To help, here’s some of the top do’s and don’ts in modern travel management. Use them as a guide to consider your organization’s travel policies and see where yours can improve.
Business Travel Management Top 12 Do’s and Don’ts
Corporate travel management is a balancing act of people’s preferences, schedules, and budgets. You want to make sure your business travelers are safe, comfortable, and productive throughout their travel. Yet, you also want them to stay within the guidelines of spending.
You probably know your travelers want flexibility. Whether it’s flexible dates or the ability to extend their work trips and tack on some fun, flexible travel arrangements, your travelers want to choose the options that work best for them.
Here are ways you can help your corporate travelers have the most successful trip, whether they travel frequently or not.
Travel Management Don’ts:
1. Don’t Assume Your Traveler is Aware of Company Travel Policies
In your role as a corporate travel manager, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about the company travel policies. Not only do you know what they are—you might have helped draft them.
However, your business travelers might not even realize they’re not following the company travel policy when they book independently. Ensure you have clear documentation that communicates your travel policy: what it is, and why it exists to help them stay safe, as well as how it helps to streamline the internal processes.
Keep it simple and easy to follow so your travelers adhere to it. Then, make it a cornerstone of your travel management by offering training and messaging around it.
2. Don’t Make It Soley About Control
No one wants to feel like they’re being micromanaged. When your travel policies don’t allow for flexibility or have limited access to expedited security lines, that doesn’t help your travelers get to where they need to go with efficiency.
Travelers want convenience and ease. The finance team wants to know who’s traveling and what they spend. The travel manager wants to simplify the process.
Fortunately, using a simple travel management tool can help travelers find the best options and make it easy to book and track expenses.
3. Don’t Book Last Minute
Maintaining control over the T&E spend starts with booking early when possible. This way, you can take advantage of lower rates, negotiate ancillary fees like legroom, aisle or window seats, and coordinate schedules easier.
If your company has a preferred airline, you can negotiate perks like waiving baggage fees and upgrading your travelers when possible.
Be sure to communicate the benefits of an early booking process with your travelers, but also ensure you have a travel solution that can help you with changes and avoid penalties.
In some cases, those ancillary fees can add up to hundreds of dollars extra per ticket.
4. Don’t Require Endless Email Threads
Some travel management processes end up with significant back and forth email for every change request or approval process. That’s inefficient and makes it easy to lose important information.
With a travel management system, you’ll have a platform for booking reservations and making changes, as well as handling payments and receipts.
You can probably extend this list of “don’ts” from your own experience. But, consider it a starting point to guide your travel policy.
Travel Management Dos:
1. Do Get Buy-In Early and Often
Part of having a corporate travel policy is so it’s easier to manage travel and expense costs. However, to be successful, your travelers need to know it exists and follow it.
One way to have your travel policy be most helpful is to talk with your business travelers and find out what they most want and how your travel policy can support them. You may find that your heaviest business travelers have a different outlook than your occasional travelers do. Ideally, you can develop a policy and use online tools that make it easy for your travelers to book their travel, track their expenses, and get reimbursed.
2. Do Communicate Clear Expectations Around Expenses and Reimbursements
How do you want your travelers to track receipts? A tool that allows for digital receipt tracking makes it easy to keep track of expenses and easier for reimbursements than paper receipts.
Though if your organization still requires paper receipts after the trip is over, how long do your travelers have to input their receipts and request reimbursement?
Keep the expectations clear, and it’ll be easier on everyone.
3. Do Be Transparent
When your business travelers have clear guidelines and a simple process for booking travel, handling expenses, and knowing what’s expected of them, it’s easier on everyone. A successful travel policy also keeps travelers safe and offers a process for what to do in an emergency.
When travelers aren’t sure about the guidelines, they tend to go “rogue” by handling their own bookings outside of approved channels and generally going their own way.
Not only can this make it tough to handle expenses/reimbursements, but it’s also in conflict with the “duty of care” expectation of travel managers in respect to their travelers. In case of emergency, how will these rogue business travelers find support? From run-of-the-mill delayed flights to historical events like a pandemic, are your travelers protected, and do they know what to do to get home safely?
Related: Per Diem and Taxes: Top 7 Frequently Asked Questions (with Answers!)
4. Do Get Travel Preferences from Travelers
You’ll look like a star (and help them feel pampered) when you meet all their preferences trip after trip (like airlines of choice, favorite hotels, window versus aisle seats, etc.) They’ll trust you to make arrangements for them, and you can easily follow the travel policy.
5. Do Ask Travelers If They Need Assistance
Travel demands require a lot of brainpower and task switching. Plus, there’s the focus needed for the meeting itself. If you can help with planning and meeting tasks such as scheduling conference rooms to A/V needs, you can simplify your traveler’s schedule.
This frees up energy for your traveler. Even the most enthusiastic business traveler can be stressed when itineraries change or flights are overbooked.
6. Do Have An Emergency Plan
The nature of travel leaves plenty of room for disruption. They can include missed connections, overbooked flights, natural catastrophes, and pandemics. A good emergency plan has Plans B, C, and D to cover stranded travelers with maximum efficiency.
Do your travelers know how to rebook their tickets with ease? Do they know the procedures for the varying levels of emergency? Do they know how to reach support 24/7? Now’s a good time to reevaluate your processes and create a rock-solid contingency plan.
7. Do Research the Travel Policies Before You Book
Are the dates flexible? Is it refundable if you need to change? Are you getting the lowest price fares and bookings? Do your travelers need a vaccine passport for international travel? Know the ins and outs of each reservation before you book to avoid headaches down the road.
8. Use a Platform Built Specifically for Business Travel
According to Skift, hotel bookings are particularly splintered. Today’s business travelers are likely to book directly on a hotel’s website, use an OTA like Expedia, a reseller like Kayak, or a travel agent. But if you have several different travelers booking hotels in several different ways, it can make things extremely complicated.
You can expedite hotel booking for business with a platform built specifically for business travel. Hotel Engine lets your travelers find the best rate and manage their bookings, reporting, and billing in one spot.
Managing a successful travel program is complex. Your goal is to keep your travelers happy and productive while also keeping your T&E expenses low. Processes and platforms can help with both.
Hotel Engine is 100% free to use with no required contracts or minimums. Sign up for a free account today and see how much easier it can be to manage your travel program!