Travel Management 101: Back to the basics
Traveling for business isn't just about hopping on a plane – it's a structured journey requiring precision and robust support.
As the realm of corporate travel grows, so does the need for effective travel management and dedicated support.
That’s why we at Corporate Traveler created this guide.
Packed with indispensable knowledge and pragmatic insights, we’ll cover everything from the fundamentals of business travel management to evaluating the advantages of integrating the right travel management software solutions.
Whether you're an aspiring travel manager or a seasoned business professional looking to enhance an existing travel program, this guide serves as your compass through the labyrinth that is corporate travel management.
What is corporate travel management?
Corporate travel management refers to the strategic planning, coordination, and control of multiple processes, all relating in some way to business travel. Each company has its own unique approach to corporate travel management, but at the end of the day, the primary goal remains the same: guaranteeing safe and efficient travel for employees within the framework of the company's policies and guidelines.
This involves (but is in no way limited to) overseeing travel expenses, mitigating potential travel risks, and ensuring booking processes adhere to the company travel policy.
Businesses navigate travel management through various channels, including:
- Travel management companies (TMC)
- In-house travel manager(s)
- External travel agents
What is a corporate travel manager?
A corporate travel manager is typically an internal employee responsible for steering the travel program and coordinating all business trips for the entire organization. Not only are they the architects behind the corporate travel policy, they also handle duty of care (DOC) and risk management initiatives as well as assist the company in navigating global business travel terrain.
(Side note: When the expertise comes from someone outside the organization, we call them corporate travel agents)
Depending on the scale of the company, there might be a full-fledged team of travel managers, or the responsibility might rest with a solo office manager or HR representative.
Their daily duties? Well, it’s quite the to-do list:
- Booking trips for employees across various roles within the company
- Tracking departmental travel expenses to ensure adherence to budgets
- Offering travel support to employees throughout all stages of their journey
- Managing travel vendors or tools used by the company
- Negotiating corporate rates with frequently used hotels
- Arranging group travel and ground transportation, like rental cars or trains
- Tracking company travel spend and providing reports for analysis
What is a travel management company (TMC)?
At the most basic level: a TMC is a specialized travel agency that assists businesses in managing their corporate travel needs.
Like travel managers, TMCs adeptly handle all the nuances involved in business travel, from handling flights and securing hotel reservations, to providing top-notch DOC and analyzing expense reports.
So, what sets them apart? The beauty of working with a TMC like Corporate Traveler is that we provide holistic travel management services and solutions that are specifically designed to streamline travel processes, optimize costs, and facilitate convenient and efficient business travel for employees.
Is your company literally jetting off? An increase in employee travel comes with an increased need for travel and expense management.
With Corporate Traveler, you can access negotiated rates, analyze your spend, and save across the board – all from anywhere, on any device.
Managed vs. unmanaged travel
Managed travel refers to any business travel that is supported by the services and expertise of a TMC. Travel bookings are either made with a dedicated travel consultant or via the travel company’s online booking tool (OBT), all of which are consolidated into a single, easy-to-digest report.
Unmanaged travel, on the other hand, is where an organization handles its own business travel arrangements. In some cases, travel tasks and responsibilities may be delegated to a travel arranger or assistant. In others, businesses leave employees to book for themselves directly on InsertAirlineHere.com
For some businesses, unmanaged travel a highly attractive option. But things aren’t always as they seem.
Is your travel program unmanaged? Check out our article on managed vs. unmanaged corporate travel to see some key benefits to a managed program that you might not know you’re missing out on.
What is corporate travel technology?
Travel management software is like a specialized toolbox companies wield to ace their travel game. Think of it as software tailor-made to streamline and automate every feature of travel management, including:
- Travel booking
- Travel supplier management
- Approval workflows
- Corporate travel policy enforcement
- Expense management
- Reporting and analytics
These travel management solutions don’t just stop at desktops! They are also offered as user-friendly mobile apps, allowing employees to book and manage their business trips without a travel agent or manager.
In a nutshell, this tech is the control tower – a centralized platform steering travel bookings, policies, expenses, and reporting. It hands companies the reins, granting them stellar control, efficiency, and a crystal-clear view of their corporate travel management playground.
But don’t just opt for any OBT. Choose a tech solution that knows how to play together.
What is a corporate travel management system?
This is a holistic, agile travel tech stack that consists of interdependent software solutions that work together seamlessly to provide end-to-end travel management. Such a cohesive system gives you the ability to streamline approvals, stay connected to employees wherever they are, and improve business travel compliance.
By integrating different software solutions such as online booking tools, expense management systems, and travel risk management platforms, companies can create a comprehensive travel program that enhances the traveler experience, reduces costs, and improves compliance.
With a travel tech stack in place, companies can also gain greater visibility into employee travel spend, track traveler behavior, and make data-driven decisions to optimize their travel program.
5 key components of an effective corporate travel management program
No matter the size of the organization, number of stakeholders, or software employed, an effective corporate travel management program typically consists of several key components.
1. Inclusive corporate travel policies
This one might seem obvious, but we can’t stress it enough. Your travel policy is an extension of your travel program and company culture. A travel policy is the glue that holds your travel program together – from approvals, expenses, booking processes, and emergency contacts.
Having a travel policy helps you:
- Control travel costs
- Determine how reimbursement works
- Compile a list of trusted and approved travel vendors
- Manage an employee’s travel experience and safety
- Cut rogue bookings – and simplify approvals
- Budget, report on travel expenses and activity and reconcile bookings
As a company though, your travel policy helps centralize your travel program, makes data and tracking more accurate and easier to navigate, and it saves time and money (including on expense management). Plus, if you take the time to craft your policy in an intentional and inclusive way, you’ll have a policy your travelers are happier to follow.
2. The “right” corporate travel booking tool
Not all online booking tools are created equal.
Look for a travel platform that helps you develop processes that simplify:
- Travel policy compliance – You've gone through the trouble of building a policy that meets all your travelers' needs. How can you make sure your travelers follow it? A corporate travel management platform, like Melon, allows you to outline your travel policy in the platform and alerts bookers when they are selecting options outside the company guidelines to help them stay on track.
- Centralized booking – Booking across different websites and compiling it into one organized itinerary is tricky. Melon brings all the available booking options, including flights, hotels, and transportation, into one platform. Say goodbye to that browser full of open tabs.
- Preferred vendor integration –Have a preferred airline? Like a specific hotel bed the most? Collecting rental car loyalty points? Our travel platform, Melon, delivers your preferred vendors first so you always find what you're looking for. You'll rest easy knowing your travelers are choosing from the negotiated rates and exclusive deals that save your bottom line.
- Approval workflows – Jump off the approvals merry-go-round. With Melon, you can set up a custom approval workflow to make sure that travel requests are routed to the appropriate managers for review. Once approved, Melon takes care of booking the rest.
3. Consolidated reporting and expense management
Your travel program looks blurry when you're looking for your travel spend data among different sources. This is where consolidating your travel data with a single travel management company proves its worth:
- Centralized data management: The sheer volume of travel data can be overwhelming to say the least. You can spot trends and opportunities to cut travel costs and enhance your travel program from one dashboard.
- Leveraging the right tools: TMCs offer a range of tools for various aspects of travel management. With a TMC, you can consolidate the tools you need for reporting and quickly view everything from travel expenses to carbon emissions tracking.
- Nothing gets past you: A common challenge companies face with their travel programs is booking leakage, where employees make bookings outside the approved channels. With consolidated travel data, you can more effectively identify and target booking, supplier, or channel leakage.
4. Corporate travel discounts & rates
Business travel isn’t cheap. And if it is not managed effectively, it can be a black hole for your company’s budget.
Corporate travel rates are special deals that are offered to companies by travel service providers. These rates are specifically designed to cater to the travel needs of individual businesses, giving them access to more economical options and perks that might not be available to the average solo traveler.
Why? Essentially, travel services providers want to give businesses like yours a more attractive rate so that they can gain your loyalty and secure a high volume of business.
This includes air travel, hotels, car rentals, and rideshare accounts.
So how can you benefit? That’s easy – invest in a full travel management package.
Here at Corporate Traveler, you can expect greater choices without missing out on business travel savings. With a network spanning 90+ countries and counting, we can hook you up with ALL the rates.
5. Proactive duty of care
Duty of care is a company’s moral and legal obligation to monitor its employees' safety and security. And when your employees venture beyond the borders of their familiar workspace, their health and safety take center stage.
Most incidents that occur on business trips are not a matter of life-or-death…but they’re still pretty inconvenient. From a stolen phone to food poisoning, small incidents may add up to lost workdays, wasted business trips, and unhappy employees.
To keep your travelers safe, they need support and assistance - anytime, anywhere. This not only ensures that they are safe, but also that they feel safe. The safer your team members feel on their travels the more relaxed and productive they’ll be, improving staff retention and streamlining the travel experience.
The best way to ensure your traveler’s safety? Preparation. Put a plan in place to reassure your travelers and give them a game plan for every situation. With the right prep, you’ll know exactly where all your travelers are and how to reach them at any point of their journey.
Your business travel matters. Make it count.
In the dynamic landscape of corporate travel, success hinges on effective management, nuanced strategies, and unwavering support. And if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that precision and dedicated guidance pave the way for streamlined, efficient business travel.
At Corporate Traveler, we understand the intricacies of this realm. Our comprehensive solutions and expert guidance are tailored to elevate your travel program to new heights.
Travel expertise? Anytime. We get you and your travelers where they need to go. You can depend on a team of real people to support you, 24/7.
Latest tech? Always ahead. Innovative booking solutions, real-time updates, and on-demand reporting to take visibility to the next level.
The best fares and rates? Of course. The widest range of travel options with the most perks. Superior value, choice, and savings that add up quickly.
More savings? Yes, please! Access all the available content from negotiated fares, exclusive deals and perks, and Melon exclusive deals.
Business travel is an investment, and it should feel simple. Take your business travel to the next level with exceptional service every step of the way.
With a blend of knowledgeable travel experts and seamless digital experiences, we’ve got you covered from door to door.
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