Successful Business Travel Management Best Practices

Travel management won't get easier

If you’re a travel manager, you have some tricks up your sleeve. Depending on your company’s objectives, hopefully, you’ve tailored a workflow to help you make the most of your travel budget without pulling your hair out. No matter how hard you try, corporate travel management can prove challenging. 

For many travel managers, the pandemic brought a sense of job insecurity as borders were closed and restrictions made even local meetings impossible. The rise of digital meeting spaces has mitigated the need for corporate travel, and with the world “opening up” again, the business traveler’s needs have changed.

Business travel management

While volumes have decreased for many, the demands on Travel Managers have increased. It’s more important than ever to have good business travel management best practices to meet budgetary, efficiency, and sustainability requirements.

We don’t have to tell you that business travel management is more than simply booking a flight and sending an itinerary. You must find the best value for your budget without sticking travelers on inconvenient routes. On top of the flights, you must arrange accommodation with similar considerations. Then come all of the miscellaneous costs to keep track of. That’s not the least of the barriers to successful business travel management.

Challenges of corporate travel

Sure, you feel the challenges in your role day-to-day, but what’s the big picture for business travel management?

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Managing incoming requests

If you’re your organization’s Travel Manager, it will be no surprise that a primary challenge is managing incoming requests. For large organizations, the sheer volume of travel requests warrants a role dedicated to travel management. For small and mid-sized businesses, however, business travel management may land in the administration or finance departments and is only one of several responsibilities.

Whether you have procedures in place or not, travel requests or questions about travel likely arise from all directions. Email, Slack, the classic “hey, quick question…” of desk walk-ups. The inconsistency of these requests can be a huge distraction and can make it much more challenging to stay organized with priorities.

Approval tracking

Receiving requests is only half the battle. Once requests come in, you also need to track the approvals flow to ensure authorizations have been granted at all the proper stages from all the right people. Depending on your company policies, this authorization may come from a single manager or need to go to the VP or CEO level. 

Tracking approvals extend the business travel management process, and short of a complete overhaul of companywide policies, there’s no way around it. If you’re tracking these approvals manually, here’s a hint on one of our top tips for business travel management: implement a travel management system.

Keeping spending within budget

As we’ve learned during the pandemic, some great technology is available to keep day-to-day business flowing, but there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. While business leaders often see travel as an essential part of operations and crucial to growth, finance leaders draw the lines to keep budgets under control.

Companies without a streamlined and strategic approach to searching and booking travel will find it extremely challenging to stay within budget while satisfying the travel needs of their organization.

Flexibility

Without a travel management system, travel managers are limited to where – and what – they can book. When booking a vacation, it pays to do your due diligence and check every travel booking outlet you can for the best price and route. Business travel doesn’t have this luxury. You can’t spend your day browsing various sites and comparing the options.

You can’t please everyone all the time, that’s for sure. But having access to a broad travel inventory would help allow some flexibility in travel bookings and help to avoid the back-and-forth questions when confirming arrangements.

Reducing errors

Making mistakes is part of being human, and there’s no way around that. When it comes to booking travel, these errors can be costly. The mistakes may not even be on your shoulders, and most can be reduced or avoided with proper systems. The time to find who approved a travel expense or follow up details after changes can add up.

Successful business travel management

Finding balance in business travel management can be tricky. Finding the best services and options at the best price and satisfying all needs can feel like a moving target. With business travel, the details matter, not only due to the company’s bottom line but overall productivity. A well-designed corporate travel policy has key factors to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here are our tips for business travel management:

Well-designed policies

Reduce confusion, mistakes, and frustration by implementing well-designed travel policies. Your policy should cover all relevant factors such as frequency, expenses, allowances and limitations, and requirements. Ensure you’ve outlined your policy and communicated it well to employees at all levels of your organization. Empower your teams to refer to the policy when employees request or insist on something that doesn’t fall within the protocol, including direct messages with travel requests.

Implement the right system

Once you have clear policies in place, the best thing you can do to affect your business travel management workflow is to implement suitable systems. Tracking everything digitally allows for transparency and accountability. A plan to follow the stages of the approval process is an excellent first step. 

Selecting the right system for making and changing reservations is crucial for business travel managers. A high-grade travel system will ensure the best value for bookings. Choose one that leverages rebooking algorithms, which can check fluctuations in ticket prices after purchase and make changes if it’s possible to save money.

Globalization

Large organizations with a global presence should consider consolidating their travel programs for continuity and clarity. While minor details may vary in different locales, it’s important to standardize travel policies, processes, and tools across locations. This standardization will affect procurement strategies, often for the better.

Data integration

In an era where many tools are available to accomplish virtually any organizational task, integration makes these tools more effective. By integrating database management systems and disparate systems, data on booking requests and processes is traceable and transparent, and reporting is comprehensive.

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