The small and medium sized enterprise (SME) is finding that corporate travel is essential for the success of their business. Making the conscious choice to make travel a driver for growth is critical to remaining competitive and relevant in today’s global economy. As the person who manages the T&E budget within your company, it’s imperative that you take a proactive approach to managing your T&E line item – the second largest controllable expense within your business’ budget.
Fortunately, the travel industry and corporate travel trends are making the travel management process more cost effective, easier for finance and offers other staff the ability to provide unprecedented support for your road warriors. As you review the following travel industry trends that can positively impact your business (and your bottom line), understand and assess how they are applied within your travel program, and then incorporate them into your corporate travel policy where necessary.
1. Payment system evolution
One of the biggest challenges in managing the expense portion of your corporate travel program is the usage of personal credit cards for payment, and in turn, the time and energy it can take to properly reconcile expense reports. SMEs now have the opportunity to merge their current online booking system with an automated payment system, increasing both employee productivity and travel policy compliance.
Payment systems have evolved to now include insurance, rewards, data security and operational efficiencies not previously seen. Utilizing virtual payment cards (VPCs) within your business not only eliminates the need for personal card usage, but mitigates the risk of credit cards being compromised and effectively allows for prepayment of travel.
The benefits of an automated payment system can’t be ignored; increased travel policy compliance, rising employee productivity, online support for travelers and T&E line item savings can positively impact the results of your corporate travel program.
2. Ancillary fees
Information abounds about ancillary fees within travel and how to properly manage these potential “surprises” within your corporate travel policy. Additional baggage costs, inflight Wi-Fi and entertainment costs and seat upgrades are examples of airline ancillary fees that can creep into your travel expense report.
While seemingly small, ancillary fees imposed by airlines, hotels, rental car agencies and other travel vendors can quickly add up. It’s critical that your procurement specialists or travel management company (TMC) thoroughly vet potential fees buried within travel contracts, and that your employees follow policy when deciding what to purchase and what not to purchase while on the road.
Merging your online booking system with an automated payment system can greatly increase transparency into what fees are being charged within your corporate travel program. To create budget predictability, engage your road warriors, and other employees most closely involved with your travel program to assess ancillary fees; then develop a strategy to ensure a balance between traveler support and T&E cost savings.
3. Impact of Safety Concerns
Recent events both domestically and internationally have unfortunately placed traveler safety concerns high on the priority lists of corporate executives, human resources and legal departments. It’s critical that you have a system in place that accurately tracks where your travelers are at all times, to ensure support in case travel disruptions arise.
Support systems are available that provide real-time intelligence and potential travel risk, allowing you to accurately prepare for trips, change an itinerary or blacklist a location altogether. Ensuring that your employees are well supported when travel disruptions occur – from terrorist acts, to weather, to strikes, to schedule adjustments – increases employee productivity and provides travelers the needed peace-of-mind while traveling.
4. Mobile Impact
There’s no question that both SMEs and travelers have access to a seemingly endless array of mobile apps designed to enhance the traveler experience. Mobile technology can also provide needed support for your road warriors. In fact, 80% of travel managers surveyed in a recent GBTA study said that mobility is expected to play a greater role in duty of care where there may be an increased need for communication support and traveler tracking.
The most popular apps with travelers at the moment are itinerary apps, designed to manage and even suggest options for all aspects of travel, including flights, hotels and best restaurant choices in any given location. There’s no question that connected travelers have a more seamless and enjoyable travel experience. Mobile impact is realized in expense management, traveler tracking and support and provides cost savings and increased travel policy compliance.
The Cost of Travel Trends
It’s critical for SMEs to look ahead and understand how travel trends will impact your business, your strategic goals, and ultimately, your bottom line. When you stay abreast of corporate travel trends, assess your corporate travel program needs and incorporate technology and systems best practices, you will see increased cost savings, employee productivity, and improved traveler support and compliance.
How have these or other corporate travel trends impacted your travel program? Are there additional industry trends you want to discuss? We welcome your comments below and invite you to download our whitepaper, “2016 Trends in Corporate Travel Management for the SME Marketplace” for additional thoughts and ideas.