Being new to travel management can be daunting initially, especially when it comes to implementing travel polices and processes for your organisation and not knowing where you would begin.
But if you took a step back and started by thinking about your own personal travel experiences, from meal plans to security, you would notice that you make buying decisions based on your preferences and what you can budget. Business travel is extremely similar - but it stems from the need to travel rather than a desire to travel.
The Global Business Travel Association states that “Travel management is a specialized business function that balances employee/traveller needs with business goals. It is a disciplined approach to processes, suppliers, and data for transient and group travel spend. The purpose of travel management is to deliver measurable results in terms of cost savings, service delivery, and risk mitigation.”
In your role, you will ultimately find that cost control is responsible for a huge part of all decisions being made. As you not only have to be sure you are getting the best ROI on the total trip cost, but also that your traveller’s comfort is met.
To help you keep everything in focus, we’ve created this top 10 list of essentials to ensure that you can successfully manage your travel programmes. And it doesn’t matter whether you are an experienced travel manager, or fresh to the industry, there is always something new to learn due to the consistent change of variables that impact the world of travel management.
1. Know your business
The first place that you need to start is by understanding your own business and assessing what you are managing. Look at the company size, number of travellers, position of those travellers, and whether they are travelling globally/domestically.
There will be many questions to take into consideration such as:
If you keep their objectives in mind, then you know that they will be on board with any decisions you make.
2. Know what the market has to offer
Analyse if your travel needs are defined as predominantly local or global, and how those requirements fit with this checklist. Take time to look at what is out there that is suitable for your organisation - a technology offering for one company might be wrong for another.
A useful process to look at is the CIPS 7 Step Process to complete your tender exercise.
With the structure of the 7 Step CIPS process, a Buyer (Procurement or Travel Manager or both) will be able to evaluate a bidding situation between competing suppliers on an even playing field. Via this process, apples should be able to be compared with apples. This is most important to ensure the evaluation is correct.
You can also keep up with information about Travel Management Companies and business travel news in general by subscribing to respective mailing lists.
The number of people that will want to get involved (not just the Stakeholders) will be staggering, and you need to account for the time that it will take to be able to get feedback, and make the necessary changes. However long you predict your tender and implementation process may take, you should probably double it!
3. Think about policy
Setting a policy is key to corporate travel management.
Your policy can be the foundation of a well-managed travel programme. It will provide a standard for corporate accountability and compliance, control of travel costs and savings as well as supporting duty of care and risk management.
Due to the changing variables in travel management both internally (change in corporate structure, reporting lines, financial controls, etc.) and externally (change in market supplier offerings, government rulings and charges, the global macro environment), your travel policy needs to be reviewed and/or updated often to remain effective.
We have created some tools to help you create your corporate travel policy:
4. Mitigate Travel Risk
Your Travel Risk Management Policy (TRMP) should be created hand in hand with your Travel Policy, as the two must support each other and tested to ensure there are no gaps in the execution of the terms.
Your TRMP is not the same as an Incident and Crises Management Plan as you need to determine who your Incident and Crises Team are, prepare for various scenarios of risk and determine what procedures should be followed in these circumstances.
Managing Traveller risk is the responsibility of 3 key internal parties that must be addressed in your TRMP: The Corporate/Organisation, The Manager and The Employee.
5. Travel Services and Configuration
Identifying what servicing configuration suits your company best will be according to your environment, objectives, and resources. Costs of travel services will play a large part in your configuration, so you need to identify where savings can be made utilising technology to reduce fares/rates and transaction fees.
When it comes to service and configuration you need to:
Whatever route you choose to go down, ensuring you have access to the best selection of content is key to maximising compliance to your preferred programme. If what your travellers want is outside of the managed programme – you will have leakage and that dilutes your supplier opportunities and weakens your risk management control.
6. Supplier negotiations
What can you do to reduce spend?
Your TMC should be negotiating the best possible rates for you with their suppliers, but having a preferred supplier programme for frequently used air, car, and hotel vendors is strongly recommended.
You should assess whether one level of product suits all travellers (from entry-level to senior executives) as the purpose of their travel will depend on what they require and how they book. If you have hundreds of employees traveling for a conference, then this would usually be booked in advanced and the travel dates would not change so you would not need a flexible fare. However, travelling for a last-minute meeting would be entirely different.
Always engage with your internal stakeholders in the evaluation process and get their input on the final decisions. It might make the process more complicated, but it is worth the support in the future when you may be challenged as to why a particular supplier was chosen.
7. Contract management
Once the suppliers have been appointed, refrain from the old school purchasing approach of “once the contract is signed, the job is done”. Travel management contracting requires you to nurture, develop and encourage continuous improvement in a living contract. This is where the work really starts!
If you have invested your time in developing your stakeholders – internal and external – now is the time when it should pay off.
This is harder work for the suppliers but it can be achieved. Our recommendation is that you address this at the beginning of the tendering process and share your contract when you issue the RFP. If the terms cannot be agreed to by the suppliers, then they need not participate any further and yours and their time is not wasted.
Making sure your new suppliers are integrated into your travel programme successfully from Day One is critical to your reputation and the success of adoption of their services. It’s all about making the right first impression.
Dependant on the size and complexity of your programme, and what technology integration needs to take place, you will need to allow a decent amount of time to get the implementation process successfully completed. There is no golden rule, but for a fairly large programme with several preferred suppliers and an online booking tool to be integrated, then we would suggest a 12-week period. If you are implementing globally, then you need to decide if you want to go for a Big Bang approach (more pressure!) or regional roll out. Again, work with your suppliers to decide the best solution.
KPIs should be linked to measuring your journey of improvement and to monitor the supplier performance. By doing so, you should also be able to accurately assess any weaknesses that need to be addressed.
Travel management requires nurturing, development, and encouragement of continued improvement. After investing so much time and money in the RFP, you do not want to neglect the program after implementation.
8. Payment options
How you pay for your travel is a key identifier of what will or will not work for you.
This is not just relative to the payment cycle but also as to how your servicing configuration will be set up, how a preferred deal can be implemented, what the policy guidelines dictate, who is authorised to do what and what level of data is collectable.
How do you pay?
There is no ‘easy’ answer, it depends on a number of factors including, but not limited to, these;
• What you buy – an international sales organisation buys a different catalogue of travel services than a domestic retail business would do.
• Who you buy from – do you deal with your TMC/Intermediary all of the time or can you buy with the supplier directly, or a mix?
• Expenses/Risk culture and resultant policy – do you;
o Pamper your travellers because they are too valuable to have them ‘wasting’ time on expenses so book and pay centrally?
o Or do you put the booking and payment and expenses in their hands but audit after the fact.
It’s managing your risk according to the trust and value you place on your travellers.
• How do you then actually pay – there are a number of payment options that vary according to the choices above, your audit and approval processes, technology and commercials (rebate).
• When you pay makes a difference – you know how much an airfare or rail fare is before you use it and so pay up front. Hotels and car rentals are variable and are paid after the fact. Taxi and fuel and such are paid for and consumed immediately. You need the right tool for the right job.
• And the data that you have available at each stage is different and builds as you execute your trip – Before, During and After
o Context – who the traveller is, cost centre, preferences
o Booking data – what is booked and is supposed to happen
o Point of sale – the financial transaction – what actually happened
o Folio data (where available) – what was purchased
Question: how many of you cross check the booking and approval pre-trip with what actually happened on the trip? Notice any on-trip upgrades?
• Finally, how is your travel funded?
o Do you use your own cash to fund travel up front or use a credit facility? This also depends on, for example, whether you invoice your downstream Customers (e.g. TMC, legal, leisure travel) and so have a cash flow to manage, or you have cash in the bank and choose to spend it on travel rather than business growth, improvement or expansion.
So how do you choose? There are payment experts who are good at navigating this environment and can help you choose the best solution mix for your balanced approach to travel.
9. Total Trip Cost
There are a number of questions that need answering if you wish to get to the bottom of “What is the Total Trip Cost?”
• Do you require an authorisation process to better manage the expenditure, or do you trust your travellers to do the right thing and let them manage their individual spend?
• If you do require an authority process, is this standalone to the TMC, integrated into a booking tool/offline service and does it allow for fluctuations in pricing if the quote varies from time of calculation to time of authority endorsement and booking?
Having an integrated system is ideal to maximise the efficiency of the authority and booking processes and to improve the collation of accurate financial information.
Many Travel Managers with mature programmes are now acquiring this as an added extra to their responsibilities. But you do not have to wait until you have a mature programme. There is nothing to stop you instigating this as soon as possible to maximise your control and tracking capabilities.
It may sound tired; but communication is at the heart of any good travel management programme. You need to ensure that there are optimum lines of communication between you, your TMC, and your travellers.
It is important to target the right audience, at the right time, with the right information. This can make or break a travel management programme. If you are managing things globally then you may need to reword or reassess the information to make sure it works for different markets.
Finally you need to make sure your travellers know where to look for information. Work with your TMC and marketing department to put together a quarterly travel communication piece regarding those who have demonstrated policy compliance and highlight new supplier contracts and special programmes and promotions.