The MacNair Travel Leadership Blog

10 Complexities of Campaign Travel Management & How They Apply to You

Posted by Mike MacNair on Aug 20, 2015 5:00:00 PM

travel-management-for-a-presidential-campaignOne of the unique aspects at MacNair Travel Management is that we have been the travel management company for a presidential candidate in every campaign cycle since 1988.  As a result, we’ve seen first-hand the complexities of campaign travel management. Candidates and their staff use a variety of travel options during the campaign, depending on their needs, and commercial travel volumes increase dramatically during the campaign cycle. Thankfully, technology updates have allowed for new opportunities to effectively manage one of the most multifaceted types of corporate travel management.

Following are ten complexities to presidential campaign travel management and suggested solutions that can also be applied to your business. During this election, consider how candidates manage this sizeable line item, and whether it’s an example of how they would manage our government's budget. 

1. Daily staff changes. A huge number of volunteers on the ground make individual profile and approval management a challenge. Secure, consistent online profiles can ease the pain of ensuring the contact information and traveler preferences are taken into account.

For your business – How much time is spent updating information for your business travelers? With an employee profile that is established the first time travel is planned, this process becomes seamless. A travel management company (TMC) can provide you with an easy to use online tool that makes this a no-brainer.

2. Reigning in non- staff travelers and ensuring out-of-policy approval. During the campaign, a large volume of non-staff travelers won't be completely clear on travel policies and procedures. This makes them more likely to make mistakes, push back, and require out-of-policy approvals that can be time consuming. 

For your business – Does your business have one or more “rogue” travelers? Do you use outside consultants, speakers or others that travel on your behalf?  Millenials who prefer to book travel on their own? A clear, concise travel policy that explains your organizations’ travel details, combined with a virtual payment tool that allows your staff to easily control expenses minimizes the mistakes, extra approvals and potential push back from your employees.

3. Prepaying air, hotel, and car for non-employees. Volumes of volunteers are not going to receive a company credit card for their travel and most are young and without credit. Prepayment of air, hotel, and car is necessary. Luckily new virtual payment tools have made this cumbersome process easier. 

For your business – As with the issue above, laying out a clear policy and process helps solve problems before they happen.

4. Public relation challenges of poor travel choices. If a corporate traveler upgrades himself from business class to first class, the PR message this delivers is normally irrelevant. If campaign staffers upgrade themselves while a candidate is speaking about how they will control spending, this could be a PR nightmare.

For your business – While your travelers may not represent an external PR problem, they could represent an internal one.  If there is not clarity into the who, what and why of travel decisions, others within your organization may view things negatively. The alignment of your travel policy with your corporate culture is critical in successful travel management. Clear explanation of how individuals (i.e. management, executive, front-line staff) travel and why, can prevent employees from feeling that they’re being treated unfairly when they travel.

5. Compliance. During a presidential campaign, candidates are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny regarding the amount of money spent and the candidates’ resources. Candidates have PACS and super PACS to gather funds in addition to their usual campaign coffers. Making sure every expenditure is properly categorized is key to avoiding a compliance nightmare.

For your business – There are often compliance issues associated with corporate travel.  Government contractors and others performing under contracts often must meet specific criteria about expenses and costs. Additionally, Glass-Steagal puts compliance issues on public companies and internal corporate policies add extra levels of compliance.  Tools are available for efficient tracking of your business traveler’s expenses. With an in-house travel management system, data is gathered to control costs and provide expenditure reports as needed.

6. Preferred supplier deals. Unless you’re Donald Trump, campaigns can find it hard to secure preferred supplier deals without a proven track record. Credit card companies, airlines, hotels, and car rental companies may need some creative counseling to consider and offer deals that meet spending requirements.

For your businessTMC’s develop relationships with airlines, hotels and car rental agencies and are able to secure discounts based on the volume of business they procure. This service alone – provided by a TMC – can save your business thousands of dollars each time employees travel.

7. Cash flow. Managing it is serious business. Directing funds to the right investments can make a big difference. Campaign managers know that it’s worth every penny to invest in a TMC during the campaign, and have these travel experts manage this significant budget item.   

For your business – The same holds true for your travel and entertainment (T&E) expenses. The T&E piece of your budget is the second largest controllable expense. Investing with a travel management company – the experts in travel – can improve efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance the quality and performance of your travel program.

8. Fighting over availability and hiding logistical strategy. With so many candidates going to so many small towns, the early bird will get the logistical worm. Knowing these likely battlegrounds in advance is helpful in pre-planning; keeping your itinerary confidential could also prove useful. 

For your business – An online corporate travel management system provides the ability for travelers to book travel at the last-minute without interrupting work flow or breaking the bank. This advantage puts you ahead of your competition by providing real-time response to your employee and/or client needs.

9. Public relations issues related to full disclosure. Since campaigns have to report their expenditures and a great deal of the data is public knowledge, analysis can identify mismanagement or poor procurement processes. The value that our TMC brought to this particular campaign complexity is significant.

During the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign, MacNair Travel designed a first rate travel management system and procedures that delivered powerful results:

  • $140.42 savings per ticket, or $662,641 total saved on airfare. The campaign’s average ticket cost was $328.89 versus a national average of $469.31 for the same time period on 4,719 tickets. We assisted in negotiating the airline agreement.
  • Over 260 free tickets issued against American Express Membership Rewards Miles to eliminate high cost itineraries, saving over $274,000.
  • Car rental reservations booked below ceiling rates and on supplier relationship that included direct bill, great rates, and under-aged drivers.
  • Prepaid hotel blocks were made across the country on a shoestring.

Strong partnerships established with preferred businesses ensured thousands of dollars in savings for the campaign’s travel expenses, clearly showing voters successful money management.

10. Automating travel and expense. Campaigns operate around the clock and travelers need to book and expense travel for months at a time with no return home. Automation is essential. Tools like Concur and GetThere, offer opportunities to streamline this process. The key is adding these folks into the program and ensuring they are trained in how to use it well. 

For your business – With the assistance of a Travel Management Company, data is collected and analyzed relating to travel expenses. Management can easily review costs online. Most importantly, using a TMC that offers these solutions will reduce the travel and entertainment expenses in your organization by 10-20%. You may not be as big as a presidential campaign, but a 10% (at minimum) savings to your bottom line is significant. This is great news for your CFO, and it saves your employees valuable time managing their travel. 

Corporate travel can be as complex as a presidential campaign – staff to manage, budgets to oversee, and deadlines to meet. Working with the experts at a travel management company can provide you the tools and strategies to help avoid these complexities.

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Topics: Travel Management