The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the gaps many organizations had in their corporate travel policy. Those gaps include risk and safety protocols, comprehensive unused ticket management, and corporate travel policies, to name a few. Now, corporate travel managers want to fill those gaps as travel resumes.
But how? Can updating a corporate travel policy really influence the success of a travel program? And how do you balance the needs of the company and the satisfaction of travelers? We’re examining those questions and more in the following article about corporate travel policy.
What is a Corporate Travel Policy?
If you’re new to business travel, it’s important to understand the basics. So what is a corporate travel policy? A corporate travel policy is the set of guidelines outlined by an organization to manage their business travel program. Then, travel managers and traveling employees use those guidelines to plan, purchase, and participate in business trips.
The two main objectives of a travel policy are to protect the travelers and to protect the company. Additionally, compliance is higher if it’s:
- easy to understand
- meets the needs of your travelers
- communicated effectively
- and integrated with booking tools.
That can feel like a tall order, but it need not be.
How to Write a Corporate Travel Policy
One of the most important steps when writing a travel policy is collaborating with the travelers. Unfortunately, this step is often forgotten or ignored.
Firstly, get feedback about their booking and travel experience. Secondly, learn what works for them, what doesn’t, and why. Thirdly, ask about their preferences. Lastly, include them in the decision-making process. Doing so fosters goodwill and better buy-in on the policies you outline.
Remember, travel policies are not about control. They’re also not only about cost savings. For example, let’s say a company creates their policy focused solely on the expense. With this narrow perspective, they decide that travelers must always choose the cheapest ticket possible, regardless of airline or schedule. Unfortunately, while this may reduce overall travel costs, it ignores the stress put upon the traveler. What if the cheapest flight is a 5:00 a.m. departure with a five-hour layover? Yes, it may save money, but it’s hard to maintain morale and loyalty if employees are wrung out. You want your people to feel valued.
Furthermore, unhappy business travelers are often less effective in their work. Ultimately, this results in a lower ROI. You may even begin to experience rapid employee turnover. Ask yourself, is saving on travel costs worth the possibility of losing accounts or consistently going through the hiring process?
Moreover, effective travel policies strike a fair balance between the well-being of travelers and protecting the company’s resources. For example, some companies allow travelers to book a higher class of service (like business or first class) if the flight is longer than a set number of hours. Similarly, other companies will allow a more expensive hotel if it’s in a more convenient location.
Things to Consider When Writing a Corporate Travel Policy
In this section, here are a few items to consider as your write or update your corporate travel policy:
Flights – Should travelers book direct flights? Can travelers get lounge access at the airport? Can business or first class seats be purchased for longer flights? Do you have preferred airlines?
Hotels – Will employees always stay at the same hotel chain? What happens if a hotel is priced higher but is in a more convenient location? Will extras at the hotel be allowed?
Car Rentals – Do you want to outline what type of cars can be rented? Will limo services be allowed? What about using taxis or companies like Uber and Lyft?
Approvals – Does someone need to approve the itinerary before tickets are issued? How will this be done?
Reimbursements – How will employees be reimbursed for travel expenses? Or will they use a company credit card? Are there consequences for not submitting receipts? How much should travelers tip on meals? What’s the meal allowance?
Traveler Well-being – Can travelers combine personal travel with business travel? Can employees accumulate their own travel reward points? Do employees have the freedom to decide to travel or not? Can they limit their number of nights away?
Safety and Security – Who should travelers contact if there’s an emergency en route? Should they purchase travel insurance? What is the extraction plan in a disaster?
Sustainability – Is sustainability an important initiative for your company? Should travelers only book with certain carriers on specific types of planes? Should they only buy non-stop flights?
10 Post-pandemic Travel Policy Trends
Corporate travel policies are as unique as the organizations they belong to. There isn’t a one size fits all template. But many organizations are taking advantage of the pause the pandemic created. They see it as an opportunity to evaluate what their travel program should look like.
As travel managers update their policies, a few common themes are emerging. For example, here are ten trends we’re seeing with both current and prospective clients:
1. Mandating Corporate Travel Policies
Many organizations are now requiring travelers to book within their managed travel program. This is particularly true at universities where travel programs were often not mandated prior to the pandemic. However, after experiencing the challenge of getting travelers home when the world shut down, many now see the wisdom. Quickly locating and helping travelers come home was more difficult for those with non-mandated programs.
Kathleen Roberts, Christopherson Business Travel’s Chief Revenue Officer, shared this about one new client, “We recently partnered with a new client that is mandating the use of their travel program for the first time. What they experienced with the pandemic, coupled with new growth, is allowing their CFO to say, ‘Here are some things we need to do to manage our spend.’ Mandating their program is one of those things.”
2. Ensuring Use of Unused Tickets
Travel managers are requiring unused ticket funds be used before new tickets are purchased.
3. Allowing Higher Classes of Service
A number of clients are adding allowance for higher classes of service for longer trips. There is a trending toward business class tickets and non-stop flights. Longer trips accomplish more. That combined with non-stop flights is good for the bottom line, sustainability, and traveler well-being.
4. Partnering with TMCs
Companies with previously-unmanaged travel programs are looking to partner with travel management companies. They now see the need for expertise in setting up an integrated program. They also want a policy that supports their goals.
5. Adding VIP Service
Many clients are adding VIP service options to their program and policy.
6. Re-training Employees on the Travel Policy
Workforces changed dramatically over the last two years. Consequently, travel managers see the need for revising and reimplementing their policies. They are also retraining their new employees on those policies.
7. Adding Approval or Authorization Layers
Many organizations added extra travel approval layers when the pandemic began. For example, some companies wanted supervisor approval for domestic travel and Vice President approval for international travel. Those interim policies are still in place even as travel returns. Additionally, some organizations want to add a pre-trip authorization step before a trip is booked.
That said, don’t over-complicate the approval process. You don’t want to add friction. Furthermore, you don’t want so many layers of management that it’s difficult to get the job done.
8. Updating Per Diem Guidelines
Organizations are updating per diem guidelines to align with recent changes. This resource helps travel managers assess and make those changes.
9. Creating Multiple Policies
Some organizations are creating multiple policies for multiple groups.
10. Using More Broad Language
Airlines are quickly approaching equilibrium in their operations. They are adding planes back into their fleets. As a result, they are changing the class of service configuration for some international travel.
Consequently, this new class of service means travelers could potentially book the better class at a better rate. But this is only true for organizations with broad policy language. Conversely, this would not be possible if an organization’s policy were to strictly state that travelers can only book “one level up” from the main economy class.
Tips for Increasing Travel Policy Compliance
By and large, most business travelers are sensible employees who make reasonable choices that aren’t detrimental to the company. But getting them to work within the parameters of a corporate travel policy can sometimes be a challenge.
However, this is often because the policy hasn’t been communicated effectively or consistently. Ask yourself, “Is our corporate travel policy:”
We encourage you to train and educate your travelers on your policies.
Additionally, it’s important to note that the rate of compliance differs for each generational group. How baby boomers and millennials prefer to book travel is often different. Not surprisingly, millennials are often more compliant when the task can be done quickly through integrated and intuitive technology. Consider your workforce and the age of your travelers. Having a booking process that aligns with the behaviors of your business travelers is essential for increasing compliance.
Ultimately, there must be a balance between allowing travelers to have autonomy and establishing limits for the program goals. This infographic outlines exactly how you can increase compliance to your corporate travel policy.
How Christopherson Integrates Your Corporate Travel Policy
In conclusion, our team works with clients to regularly evaluate any policies in place. They seek to understand goals and culture to make sure those polices align. Furthermore, they are business travel experts who follow industry trends. Consequently, they can offer suggestions, changes, and additions to achieve greater success.
Additionally, we fully integrate your policy with our technology. This means that when travelers book online or with our experienced advisors, you can be confident the booking is compliant.
Contact one of our executives to learn more about our approach, technology, or cost-savings tactics.