Developing a corporate travel management strategy is one of the most important decisions you will make because it sets the framework for all your future travel plans.
With a solid plan in place, you can develop a budget, determine your objectives, identify your target audience, then build a program to achieve those goals.
It's also a way to build credibility with your employees and to encourage them to be responsible and accountable when they travel.
What Is Corporate Travel Management?
Corporate travel management is a business process used by companies to control, plan, and monitor the expenses of corporate travel. The changing global economy has affected the travel industry and, with it, the pressure on companies to reduce costs has grown.
Corporate travel management attempts to reduce these costs by streamlining company policies and procedures, which then translates into more effective and efficient business practices.
Here are some simple yet effective ways you can achieve this:
Plan the Logistics of Your Business
To plan for the logistics of your business, it’s important to first define what this term means. According to Investopedia, logistics refers to the “overall process of managing how resources are acquired, stored, and transported to their final destination. Logistics management involves identifying prospective distributors and suppliers and determining their effectiveness and accessibility.”
In the context of corporate travel management, logistical details may include what resources are needed by employees to travel safely and reach their destination. One example is financial resources, which can include the procurement of travel tickets, as well as the cost of lodgings and local transportation. Logistics in this sense can also include suppliers like the travel agency your company works with to make travel arrangements.
Identifying the logistical needs of your business will make planning and managing the trip easier. Additionally, you’ll be able to outline, adjust, and schedule corporate travel procedures accordingly.
Track Your Travel Costs on the Go
It’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending when you’re moving from one place to another. The problem with travelling is that some unplanned costs can happen, especially when immediate problems arise. Some examples of this include going off-route in a taxi or the flight is delayed. This can lead to problems in the long run, especially if you’re travelling on a budget.
Thus, it’s important to keep track of your travel costs while in transit. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to track travel costs through expense tracker apps, which can be web-based, cloud-based, or with mobile integration.
Not only can you track costs with these apps, but you’ll also be able to scan receipts, submit reimbursement reports, switch between currencies for international travel, compare actual costs with your set budget, and many more. Here are seven expense tracker apps specifically designed for travelling:
- Expensify (our top pick)
- Trail Wallet
Plan for Long-Haul Travel, but Also for Shorter-Haul Flights
In some cases, long-haul flights are not only necessary but also more appealing to corporate travellers as they may be able to save on costs.
According to a study published in the Journal of Air Transport Management:
“Business travellers are particularly attractive to book flights as they tend to travel more frequently than leisure passengers, and they tend to be prepared to pay higher prices than leisure passengers. In short-haul markets, such as those within the European Union (EU), business travel may represent a large proportion of a scheduled airline's traffic.”
This means that shorter-haul flights tend to cost more than long-haul travel, compelling companies to plan in advance and opt for long-haul flights.
However, effective corporate travel management should also take short-haul flights into account depending on the needs and nature of your business.
By planning for and allotting a budget for both long-haul and short-haul flights, you can meet business goals in a timely fashion without shortchanging other travel expenses, such as lodgings or local transportation.
Corporate travel management can be a necessary tool for companies, but it's also a huge money saver. Understanding how to properly use it will help you stretch your costs and make sure that you're following the right procedures.
Define Your Corporate Travel Management Goals
Most corporate travel managers can use some practice and advice on how to improve their skills. Corporate travel managers are responsible for planning, negotiating, and organizing travel for employees. While most employees rely on their employers to help them book flights, hotel rooms and rental cars, corporate travel managers complete those tasks for an entire company. Here are tips from a seasoned corporate travel manager on how to master the art of corporate travel management:
Understand Your Company's Travel Policies
For effective corporate travel management to happen, there should be clear guidelines about the company’s travel policies. This can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Clear details about the company’s travel procedure
- Travel agency approved by the company
- Rules and regulations while employees are travelling, such as conduct and behaviour
- Method of travel, whether by land, air, or sea
- Procedures for procurement, cancellation, or loss of travel tickets
- Boarding and lodging details
- Travel arrangements while heading to and upon reaching the destination, such as car rentals or taxi services
- Expenses, such as per diem and meal expenses, or miscellaneous and emergency expenses
- Safety and security of travelling employees
- Insurance coverage for international travel
Clearly outlining and understanding these policies can help corporate travel managers to plan ahead and tailor travel arrangements according to the company’s business goals.
Additionally, employees will have a smoother time planning for the trip without disruptions to their day-to-day tasks and the company’s overall workflow.
Understand the Needs of Your Employees
Before the pandemic, corporate travel management tended to focus on getting the best arrangements for accommodations or the best deals for ticket prices.
These factors and many others are still important today, but the pandemic has brought to the fore another element in corporate travel that necessitates a higher priority: the safety and well-being of travellers.
In keeping up with the current changes, corporate travel managers should also ensure that partners and suppliers, such as their airline of choice or hotel accommodations, have solid health protocols in place.
It’s highly unlikely that employees will be willing to travel when there’s a high risk of getting infected. Thus, corporate travel managers should look into safety guidelines, quarantine policies, and local travel restrictions for the trip to be both safe and successful.
Use a Travel Management System
Similar to tracking travel expenses, corporate travel managers need to stay on top of all the necessary steps to organize and execute the trip successfully. This begins with making travel requests all the way to the return trip home. With a travel management system in place, it will be much easier to achieve the following:
- Streamline processes
- Gain approvals in a timely manner
- Create up-to-date reports
- Manage scheduling
- Anticipate emergency scenarios
- Smooth booking experience
- Compare prices for tickets, accommodations, and local transportation
- Manage other expenses
- Get the best value-for-money deals
If you’re using an expense tracker, be sure that your travel management system can integrate well with your chosen software.
Build Relationships With Vendors and Providers
In the industry of corporate travel management, vendors and providers can mean airlines, travel agencies, hotels, and other third parties providing goods and services that corporate travellers need.
As the ones spearheading the planning and managing for corporate travel, corporate travel managers will benefit a lot from building strong relationships with vendors and partners.
Communication is the foundation of strong relationships, so you should first be clear about what you need, as well as your travel goals and policies, so expectations can be properly set.
At the same time, it’s important to be responsive to prospective suppliers so you can engage with them and weigh your options.
Similarly, just as the supplier should understand your needs, you should also take into account the supplier’s needs as a business. If you aren’t able to come to a satisfying agreement, consider partnering with another vendor from which you can mutually benefit.
Create a Travel Calendar
A travel calendar will ensure that you’re making timely travel arrangements and you won’t encounter any delays. Keep in mind that delays can easily translate into extra costs, so be sure to allow time for possible unforeseen circumstances.
Proper scheduling also prevents disruptions, whether that’s on the employee’s side or the vendor’s side. With a timeline set in place, you’ll also be able to make the necessary adjustments that can address scenarios such as delayed flights or a high volume of travellers, especially if you’re planning arrangements during the holidays or vacation months.
Creating a travel calendar can also be made easier with an effective travel management system. Find one that works for your company’s processes, policies, and budget so you can maximize the app to suit your needs.
Follow Up To Make Sure All Goes Smoothly
Further to communication, following up on the progress of your corporate travel plans is necessary to ensure that all steps have been accomplished by all parties involved.
For instance, you can check whether all employees have the required travel documents or if approvals have already been signed by the relevant departments or managers.
Following up on your suppliers and providers can also smoothen out potential issues early on, especially when it comes to the availability of tickets or accommodations.
Follow-ups also keep everyone up-to-date about where they are in your set time frame. If someone still hasn’t accomplished their requirements, you can still make timely changes that won’t significantly affect the other stages of planning and executing the trip.
You can achieve corporate-travel-manager success if you are organized, diligent, and prepared to work hard. Keep these tips in mind while planning and managing business travel, and you'll be well on your way to mastering the art of corporate travel management.
Build a Program To Meet Those Goals
It’s not an easy task to manage corporate travel, especially if you are responsible for managing multiple teams and travel budgets. So, what are the best practices that a corporate travel manager has to follow?
Create and Manage a Travel Policy
A clear outline of travel policies will steer everyone involved in the right direction. This also ensures that corporate travel managers themselves are in line with the company’s overall rules and regulations, as well as the destination’s local laws and guidelines.
Having a travel policy will also let your employees know how to conduct themselves while travelling. This is especially important if you’re travelling internationally, as there are certain things you are expected to do and not do according to the local culture.
Aside from creating and managing an internal travel policy, it also pays to do research on where you’re going, even if it’s just a different state or a different country altogether.
Compile your research and summarise the information in a way that travelling employees will be able to easily digest. At the same time, get employee feedback while preparing travel policies to make sure that you’re covering all bases.
Know Your Budget
Of course, knowing your corporate travel budget is important. As previously mentioned, some airlines tend to charge corporate travellers a higher amount since they know that this is a necessary business expense.
Knowing and understanding your budget, its allocations, and limitations will allow you to build an effective corporate travel program that meets all your goals and needs.
Having an understanding of your budget will also allow you to properly adjust expenses and prioritize certain elements of the trip.
For instance, you can save on flight tickets in exchange for higher-end lodgings. Additionally, you can anticipate unplanned costs, such as emergencies, delayed flights, or even when travellers get caught in the middle of a natural disaster.
Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario
Speaking of emergencies and natural disasters, nobody can tell when these things might happen. Accidents, whether major or minor, are also highly unpredictable.
As such, it will be to your advantage to plan for the worst-case scenario. It’s always good practice to anticipate that something untoward might happen during the trip so employees in transit won’t be in a bind when it actually happens.
Aside from allocating a budget for worst-case scenarios, it will also help employees if you include these scenarios in your corporate travel policy. This way, they’ll know what contingency plans the company has in store for them.
Use Technology To Make Travel Easier
In the past, spreadsheets were typically used to manage corporate travel procedures. These days, however, there are more advanced travel management solutions that can centralize, systematize, streamline, and even manage risks while employees are on-the-go.
Take advantage of the available technology so you can have a better view not only of travel expenses, but also policies, relationships with vendors, local rules, and all the updates needed to accomplish travel requirements.
This way, you can plan for the trip effectively while staying on top of all tasks required of you, employees, and suppliers.
It’s important that you understand what a corporate travel manager does and how they are responsible for their team's travel projects.
Execute With Excellence
There are many businesses that struggle with their travel management, spending countless hours a week dealing with the logistics of getting their employees to the right place at the right time.
Technology has made it easier for businesses to manage their own travel, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
Here’s how companies can take the leap from struggling with their current travel management system to enjoying a seamless and efficient experience:
Design Your Corporate Travel Schedule
Managing schedules is just as important as managing costs, so it’s important to design a detailed corporate travel itinerary.
Generally, this can be a checklist list that lets your employees know what happens during a specific date and time. This can be especially helpful when they have conferences or multiple events to attend.
A well-designed corporate travel schedule can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Ticket and flight details
- Boarding and departure dates and times
- A list of activities that will happen during an event, conference, or meeting
- Event venues and attire
- Scheduled mealtimes
- Time for rest and leisure
- Estimated time of travel from the hotel to the event location, and vice versa
Again, it’s also beneficial to get employee feedback when designing the corporate travel schedule to see if your list covers all their needs.
Implement a Flexible Itinerary
Although it’s important to list down all the things that can happen during a trip, it’s equally important to make your schedule flexible. Take into account the possibility of delays, traffic, or other difficulties and emergencies that might happen along the way.
As mentioned, unforeseen events can happen and a flexible itinerary can help buffer the consequences of those scenarios so your schedule and the trip won’t be significantly impacted.
Create a Budgeting System so You Can Track Expenses and Benefits as They Are Needed
Corporate travel expenses can easily skyrocket when they’re not tracked properly. At the same time, employees might not immediately realize the benefits they can gain from undertaking corporate travel.
In this regard, a budgeting system will help them have an overview of what’s important to spend on and what they can gain from certain budget allocations.
Generally, it’s ideal to save on all expenses but everyone knows that you can only cut down on expenses so much without severely impacting the quality of the trip and the well-being of corporate travellers.
In this case, you need to go back to your company goals to properly assess which factors you can save on and which ones need a higher budget. There are no hard-and-fast rules for this, but a good rule of thumb to follow is if allocating a lower budget for, say, airline tickets, won’t affect the fundamentals of the trip, then it can be beneficial to pursue that route.
In turn, you can use what you save to arrange better lodgings for employees or allocate that for emergency scenarios.
Corporate travel management is a process that requires you to know your employees and plan accordingly. Find out how to improve it, then implement it. This ensures that everyone is on the same page.
A Successful Corporate Travel Management Plan Is One That Is Developed Strategically
Business travel management solutions can ensure smooth travel and procedures for all parties involved. This section will cover the different business travel management solutions and how they work.
According to a November 2020 survey, “roughly 66.5% of respondents stated that their organizations used an online expense reporting platform that includes mobile solutions.
In contrast, only 8% of the surveyed travel buyers claimed that their companies relied on Excel spreadsheets or other offline processes to track their travel expenses.”
Locomote offers a centralized dashboard for corporate travel management that makes sense of your data so you can pinpoint areas for improvement and review how well your corporate travel policy is performing.
With its breakdown of real-time data, you can track expenses, receive a detailed invoice, and even apply unused tickets to book your next trip.
Budget management refers to the financial resources corporate travellers are allotted for the entire trip and what they are used for. This can also refer to points, benefits, and deals offered by suppliers and partners.
With an effective budget management tool, each expense can be tracked quickly and efficiently, allowing corporate travellers to focus on why they went on the trip in the first place. At the same time, they can gain travel points and even access to different airport lounges.
Booking tools for corporate travel management make it easier to acquire the best accommodations and book trips in a more convenient manner. There are many booking tools that you can compare depending on your trip’s goals.
Our booking tool focuses on features such as hassle-free group and solo travel, a user-friendly interface, and providing a safer and better travel experience.
Manage Your Business Trips Effectively
Corporate travel management can help cut down costs, get the best deals, and provide a safe and productive trip for travelling employees.
Having a strategic approach aided by technology can ensure that the trip is successful and rewarding to all parties involved.
Contact us today if you want to see a platform that can do all of this for you and more.