Business travel is as important to small businesses as it is to larger organizations. The ability to attend events and trade fairs, as well as meet clients, partners, suppliers, investors, and stakeholders face-to-face strengthens relationships and fosters ideas and knowledge-sharing. This all is vital to SMEs (small-to-medium-sized enterprises), especially after months of lockdowns and economic disruption.

The pandemic hit small businesses particularly hard, and although video conferencing and collaboration tools were used as successful stand-ins to an extent, the importance of in-person contact time cannot be overstated. Small business travel, therefore, is a crucial part of any SMEs business operation and recovery plan.

What exactly do we mean by 'small business travel'

SMEs might need to travel for a variety of different reasons. Here are a few examples of small business travel:

  • To attend events and conferences
  • To deliver press or job interviews
  • To attend seminars and meetings
  • To exhibit at trade fairs
  • To give in-person presentations or talks
  • To source products and meet suppliers
  • To attend training and other educational activities
  • To participate in company retreats or away days.

The difference between small business travel and business travel for larger corporations

Where global organizations might send several employees on a business trip at the same time, SMEs may only send one or two. Big companies tend to have bigger budgets, focus more on risk management and use a dedicated travel manager or corporate travel agency to book their business trips.

Although SMEs usually have smaller budgets for business travel, they often end up spending more, in relation to profits, than larger companies. It's therefore imperative that SMEs get on top of small business travel planning, have a business travel expense policy and duty of care in place, and use a dedicated business travel management tool to help them save money and maximize their profits.

As well as managing their budget, another challenge SMEs have with small business travel is keeping an overview on where their employees are located, and what the various safety implications and health regulations are for each place. Organizations have a duty of care towards their employees' safety and wellbeing, whether they're in the office or on the road. Small businesses must abide by this just as much as major corporations.

If there is an emergency or travel disruption when employees are working away, SMEs need to be able to react quickly and provide support for their staff. If they don't know exactly where they are and what their itineraries are at any given moment, this can prove difficult. Without having all the necessary business travel data easily accessible in one place, small businesses can lose track of employees' whereabouts and unwillingly put their safety and wellbeing at risk.

What other risks do SMEs face by not using a dedicated travel management solution for small business travel?

Booking a business trip can be an expensive and time-consuming process. It can take an employee an average of 45 minutes to book an entire business trip, going through suitable flight and accommodation options that fall within the budget.

As well as potentially not living up to their duty of care towards employees while on the road, SMEs might also risk employees overspending on hotels, car rentals, and flights, or getting confused about what constitutes a travel expense and what qualifies for reimbursement. Employees might book their business trips however they want, then submit their receipts at the end, sometimes with a higher price tag than expected.

All this can cost a business, both in terms of time and money, as well as in administration resources. It's for this reason that companies large and small employ a variety of business travel solutions to help organize company trips. These can take the form of an expensive solution (travel management company or business travel agency), or a free business travel platform, such as Booking.com for Business.

The benefits of using a digital business travel management platform

By using a dedicated travel management solution, the time taken to book travel is greatly reduced, as the agent or platform effectively acts as an all-in-one solution for all travel service suppliers (airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc.). Having clear rules in place regarding travel, such as a company travel policy, ensures a professional, responsible approach to company travel.

Although employing a dedicated travel management company (TMC) or a travel agency are viable options for SMEs, sometimes costs to use these services can be prohibitively high. By using a free digital travel management platform, small businesses can save money, monitor spending, and keep track of expenses such as hotels, flights, and car rentals associated with a company trip in one online place. They can track all necessary data and maintain an accurate and transparent online record of what's involved in a trip.

Online travel management solutions have dashboards that are easy to use and navigate, and they don't require any additional support from a travel agency to set up, so users can get going in minutes. The platform logs all of the company’s travel details, alleviating administration costs and claims disputes and can be synced across numerous devices – phone, laptop, desktop, and tablet.

Special permissions can be set up so that the platform can be accessed by another member of staff, such as the finance manager, travel manager, office manager, CEO, or personal assistant, as well as the staff members themselves.

Travel platforms also eliminate the need for a company to negotiate individual prices themselves, as the technology leverages the collective volume to access discounts and loyalty programs on the company’s behalf. All they need to do is sign up to the right business travel platform to get the best prices and the top deals on hotels, flights, and cars.

By using a business travel platform, SMEs can also easily book a complete trip – flight, hotel, and car – in just a couple of clicks. They don't need to search for all the best deals and book them separately. The platform does it for them by leveraging its search volume to access all the available travel discounts. This saves both time and money and increases employee productivity.

Online business travel solutions also hold all the information regarding employees' locations, which can be found at the touch of a button. Knowing where employees are means that if circumstances change,  or any unforeseen event happens, companies can locate staff and make the necessary changes to their booking on their behalf.

There are lots of other benefits to small companies using a digital travel platform for organizing their business trips. These include:

  • Being able to book and manage a complete business trip in one place (accommodation, flights, trains, car rental, office space, etc.) – plus access all the best deals in one go
  • Ensuring safety and increasing compliance with a company travel policy
  • Saving money – many digital travel platforms are cheaper than agencies or travel managers. Some are completely free
  • Being able to share an employee's itinerary and coordinate with other staff members on the same trip
  • Reducing administration costs associated with compiling expense reports
  • The option of combining work with personal travel, such as with digital nomading or bleisure trips

The best way to save money on your small business trip using Booking.com for Business's travel platform

Using a trusted online corporate travel management solution is the best way for companies to save money on small business travel. Booking.com for Business is completely free of charge to use – there are no booking fees and no registration fee. It provides a turnkey solution for SMEs to self-service all their business travel needs in one place. In just a few clicks, employees can book complete business trips, getting all the best deals on hotels, car rentals, and flights. There's no need to search for each one separately.

Booking.com for Business has a large selection of accommodation and travel services for SMEs, together with millions of transparent reviews from real customers. Users can access Genius-level discounts, and add loyalty cards or frequent-flier programs to the tool, to save more money. They can also easily choose to book hotels that adhere to sustainable travel policies through the Travel Sustainable Program and Travel Sustainable badge, which is an industry-leading sustainability framework.

The Booking.com for Business interface is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and quick to operate. Users can get set up in less than five minutes, and don't need the assistance of a travel agent. The machine-learning technology helps employees to choose the best options for their needs, highlighting all the best prices, according to their company's travel policy and their previous selections.

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