While 2020 was a year when companies had to scale back on their travel activities, we saw that there’s one group eager to get back out there – mid-sized companies. According to data American Express Global Business Travel collected in the summer of 2020, we saw a stronger business travel recovery from our mid-sized clients. We believe that’s because their leaders are placing more emphasis on getting their businesses back on track. So let’s discuss two things these businesses should focus on to optimize their travel spend and that have the added benefit of making it safer for their employees to hit the road during a time of uncertainty.
- 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 achieve greater spend management, benefitting from more efficient processes and the right relationships to drive savings. Typically, a travel policy thoroughly covers these areas:
- 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, and the process for reimbursing employees’ travel-related expenses. In 2020, more companies also adopted a mandated travel policy and pre-trip approval process, which not only can drive savings but allows businesses to have more oversight over their travelers’ itineraries.
- Flights: Clearly outline which air carriers employees can book flights with, which cabin classes they can select, and which additional fees will be covered by the company. Offer guidance on booking best practices to help ensure there’s a balance between affordable flights and a safe travel experience for employees.
- Hotels and Accommodations: Outline which hotels employees can book in frequently visited destinations and whether common incidental expenses are allowed.
- Ground and Rail: A comprehensive travel policy also should include guidelines about the use of both rental and personal cars as well as taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Despite it being a more economical option, you may want to limit the use of public transport at this point to reduce health risks.
- You also need the right tools
Compliance is a vital component of a managed travel program. It is the key to maximizing savings and supporting duty of care initiatives. Especially in today’s environment, it is crucial to make sure that employees are following policy guidelines.
Noncompliance can be a sign that employees don’t fully understand the expectations or implication of the travel policy, but it also can be a reflection of a complicated 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 system can be built into the employee booking process, making it simpler and safer 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 bookings. 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 can be a key part of achieving these goals and effectively managing business travel growth.