When it comes to business travel, the role of a corporate travel manager is indispensable. From crafting strategic travel policies to overseeing expenses and ensuring the safety of business travelers, these professionals play a pivotal role in optimizing the corporate travel experience. This guide dives into the key responsibilities of corporate travel managers, explores the significance of travel policies, and unpacks why their expertise is crucial for business success.

They’re typically tasked with travel expense management, leading vendor and partner contracts, and monitoring the needs of business travelers. In this article, we explore what a corporate manager is, what their four typical tasks include, and why their skills are important for corporate travel.

What is a corporate travel manager?

A corporate travel manager is an essential asset for businesses, responsible for designing travel policies, managing travel arrangements, and selecting the right corporate travel agency.

They prioritize the well-being of business travelers, ensuring compliance with the company's travel policy.

In today's dynamic landscape, dedicated corporate travel managers are increasingly becoming a strategic investment for companies of all sizes, offering specialized expertise to enhance the efficiency of business travel.

After a business trip, a travel manager is in charge of analyzing data and using it to streamline and improve future travel. They must have excellent communication and organizational skills, as well as be sharp, strategic thinkers.

Previously, the travel manager role was undertaken by an office manager or someone in the HR department who organized travel on top of their other responsibilities. Now, more and more companies of all sizes are seeing the benefits of hiring a dedicated corporate travel manager.

This position makes sense for all companies where employees are required to travel frequently.

What do corporate travel managers do?

The core tasks of corporate travel managers include, but are not limited to:

1. Crafting strategic travel plans

Corporate travel managers are instrumental in overseeing travel plans and arrangements. Whether handling bookings directly or empowering employees to adhere to travel policies, they focus on transportation, accommodations, insurance, visa arrangements, and more. By following the established travel policy, travel managers secure the best deals and maintain consistency in travel class and hotel categories.

2. Expense management and budget oversight

Navigating the unpredictable terrain of credit card management and in-destination expenses, travel managers set spending limits to simplify financial tracking. They strike a delicate balance between cost control and employee satisfaction. Travel managers draw from their experience to provide valuable insights through expense reporting and forecasts, ensuring optimal budget utilization.

3. Informed decision-making through data analysis

Beyond crafting a comprehensive travel policy, corporate travel managers analyze data from past trips to make informed decisions for future policies. Through surveys and data analysis, they identify patterns and areas for improvement. Travel managers leverage reliable datasets to assess the profitability of business trips, contributing to continuous improvement of travel policies.

4. Embracing technological advancements

In the ever-evolving landscape of business travel technology, travel managers stay ahead to enhance efficiency. Modern booking tools like the Booking.com for Business tool and technology advancements empower employees to book travel within policy guidelines, offering autonomy while maintaining compliance. This proactive approach ensures a seamless travel experience and lets travel managers focus on strategic aspects.

Travel managers' challenges

1. Lack of control

Travelers booking directly on external sites don’t necessarily have the travel policy in mind. They could be considered “rogue bookers,” and the travel manager is often unaware of policy violations until the traveler is back from the trip and submitting their expenses.

Why is this a problem?

It’s a problem because you lose control of the traveler and duty of care issues arise – how can you be sure where they are if it’s not in your system? Without control, reporting also becomes an issue. It’s harder to get the costs for these trips because you only get the data after expenses are submitted.

How to overcome the challenge:

Regaining control of travelers—particularly those who choose to ignore the travel policy—is no easy feat, but research shows that visual communication is much more effective than written communication. According to studies, colorful visuals increase a person’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%, meaning you can engage your travelers to make them more willing to read your policy and stick to it.

Try creating a more visual version of your travel policy that’s easy to understand and follow. It’s possible that the lack of engagement is the real reason behind the control challenge.

2. Poor data visibility

When data is spread across the organization in disparate systems, it’s almost impossible to get a full picture of what’s really happening.

Why is this a problem?

It’s important to be able to access and combine high-level data to create timely and accurate reports. When it comes to reporting the spending to management, we found that over a quarter of travel managers face this as a core challenge.

Without the data, it’s much harder to engage stakeholders within the organization. They also need to be able to dig into the data to find spending irregularities and provide a predictive spend.

How to overcome the challenge:

The ideal solution would be to have all data, from all sources and regions, integrated into one system. This can take a lot of time and investment that you don’t necessarily have.

An interim process could be to choose a lead source/region and work to collect data from other sources/regions to bring together and normalize the data for reporting purposes.

3. Frustrated business travelers

Saving one of the most interesting challenges for last: frustrated business travelers and traveler satisfaction. It’s a challenge that divides many travel managers. Some believe traveler satisfaction is key, and others prefer to keep the traveler happy enough while also keeping the cost down and compliance high.

Increasingly, employees want to use the tools they have at home to arrange business travel – this helps explain why rogue travelers are such an issue. They don’t want to feel restricted by the company’s travel policy and therefore don’t comply. For example, if they find a cheaper flight option online that also lets them earn air miles, they’re unlikely to turn it down for a less convenient option that’s within policy.

Why is this a problem?

It causes resentment and distrust between travelers and travel managers. The business traveler starts to see the travel manager as a roadblock rather than a facilitator. If business travelers feel this way, they’re less likely to book within policy.

How to overcome the challenge:

In many ways, the answer is a compromise. In most cases, business travelers want to do the right thing for their organization. So, rather than policing them, look for solutions that allow you to bring their preferred tools into your system.

This way, travelers will be more compliant, less frustrated, and hopefully more satisfied. What’s more, this reduces the challenge for you. By bringing these tools into your system, you can regain control, bring in the crucial data for reporting, and reduce the number of direct bookers, and therefore, rogue travelers.

With modern tools like Booking.com for Business, business travel managers are better equipped to manage the travel of their company’s employees.

Why are business travel managers important?

Corporate travel managers are indispensable in overcoming the following corporate travel challenges:

1. Regaining control over rogue bookers

The challenge of travelers booking outside the established policy raises duty of care issues and reporting complexities. Visual communication, such as a visually appealing travel policy, proves effective in engaging travelers and encouraging adherence to guidelines.

2. Achieving data visibility

Centralizing data from various sources remains a significant challenge for travel managers. While integrating all data into a unified system is ideal, interim solutions involve prioritizing data collection from lead sources to create comprehensive reports.

3. Addressing frustrated business travelers

Striking a balance between traveler satisfaction and cost control is vital. By integrating preferred tools into the system, travel managers can enhance compliance, reduce frustration, and foster a collaborative approach that benefits both parties.

Business travel managers and travel policy

One of the primary tasks of corporate travel managers is the creation and management of travel policies. A well-designed travel policy sets guidelines for booking, expenses, and safety, ensuring uniformity in travel arrangements.

Travel policies streamline processes, contribute to cost-effectiveness, and enhance compliance, making them an indispensable tool in the corporate travel manager's arsenal.

Travel managers and duty of care

Duty of care, a critical aspect of corporate travel management, is the responsibility to safeguard the well-being of business travelers. Corporate travel managers implement safety measures, provide support during emergencies, and make sure employees are aware of health and safety guidelines. The commitment to duty of care not only enhances employee satisfaction, but also mitigates potential risks.

What’s the difference between a travel manager and a travel agent?

While travel agents facilitate bookings, corporate travel managers design travel policies, manage expenses, and ensure compliance. Travel agents focus on individual trips, whereas corporate travel managers provide a holistic approach, aligning travel with company goals and policies.

When should you hire a corporate travel manager for your business?

Companies should consider hiring a dedicated corporate travel manager when business travel becomes frequent and complex. A travel manager adds value by optimizing travel processes, reducing costs, and ensuring a strategic approach to business travel. The benefits of hiring a travel manager far outweigh the initial investment for companies with regular travel requirements.

What skills should business travel managers have?

To succeed in the role of a travel manager, individuals must possess a diverse skill set. Effective communication, organizational skills, strategic thinking, and adaptability are crucial. Proficiency in Global Distribution Systems (GDS), financial acumen, and the ability to analyze data are additional skills that empower travel managers to navigate the complexities of business travel.

How to become a travel manager in 2024

The landscape of corporate travel is evolving, so aspiring travel managers have to adapt to changing dynamics. Pursuing relevant education, gaining experience in the travel industry, and staying updated on technological advancements are crucial, while certifications (e.g. in GDS) and networking with industry professionals enhance credibility.

Elevate your business travel experience by recognizing the integral role of corporate travel managers. From crafting effective travel policies to managing expenses and prioritizing duty of care, their expertise contributes significantly to the success of your business travel program. Stay ahead of the curve, embrace technology, and make strategic decisions with the guidance of dedicated corporate travel managers.

Suggested articles

15 min read
Сomplete guide to travel policy

The following guide will serve as your complete step-by-step manual to travel policies.

Business travel management Bookers / Admins Small business owners
6 min read
7 solutions for travel risk management

Travel risk management is an important element to keep in mind and learn to navigate.

Business travel management Small business owners
9 min read
How to conquer corporate travel planning

Learn about corporate travel planning, and explore our top 10 tips for conquering business travel pl...

Business travel management SMEs Bookers / Admins