As travel managers approach the end of this challenging year filled with a pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, riots, murder hornets, and all, it’s important to identify ways to strengthen your organization’s travel program, prepare for the return of travel, and plan for the future. To that end, we sat down with a few members of our Account Management Team to discuss what travel managers should be doing now as you move towards the fourth quarter and set your sights on a New Year.
1. Review & Update Your Corporate Travel Policy
Many companies have travel policies, but quite often, they were written years ago and haven’t been reviewed since.
“I think the biggest thing companies learned from COVID-19 was that they have to have a solid travel policy in place,” said Dallas Stewart, Christopherson’s Manager of Client Consulting Services. “Those who did fared much better at keeping their travelers safe as the pandemic began to spread. Organizations that review their policies regularly, enjoy peace of mind and have clear risk management plans.”
Account Manager Susan Moon agreed, “Now is a good time to evaluate your travel policy and make sure you are prepared should something like COVID-19 arise again in the future.”
Every organization should review their policies to make sure they’re current and relevant. Christopherson’s Account Management Team continuously collaborates with clients to evaluate old policies, draft new ones, create addendums to existing policies, and share best practices.
Here is a sample of an addendum Christopherson developed for a customer as they revised their travel policy during the pandemic:
2. Organize Your Unused Airline Tickets
Unused airline tickets are top-of-mind for most companies, and understandably so. It’s a big piece of cleaning up from COVID-19. Companies are overflowing with unused ticket credits as travel was cancelled or postponed. Travel managers want to know: How do I find out about my organization’s unused tickets? What do we do with them? How do we make sure we don’t lose those funds?
“First and foremost, we want our clients to know we are here to help,” said Adelina Littler, Manager of Implementations and Account Support. “Travel managers don’t have to know every detail of every unused ticket, how to apply them, or all the changing rules each airline has. That’s what we’re here for as their travel management company. As their partner we can help them generate the list of their unused ticket credits in our tracking tool, AirBank. That report outlines which travelers have unused tickets on which airlines, when the credits expire, and the value of the ticket. And our travel advisors know exactly how and when to apply those unused ticket credits when travelers start booking again.”
Account Manager Valerie Buckler continued, “Travel managers should definitely take this opportunity to review their unused ticket credits before the end of the year. While AirBank will track the ticket, apply the airline rules, and encourage the reuse of those funds, your company may have credits attached to the profiles of team members who are no longer traveling or who aren’t with the company anymore. By knowing who has what, you can work with your travel management company to do any necessary name changes or review other options so you don’t lose those funds. It is so important to us that we help our clients use the full extent of their unused tickets that came from COVID-19.”
While Christopherson’s AirBank technology alerts travelers of soon-to-be expiring funds and will prompt reuse at the time of booking, travel managers may also want to communicate any company-specific instructions in the event a traveler isn’t able to use the ticket before expiration.
3. Consolidate Your Business Travel
Many organizations might have previously balked at the idea of consolidating (or mandating) their business travel. But in light of the challenges experienced in 2020, companies with non-mandated programs have realized they don’t always know where all their travelers are or how to track them and ensure their safety in an emergency. It is undeniable that organizations that consolidate save money on travel and have better risk management plans.
“COVID-19 proved just how priceless it is to have all travel booked and reported through one agency and one source,” Susan said. “Doing so allows you to know where your business travelers are, how they’re being affected by extenuating circumstances, and report on every detail of your program and your travelers.”
“The benefits of consolidation are real,” continued Manager of Client Consulting Services, Sue Schroeder. “You have better risk management. You’re able to track and ensure the reuse of unused tickets so you’re not losing money. In fact, you enjoy cost savings because you can use the full extent of your vendor contracts. And you have an agency with advisors on your side to help you when flights are cancelled or pandemics hit and you need to get home.”
4. Clean Up Traveler Profiles
Cleaning up traveler profiles isn’t something that happens on a regular basis. But as many companies are still not traveling at full capacity, now is a perfect time to sweep the profiles.
Some organizations reorganized their workforces during COVID-19 while others may have been forced to downsize due to the economic pressures of the pandemic. Some employees who previously traveled may no longer be doing so, now or in the future. Our Account Managers outlined the following steps to ensure a clean traveler profile database:
- Review your list of employees approved for business travel.
- Identify any travelers who are no longer traveling. Make sure you transfer any unused ticket credits they may have before deactivating or deleting their profiles.
- Set up profiles for any new travelers.
- Have travelers review their traveler reward numbers to ensure they are capturing the full extent of their rewards, miles, and benefits once travel resumes.
- Ensure that credit cards used for bookings and virtual payments are correct with expiration dates updated.
- Verify that every traveler has an emergency contact listed in their profile.
“Maintaining a perfect profile bank is always a moving target,” Valerie shared, “but your Account Manager can help you with this and it’s great to start a New Year with a fully audited list of travelers.”
5. Take Advantage of Technology & Learn How to Use Your Full Suite of Tools
“Now more than ever, travel managers should be leaning on the technology their travel management company provides,” said Sue. And indeed, technology delivers the most up-to-date access to unused airline tickets, traveler safety, data, reporting, itineraries, and more. Technology allows you to work smarter and faster and run a more streamlined travel program.
Developing technology for corporate travel management has been core to Christopherson’s value proposition for more than 20 years. Our software platform, AirPortal, generates considerable cost savings for travel programs by delivering immediate access to valuable data and essential travel management tools.
Now is a perfect time to connect with your Account Manager to learn the ins and outs of a particular tool you may not be using or to dive deeper into the capabilities of one you use every day. Another way to take full advantage of the tools available to you is to evaluate your reporting.
“Many companies receive the same reports month after month for years, never stopping to think if it’s truly helpful,” Adelina explained. “I’ve encouraged my clients to review their reporting and ask themselves if these are the right reports and if they need any new information with everything that’s transpired over the last six months. Then I work with them to fill any gaps so they have the data and information they need once they resume traveling.”
6. Communicate with Your Travelers
Travel managers need to be communicating regularly with their travelers. They understand the uncertainty surrounding the travel industry and want clear messages from management as to how their organization is handling business travel and their safety.
“By committing to routine communication,” Valerie said, “you’ll get a better sense of how your travelers are feeling about the current environment. It also helps them know the company cares about them and their well-being.”
“Traveler well-being is becoming a buzz word in the industry and with good reason,” Dallas continued. “Companies need to understand how their travelers feel about business travel in the wake of the pandemic. Travel managers may want to consider sending out a traveler survey to get a pulse on what travelers are comfortable with. Their input will be invaluable.”
Travel is a very personal thing, even if it’s for business, and providing employees an opportunity to weigh in on policies and procedures will go a long way to increasing good will toward any changes that result from COVID-19.
7. Collaborate Within Your Company
As travel managers face a new, post-pandemic landscape, many are experiencing shifting realities or responsibilities. Travel managers may even feel the need to reinvent their position. We encourage you to lean into those changes and work with other departments to collaborate and improve the value of your travel program and department.
“Travel programs often ran independently, or siloed, from other departments in the past,” Dallas explained. “But the pandemic made it increasingly apparent that there needs to be more collaboration between travel, HR, legal, procurement, reporting, and executives. Doing this allows everyone to focus together on helpful creating policies and procedures that mitigate both traveler risk and company risk, while keeping employees safe and healthy.”