The world of travel management in 2024 is comprehensive. Elements like duty of care, traveler safety and satisfaction, managing expenses, sourcing suppliers, and many more are just some of the terms you’ll come across in business travel.

With this complete guide of business travel management, you’ll get a full overview of how to get started, as well as how to reorganize and modernize your travel program.

  1. What is travel management and why does it matter?
  2. How to create the ideal travel policy?
  3. What is travel policy compliance?
  4. 7 main tasks of a business travel manager
  5. What is travel expense management?

1. What is travel management and why does it matter?

Business travel is important to your organization’s business interests. It gives your company the chance to make a face-to-face impact with customers and partners worldwide.

As someone dealing with business travel management, you work at the forefront of a rapidly expanding trillion-dollar industry. That comes with a lot of responsibility and in-depth knowledge of business travel management.

The main areas where you’ll make a difference every day as a business travel manager are:

  • Creating and maintaining a travel policy
  • Monitoring travel policy compliance
  • Overseeing travel spending/handling costs
  • Duty of care, which means ensuring traveler safety
  • Working with travel service providers, including travel management companies and online booking engines/tools
  • Ensuring traveler satisfaction, which can correlate directly to employee satisfaction and retention

If you comply and hit every point above, you can manage costs effectively, increase traveler satisfaction and safety, and improve policies.

The ultimate guide to business travel management

How to create the ideal travel policy?

You can create the perfect business travel policy through trial and error. The best starting point is to conduct a SWOT analysis.

Once you gather input from employees and colleagues, perform a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis. This is a handy tool to get an overview of the status quo and to figure out next steps. Here’s an example of some points your travel management SWOT could include:

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Strengths:
  • You have a clear travel policy in place.
  • You already have well-negotiated agreements with suppliers like travel management companies.
  • Your organization’s travel needs are predictable, letting you plan easily.
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Weaknesses:
  • Your travel needs are rapidly changing, making it difficult to plan.
  • Your organization lacks the IT infrastructure to report travel expenses efficiently.
  • Your organization’s travelers aren’t used to complying with strict travel policies.
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Opportunities:
  • You can count on your company’s leadership to support and implement a new and improved travel program.
  • Your organization is exploring partnerships with new travel suppliers.
  • Your organization is prepared to invest in improved expense reporting infrastructure.
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Threats:
  • Your organization’s business requires travel to risky geopolitical regions or remote locations.
  • Outdated technology makes it difficult to track your travelers.
  • Prices for one of your key destinations are volatile due to political developments.

Consolidate your strengths

After completing your SWOT analysis, you’ll know whether your organization’s travel management program is already working well. Make sure you design further policies that take advantage of your strengths and opportunities while trying to balance out weaknesses and threats.

For example, if your company already has effective lines of communication between travelers and the home office, don’t disrupt this by introducing new complicated reporting rules. Or, if your company’s travel needs are predictable, use this as an opportunity to negotiate stronger partnerships with suppliers.

For each strength you listed above, think of ways to keep using it to improve your organization’s travel program. For example, if you listed “We already have a strong travel policy in place,” consider working with HR or the training department to fully educate employees about policies and further improve compliance.

Balance out your weaknesses

The weaknesses and threats you identified in your SWOT analysis help you determine the areas that need improvement. Use your travel program’s strengths wherever possible to balance these issues out.

For example, if one of your opportunities is having the support and endorsement of your company’s leadership, use this to balance out weaknesses like lack of compliance. Leverage your partnerships with internal stakeholders wherever possible.

Teamwork is essential to create a successful travel program. If your organization deals with excessive travel risks (e.g. dangerous or volatile destinations), you’ll need a strong travel insurance policy, including the services of a travel security provider.

Think of all the weaknesses and opportunities you’ve identified. Now, see if you can match these with existing strengths and opportunities to balance them out. If not, consider what steps you’ll need to take to balance your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.

If your organization is dealing with excessive “rogue” travel spending, consider the following steps:

  1. Survey or talk with travelers to see how policies and procedures can be improved to better suit their needs and preferences.
  2. Review the existing policy to see what’s going wrong.
  3. Explore alternatives, including online booking engines.
  4. Redesign the travel policy to make it more realistic while protecting your company’s business needs. For each step you identify, always look back on your existing strengths and weaknesses to see where potential support already exists.
The ultimate guide to business travel management

What is travel policy compliance?

Following the rules of travel policies is known as travel policy compliance. Your responsibilities as a travel manager are important for two primary reasons:

  1. Expense management – keeping travel expenses within budget and saving wherever possible.
  2. Duty of care – keeping travel activities transparent, so you can monitor and ensure the safety and well-being of your travelers. This also includes travel insurance issues.

To ensure travel policy compliance, you need to be realistic and tailor them to your company’s specific needs. The best way is to set flexible, realistic business travel policies.

Your company’s travel policy will be determined by many different factors, such as the number of travelers, budget, and different classes of travelers. As a business travel manager, you’re responsible for keeping employee travel expenses in line with your travel policy. As you’ll see, the most important part is defining an effective travel policy in the first place.

7 main tasks of a business travel manager

A business travel manager needs to keep up with a lot of responsibilities. The most important are:

1. Be directly involved in booking

The travel manager may be involved directly in the booking, or the travelers will correspond with an external supplier (e.g. a business travel agent) to make arrangements. These options vary depending on your company’s size and business travel culture. Some companies have a highly digitized/automated travel culture, whereas others use more traditional methods.

2. Determining travel costs

A business travel manager has to have a clear overview of how employees are spending the company’s money. That way, valid travel costs can be reimbursed correctly, and spending can be kept within budget.

3. Duty of care

Your responsibility also extends to your travelers. Essentially, duty of care refers to an employer’s legal and financial obligations to provide safe working conditions to their employees. This ranges from ordinary workplace safety precautions to preventive health screening, training, and insurance coverage.

4. Managing travel risks

Business travelers are exposed to many kinds of risks that may not affect non-traveling employees. This makes a travel manager’s duty of care responsibilities particularly important. For example, geopolitical unrest, terrorism, abduction, or extreme weather are all risks that disproportionately impact business travelers compared to other employees.

Special travel insurance is designed to protect travelers and their employers against these risks.

5. Keeping up with business travel trends

Tracking travel expenses enables you to spot trends, so you can help your company spend its money more strategically. This is another way you, as a travel manager, contribute to your organization’s success.

If you spot specific travel trends (e.g. increased spending for a specific destination, event, or time of year), your organization can use them to negotiate better deals with suppliers.

This strategic role for travel management is becoming increasingly important as traditional travel management tasks (e.g. collecting receipts, approving expenses) become more and more automated by online software.

6. Ensuring traveler satisfaction and always being on-call

Many companies are beginning to recognize the value of business travel as a tool for employee satisfaction and retention. Also, today’s business travelers see travel for work as a rewarding experience. However, it’s crucial that employers provide their travelers with an adequate safety net and support system. This means establishing clear protocols for what to do in case of emergency. It also means maintaining open lines of communication. As a business travel manager, you may be expected to be on call after hours in case a traveler has a problem many time zones away.

7. Make a plan and think ahead

Whether you’re creating a new travel management program or updating an existing one, it’s vital to create an action plan to ensure everything is covered.

Follow our steps here to get your business travel program up and running in the best possible way:

  1. Background research – Start by gathering detailed information to get a clear view of your company’s travel culture. That means talking to your colleagues and travelers to figure out what is and isn’t working. Choose a research method that’s effective for your company’s size and structure. Online survey tools are a great option if you need to reach large numbers of employees spread across various locations.
  2. Create or update your travel policy. Once you’ve identified the right measures for creating or improving your travel policy, it’s time to put things down in writing. We recommend using the convenient Visual Travel Policy Builder created by Booking.com for Business. This handy online tool will help you put your policy into action without leaving out any important topics.

What is travel expense management?

Controlling costs is an important part of your job as a business travel manager. In many organizations, travel managers even serve a double role as both travel and expense managers. Depending on the size and structure of your organization, you’ll often work closely with other departments like finance, procurement, and HR to handle how employees spend the company’s money on business travel arrangements.

Your travel policy should contain rules for how your employees can spend company money on travel, how they’re reimbursed for travel expenses, and how your company keeps track of them while they travel.

Most modern business travel programs use software and web-based services to track travel spending. This is by far the most efficient method, and will be essential if you work for a large company.

The ultimate guide to business travel management

Corporate travel is on the rise for 2024. Whether you’re new to business travel management or are already working with an existing policy, it’s good to have a complete guide at hand.

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