Share post on

All forms of travelling were reduced during the pandemic, which affects how travel management is done. Still, foreign business travel suffered more than any other, like video calls and conferencing soon replaced on-site visits and in-person client meetings. Fortunately, things are looking up as business travels had significantly recovered by 2022 when the globe had learned to live with the virus.

As remote work continues to be normalized, business travellers plan longer trips to mix business with leisure. In fact, according to The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), business travel reservations for the first three months of 2022 exceeded more than half of all bookings for 2021, with an 875 per cent rise between March 2021 and March 2022.

As more business travellers go back to the road once more, the latest business travel recovery poll conducted by GBTA revealed that a whopping 63% are still worried and confused about the rapid changes in travel restrictions posed by the pandemic. 

Business travellers’ attitudes regarding travel are changing, and with it, travel managers are learning to keep up with them too. Addressing their employees’ worries and wants out of a business trip in a post-pandemic world. Starting with how they manage corporate travel.

Today, 20% of organisations claim that they now allow their employees to manage and book their travel reservations directly. This is a big raise from the 9% during pre-pandemic. This change may challenge how the company’s corporate travel policy is imposed.

In fact, Mckinsey & Company’s study revealed that 35% of business travellers don’t adhere to their company’s policy during their trips. With this, it’s safe to say that corporate travel managers, programs, and policies may not be working as usual in the aftermath of the outbreak.

This poses a question, what impact will the epidemic and subsequent business travel recovery have on future corporate travel programs?

With COVID-19 in Mind, What Needs Re-Evaluation?

1. Flexibility 

A travel policy should make business travel flexible. Business travel develops important personal interactions and brings people together. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing work world, your travel plans must keep up with corporate meetings and project deadlines. Travel flexibility helps you to make the most of your plans while still being present with your loved ones when it matters most.

Justin Caldwell, Co-Founder of All Home Robotics shared: “Over time, hefty change costs chip away at your trip budget.”

His tip: “Look for airlines that offer flexible change procedures to avoid or minimize this kind of loss in your business trip. Before making a reservation, check the policy on change costs”

Despite the fact many airlines and travel providers modified their restrictions and abolished cancellation costs during the COVID-19 epidemic, vaccinations and increased travel introduced more flexibility fees and fine print. An easy no-fuss solution is flexibility products offered by travel management companies.

TruFlex allows you to cancel at any time for any reason, with no questions asked and no forms to fill out. As long as you cancel your trip up to 24 hours in advance, you are guaranteed at least an 80% refund in cash.

2. Automating Travel Policy

Automating your company’s travel policy is a simple task that will save countless person-hours by removing the need for employees to deal with lengthy business reports. 

Brian Donovan, CEO of TimeShatter shared with us how automating his company’s travel policy helped with their overall operations. He said, “With an automated travel policy, we save a tremendous amount of time completing the process.  Many of the questions that team members would have about booking, etc. are now in the automated system, therefore they have an immediate answer for their question and know how to proceed.”

Similarly, Lyle Florez the founder of Easy People Search also expressed his fondness for using a Travel Management Company (TMC). “We’ve merely established boundaries and will no longer be interfering. Using a TMC that provides a platform that allows passengers to make their own choices while keeping them in compliance, we could provide a better service to our customers.”

Not only does automating travel policy help employees stay in compliance – but it also eases the booking of business travel. Steve Schwab, CEO of Casago also said, “We’ve found that automating our travel policies has helped a great deal in the flow of the customer experience. Automating this process helps guide employees through the entire booking experience, and encourages them to book within policy. However, it also allows them the flexibility to request exceptions when needed. Managers are only alerted to review requests when they occur, freeing up time for managers and employees alike.”

Setting up automated processes in certain areas of a company can be costly and time-consuming too, however, it will save costs and improve the company’s operations in the long run. With the time saved by automating these time-consuming activities, employees may focus on other human-centric business demands.

3. Duty of Care

Employers are morally or legally compelled to provide care for their employees regardless of location. This duty of care requires employers to make decisions that benefit the company while safeguarding the health, safety, and well-being of their employees, whether at work, at home, or on a trip. 

Mathew Bowley, Marketing Manager at Solmar Villas advised on conducting passenger surveys to help travel managers better understand the gaps in employee safety and travel restrictions. “When employees are on business trips, companies need to know where they are. To improve traveller safety and reduce unnecessary excursions to high-risk places, it’s also vital to keep track of where they plan to go in the future.”

Automatically flagging travel to high-risk destinations can help travel managers and companies react as needed. Partner up with the right travel management company to give you up-to-date risk information and know your employees’ whereabouts in real-time.

It is also a great opportunity to prioritise tasks for a travel management plan that are frequently overlooked, such as updating travellers’ profile information or making sure employees understand why a travel policy protects them.

Travel managers should conduct an employee survey and update their travel profiles:

  1. Health problems
  2. Travel papers they possess

4. Reconsider the Budget Allotted to Business Travel

There are several ways for your company to save money on business travel, one direct way is through your employees. You may want to consider rewarding those who stay within the budget and policies. Make it clear how much money is allocated for each trip, and reward those that commit to it.

Benjamin Stenson, owner of Norsemen Home Remodeling said, “Make it clear how much money is allocated for each trip, and reward those that stay within their allotted budget. Employees who save money on travel expenditures will feel more like owners and will be more likely to search for ways to save money throughout the trip.”

While many companies understandably focus on cost-cutting, Daivat Dholakia, VP of Operations, Essenvia shared how they have increased their budget for business trips. “This I think reflects my primary goal with the travel program, which is and has always been employee comfort and safety. I don’t mind spending a bit more on the travel budget to ensure team members who are feeling rusty on business travel have a pleasant, stress-free experience.”

Furthermore, business travellers are gaining even more flexibility, particularly as more organisations and companies implement digital apps such as self-booking travel solutions through travel management companies (TMCs). According to corporate travel managers, there is a definite change away from command-and-control models and toward those that allow employees to make regulated decisions.

Such tools allow you to easily set the budget so that your employees won’t be able to go beyond that, all while giving them the autonomy to book on their own. Having such tools through a TMC is also a great way to save travel costs. Alas, the money saved could go to the travel itself making business trips’ comfort and safety a priority. 

5. Employee Readiness and Travel Necessity

Business owners need to make sure that their business and employees are ready for travel again. Have your employees take an assessment to make sure that they’re ready to travel again. With the work scene going more and more online and remote, your team should reconsider what constitutes business travel. For your company, when is travel necessary? And who should go? 

“I think the biggest change I’ve made to my travel policy is simply reassessing when business travel actually needs to take place. This new policy helps focus on those clients and networking that really warrant a trip.” shared Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass.

Marc Bromhall founder of StorageBuddy, a storage unit rental company, only permits business travel for new business pitches/meetings. “For all existing customers which we previously travelled to for bi-annual business meetings/presentations, we now do those meetings virtually,” said founder Marc Bromhall. “It’s a combination of lowering our annual travel costs and putting the safety of both our employees and those of our customers as a top priority.”

Should travel be necessary, you need to know how much the trips would cost and how you can reduce these costs

6. Travel Process and Reporting 

Business managers should reconsider how their employees can request to travel, how it will be approved, and how the expenses will be reported and liquidated.

Emir Bacic, Co-founder of Pricelisto shared some changes, “I have instituted a policy that requires all employees to submit a travel itinerary and expense report before their trip. This way, we can get a better idea of how much the trip will cost, and we can plan accordingly.”

He added, “I have also eliminated the option for employees to expense meals and incidentals without submitting a receipt. This helps curb unnecessary spending, and it also ensures that employees are only claiming legitimate expenses. Finally, I have capped the amount employees can claim for travel expenses. This means we are not paying employees for extravagant or unnecessary travel expenses. Ultimately, these changes have helped make our company travel policy more cost-effective and efficient.”

Having a travel management platform allows an easy way to track expenses, and at times TMCs have a tool that generates a post-travel report. 

Is your travel policy up to date?

The time for travel managers to come up with policies to help their business expand has been reinvigorated despite the threat posed by the pandemic. Be ready to act fast and create a travel policy that is flexible, autonomous, and safe. If you are looking to automate travel management, book a demo with us or sign up for free trial.

You also may like