Without a doubt, it’s a challenging time to work in corporate travel management. COVID-19 has changed the business travel landscape drastically, bringing in a whole slew of new obstacles and unknowns while the usual demands of the job remain ever-present. Your to-do list has always included decreasing expenses, carrying out duty-of-care tasks, and developing smart policies, but trying to meet your goals in uncertain times can feel like a shot in the dark.
We suggest taking a good, hard look at your program — especially while business travel is in a slump — to revamp your approach and zero in on new opportunities to refine your business travel management strategies.
With that in mind, we’ve created a guide for addressing the some of the main issues affecting corporate travel management — not just now, but in the years to come.
Considering new technologies
Corporate travel management technology is always advancing, and it’s smart to invest in some of these advancements to make your job easier. If you haven’t examined how your travel program makes use of the latest tools, now is a great time to do so. Weighing your options for a tech-savvy TMC is a great first step.
As you reach out and research your choices, remember that you’ll need to work with a company that can tailor corporate travel solutions to your precise needs and promise a high level of flexibility and customization. This is especially important if you want to take advantage of third-party software that provides more insightful data, automates certain processes, and allows for huge savings.
Look for a TMC that makes it easy to incorporate these valuable third-party services designed to give you an edge in achieving your business travel management goals. A good TMC will give you the power to plug and play with the solutions that make the most sense for your operations.
Keeping track of canceled flights, refunds, and unused tickets
When was the last time you found yourself in such a flurry of canceled flights, refunds, and unused tickets? Probably not in recent memory, if ever. With business travel ground to a halt in the wake of COVID-19 and a return to previous levels not expected for several years, you’ll need a solid strategy ASAP for dealing with this problem.
Did you know a single canceled trip costs a company $889 on average, mostly because refunds and vouchers are never claimed or used for future travel? This opens the door for huge amounts of lost money — an alarming prospect for a company of any size.
Corporate travel management professionals have a choice: manually cross-check spreadsheets and try to make sense of raw data, or enlist the help of a refund policy tracking tool to get real-time reports that track every unflown ticket, helping to make a solid plan for recovering that money.
Managing travel spend
No matter what’s going on in the world of business travel, reining in expenses and making wise use of resources is an ongoing challenge for corporate travel management professionals.
The right corporate travel booking tool makes compliance easy for your travelers, helps you secure special rates with hoteliers, and gives you data and transparency to make sound decisions. As we’ve mentioned before, plug-and-play software solutions can take your TMC to the next level, providing even more tools and data for fine-tuning your operations.
Airfares make up a huge chunk of travel spend, so it makes sense to focus on reducing these costs and getting the best fares possible. That’s not necessarily easy to do in these unprecedented times – especially if your corporate travel management program doesn’t make use of an airfare re-shopping platform.
Your corporate air spend has always been subject to external factors such as fluctuating oil prices, competition, and changes in supply and demand on the part of the airlines. But now, with fewer routes, more border closings, and ever-changing government legislation — not to mention the economic hot water the airlines are in — airfares have become hugely unpredictable.
In fact, our own research shows an airfare price volatility trend that’s likely here to stay for the foreseeable future. That’s because the usual airline price management strategies have been turned on their heads, with no end to the chaos in sight.
This haphazard situation makes it hard to be sure your travelers are getting the lowest prices. Without the right corporate travel solutions to stay on top of this, you’ll almost certainly end up paying too much for airfare sooner or later.
Airfare price tracking offers reliable solutions for monitoring changes in fares and capturing the best rates, even if that means rebooking. Given the extreme highs and lows in pricing, there’s never been a better time to make use of this valuable tool and secure the huge savings that come with sudden dips in price.
Securing the best payment options
When examining your corporate travel management program as a whole, it’s worth considering whether the payment options you’re currently using offer the kind of fraud protection, flexibility, and transparency you need to make your operations more efficient.
Perhaps your corporate travel booking is facilitated by a business credit card by default — you’d certainly be in good company if that’s the case. But in the last few years, tech-enabled options — such as virtual payment cards — have taken the business travel world by storm, offering an alternative that’s attractive for a number of reasons.
This central billing option removes many of the risks and inconveniences of the typical business credit card. For one thing, you can configure a virtual payment card for certain uses, vendors, locations, and time frames, reducing the chance of fraudulent activity. Reconciliation is more straightforward too, when these controls are in place.
Most importantly, enabling corporate travel booking with a virtual payment card gets rid of the problem of credit limits, due to the card’s centralized nature and independence from any individual card or account. And that’s a huge boon when you’re considering airfare price tracking that can look for cheaper flights and rebook them automatically. Without the constraint of credit limits that might normally create a barrier for this process, your software can rebook the flight and the savings are locked in.
|Convenient||Instant Reconciliation||Reduced Cash Flow Issues||Low Risk of Fraud|
|Personal Credit Card||✅||❌||❌||❌|
|Business Credit Card||✅||❌||❌||❌|
Making full use of your data
As business travel begins to bounce back, there may be dozens or hundreds of employees planning, booking, and traveling on business trips at any given time. With so much happening all at once, it can be hard to get an accurate snapshot of your program and the various factors at play in making it all work smoothly.
When your corporate travel management tools give you the power to run reports, look at analytics, and dig deeper into certain trends, you have a better chance of rectifying any issues and capitalizing on any opportunities. Make sure your TMC and any third-party software empower you to take your data into your own hands to fortify your decision-making.
Prioritizing traveler wellness
There is no more central element to your corporate travel management operations than your travelers themselves. Even as you pursue saving money and making your program more efficient, the investment in employee wellness is always money well spent.
No matter what you’re trying to accomplish through corporate travel management, be sure to prioritize policies and practices that take the weekend warrior’s lived experience into consideration. Why? Because burnout, loss of productivity, and time away from family negatively affect your traveling employees and, eventually, your company.
On the other hand, when your employees know their wellbeing is a concern, they’re happier, more productive, and more likely to stick with the company even through hard times.
Consider factors like flight delays, cancellations, long layovers, weekends away, middle seats, and more to provide a rich picture of an individual traveler’s wellness at a given point. Improving travelers’ experiences is essential for avoiding employee dissatisfaction and burnout.
Developing a post-COVID corporate travel policy
It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting effect not just on the travel industry, but on the way people connect around the world. The things that corporate travel management professionals once took for granted — the ability to network, hold meetings and conferences, and travel at will — have been greatly affected. The policies that worked in years past are now obsolete. Despite this, recovery will happen, though it may be slow and incremental.
As your business slowly reintroduces travel, you need to be sure your corporate travel management strategies take our new reality into account. For starters, you should revisit how to balance providing a duty of care with keeping within tightened budgets. It’s also essential to stay up-to-date on developments around travel restrictions and automate as much of your policy as possible to reflect the ever-changing situation. And of course, the changes in airfare prices – whether due to volatility or increased flexibility — are always a smart thing to track.
No matter what changes need to be made to your business travel management approach, make sure your employees have reviewed and understand any new policies. Urge them to update their contact details, book within your program, and keep you informed of any burdens or inconveniences the new policies might cause. Having buy-in from your employees can make all the difference in meeting your corporate travel management goals.