Driving Savings and Managing Growth in Middle Market Travel Programs

A survey conducted by The BTN Group (Business Travel News) and American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) found a host of middle market organizations experiencing business travel growth. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents said that their travel spend increased over the last year. In addition, a similar majority of those surveyed said they were expecting the same upward trend in the next year.

So, what can mid-market sized businesses do to make sure they make the most of business travel growth?

It all starts with your travel policy

A company’s policy is the backbone of any travel program, and an effective travel policy is essential to driving down the cost of business travel for an organization of any size. With specific recommendations for booking a trip in place, an organization begins to gain control over the way it spends on travel, leveraging more efficient processes and the right relationships to drive savings. Typically, a travel policy should cover thoroughly several different areas, including:

  • Booking and Payment: Rules should outline where employees ought to book their travel, which online booking tool(s) to use; how employees should pay for travel; the pre-trip approval process, and the process for reimbursing employees’ travel-related expenses.

  • Flights: Clearly outline which employees can fly in different cabin classes and which additional fees will be covered by the company. Offer guidance on booking best practices to help ensure the right balance of affordable flights and a satisfactory travel experience for your employees.

  • Hotels and Accommodations: Outline whether common incidental expenses are allowed, and give employees a list of hotel suggestions for frequently visited destinations.

  • Ground and Rail: A comprehensive travel policy also should include guidelines about the use of both rental and personal cars, public transport options, taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber™ and Lyft™.

Have your travelers in mind

Your travel policy shouldn’t be just about controlling costs — it also should be about enhancing your travelers’ satisfaction. You can achieve this in two ways: First, with a clearly communicated travel policy that includes helpful guidelines, you can make sure travelers have more time focusing on their own business, not the tedious work of booking travel. Second, with a flexible policy that incorporates traveler feedback, you can tailor policy improvements based on your employees’ preferences — while still maintaining certain cost control methods.

The right tools

In some instances, noncompliance can be a sign that employees fully don’t understand the expectations or implication of travel policy, but it also can be a reflection of a complicated, inflexible policy or process that is hard to follow. Equipping employees and managers with the right booking tools that make compliant bookings easier from the start can make all the difference. With the latest tools, a pre-trip approval process can be built into the employee booking process, making it simpler and more efficient for all involved.

The right booking tools can employ rule-based logic that’s set up by travel managers and automatically applied to online and offline processes in order to guide in-policy booking. They also can alert automatically travel managers and decision-makers when a traveler tries to arrange an out-of-policy booking.

Collaborating with the right travel management company (TMC) can be a key part of achieving these goals and effectively managing business travel growth. In the survey by BTN Group and American Express GBT, 90 percent of respondents said their organizations relied on a TMC to support their travel programs.

To see what other mid-market travel programs are doing to manage growth, increase control of their spending and improve service to travelers, download our free whitepaper.

To learn more about what American Express GBT is doing specifically to empower middle market businesses, read about the guiding principles behind our recent middle market redesign.