You may have read the bad news, that the cost of travel is expected to rise in 2018. According to the 2018 Global Travel Forecast report, higher oil prices, rising inflation and a stronger global economy overall will boost prices in air, hotel and ground transportation 4 percent and higher in some sectors.
Driving the increase in air prices, which is expected to climb worldwide by an average of 3.5 percent, is a rise in the price of crude oil as well as the increased segmentation of basic economy fares, according to the report compiled by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association. In Eastern Europe, that number is expected to soar to a whopping 7.1 percent.
Meanwhile, hotel prices are predicted to go up by an average of 3.7 percent globally. The largest spikes will be in Europe. And a bit of good news: Hotel prices are actually expected to fall in Latin America and the Caribbean.
So, beyond having a travel policy that clearly spells out the best booking practices and staying on top of your travelers’ compliance rate, how can a travel manager save on travel in 2018? Here are four ways how:
1. Find cheaper rides
Sure, Uber™ and Lyft™ may be all the rage now and oftentimes less expensive than a traditional taxi, but they aren’t necessarily the fastest means of getting around and certainly not the cheapest. Especially in cities known for a reliable, efficient, safe public transportation system, encourage your travelers to hop on a train, ferry, bus or even a complimentary shuttle service if their hotel offers one from the airport. If it’s a large conference they’re attending, they should find out if there is a courtesy shuttle from the hotel to the convention center, as oftentimes is the case.
2. Stop the procrastination
Of course, it’s not always possible to book a business trip far in advance. However, there are some business travelers (we’re sure you know who they are!) who keep putting off the task until tomorrow and then get stuck with an overpriced plane ticket and hotel room.
According to a study by CheapAir.com, the best booking window for a trip is 21–105 days in advance for flights within the continental United States. Even if your travelers schedule their flight two to three weeks ahead, they can save the company hundreds of dollars. And when they book both their flight and hotel together through the American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) online booking tool, it usually means even greater savings, since we meet and beat competitors’ prices on hotel rooms nine out of 10 times (according to analysis of weekly room pricing and availability by RateGain Technologies).
3. Work around the hidden airline fees
Nowadays, incremental fees like seat upgrades in the economy cabin, checked luggage fees and in-flight meals have become a standard add-on to the cost of a round-trip ticket. And the airlines will continue to test those limits.
As Eric Olson, a consulting manager with American Express GBT, pointed out in a recent Atlas article, carriers are finding that consumers indeed will pay for “frills” like advance seat assignments and not being the last to board the aircraft with the rollout of their basic economy fares, which strip such amenities. They also are discovering travelers will pay extra for “preferred” economy seats that have more legroom and in-flight entertainment.
So look at the various options, discuss it with your travelers and figure out what amenities are a necessity for them and what they are willing to forgo.
One we think they’ll easily go for: Now that the United States and United Kingdom have lifted their laptop bans and passengers no longer need to pack their devices in a checked bag, your business travelers can return to taking only carry-on to avoid those additional luggage fees — and the wait at the baggage claim.
4. Earn the free upgrades
If you have been paying full price to fly your business travelers in first or business class or for access to the airport lounges, you have not been reading Brian Kelly’s popular blog, The Points Guy, which offers the best advice out there on how to take full advantage of the multitude of travel-related rewards programs.
Kelly, whose interest in points and miles began when he was 12 years old and booking flights for his jet-setting father, says there are so many ways to score upgrades to first class airline seats, better hotel rooms and access to the airport lounges, it’s just that few people know how to navigate the programs. His blog can show you exactly how.
One simple step you can begin with? Be sure your company is using a corporate credit card that offers the best rewards and take a look at the Points Guy’s top five business credit cards for 2017.
Oh, and a spoiler alert: Four out of the five on the list are from our legacy company, American Express.