The management of your travel program, and more importantly, your travelling employees takes time, energy and a significant amount of dollars. According to Advito’s 2016 Industry Forecast, 2016 is expected to be a positive year for the world economy. They also predict that airline prices will remain stable overall, and hotel prices will increase between 3% and 5% on average globally. With a positive economic outlook, it’s likely that global business and in turn, national and global travel will increase as well.
Great news, right? That depends on your current travel management program. Is your business poised to take full advantage of a rejuvenated economy next year? Or, is your travel program in chaos, or what we at MacNair Travel Management like to call “travel anarchy?” Knowing the outlook for next year, how can you be sure that you’re making the right travel decisions to save money?
Make sure it’s managed
If you’re reading this blog, my hope is that you’ve already adopted a travel management program. As leaders in the travel management industry, we focus on ways to proactively manage the travel and expense line item in your budget by offering expert advice related to support, savings, productivity and control. If you haven’t developed a travel management program, take the rest of the month, or the next 2-3 months and focus on making this happen. When you work to establish a travel program that provides leadership, things like unpredictability, waste, liabilities and inefficiencies are significantly reduced. Your travel and expense line item is the second largest controllable expense in your budget. Travel management and leadership can reduce this expense by 10-20%.
Control the hidden costs
Through our more than 25 years of travel management experience, we’ve found that there are four significant areas where companies consistently make mistakes in managing their travel. And most of the time, they don’t even realize it – hence, the “hidden” costs. These four areas are in savings, productivity, support and control.
1. SavingsIt’s hard to imagine that you can do anymore to save money – my guess is that you’ve done everything in your power to reduce spending and control expenses. We’re fond of saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know” meaning…are you able to collect, analyze and make your best financial decisions with the data that’s available to you? Collecting travel data that is accurate and assembled from all facets of your travel spend is critical to managing your travel budget. Are your road warriors using the preferred airlines according to your travel policy? Does your corporate credit card company offer any specials for your business to help reduce fees? Have you leveraged your travel spend with hotels in your frequently traveled cities? Once you have the data, and know what is being spent and why, you’re able to make intentional, money-saving choices on travel items based on fact, not fiction.
If there’s one thing lacking in our corporate business world at the moment, it’s enough hours in the day. Add to that the travel options that are available via the internet – accessible right from your phone – that offer “the best” airfares, hotel rates or car rental agreements for your travelers. The time that it takes your employees to surf and analyze travel options, and then follow-up with expense reporting and reimbursement is valuable time taken away from their job. Does your business have a system in place that automatically holds employee profile information? Are your travelers able to enter their expenses via their mobile phone for reimbursement? Do you have a travel manager and/or work with a travel management company (TMC) that handles last-minute itinerary changes? Talk with your road warriors about the pain points in productivity that can make their lives (and those of your travel manager) easier and more productive. These added time efficiencies make for happy managers and happy, more productive travelers.
In every business, whether travel is a part of it or not, employees enjoy working in an environment where they feel supported. In the case of an employee who travels, this support is essential. Whether it’s assistance with a change in a flight schedule, or a last-minute security issue, the ability for your travel manager or TMC to handle change is vital – especially at the moment your traveler needs it. Are you able to track and find your business travelers in case an emergency arises? Is there someone available 24/7 to answer questions or make flight changes as needed? Can you say “thank you” to an employee with an upgrade in their hotel stay? By proactively addressing these support issues now, instead of struggling with the situation as its happening, will save your business money in the long-term.
We’ve saved the best for last. The ability to manage the how, why and what of your travel spend is one of the most important ways to control the hidden costs of travel. A system that includes data collection and assessment, procurement process creation, employee tracking, travel policy enforcement and expense monitoring gives your travel manager/TMC the ability to manage and predict where your business may be leaving money on the table. Are you able to see where your employees are consistently travelling, and if so, are you leveraging this volume with your vendors? Can you pull data for your executive team so they can compare results to the competition? Will employees feel safely supported while travelling? Is your business being compliant based on the client contract? Infusing this control into your overall travel policy and plan is a line-item advantage that will improve efficiencies.
As leaders in the travel management business, we delight in the success of our clients. Taking a leadership role in the management of your travel program not only saves your business money, it also creates efficient, satisfied employees. Our hope is that you adopt the “travel leadership” concept by updating your travel program in the areas of savings, productivity, support and control, and in turn, success will follow.