The role of a travel manager is evolving. Not only is the travel industry becoming more complex, the rise of digital tools in the past decade has completely revolutionised the way business travellers book and travel. In many cases, these tools can enhance the travellers’ experience by bringing about greater convenience and connectivity while on the go. On the other hand, these new tools also present new challenges for the management of business travel.
Traditionally, travel managers personally oversee and carry out all travel bookings and itineraries within a company, making compliance with travel policies a simple, straightforward process. Today, tech-savvy business travellers yearn for greater control over their travel arrangements and desire to choose and book their own flights and accommodations based on personal preferences. When business travellers manage their own itineraries, however, they could undermine travel and duty-of-care policies and may unknowingly put themselves and their employers at risk.
Instead of playing on the offensive and tightening booking regulations to overcome this, modern travel managers should pilot and provide a well-rounded travel policy to all travellers.
This travel policy should support the organisation’s travel objectives, such as boosting traveller productivity, ensuring travellers’ safety and securing company data. A well-conceived travel policy should protect employees when they travel, minimise business travel expense and limit legal liabilities.
In light of this, here are three key guidelines and best practices that companies should consider when developing a travel policy:
The success of a travel policy depends on how well it addresses the full suite of a business traveller’s needs – from how to book; knowledge of approval processes; designated class of travel and how many hotel nights allowed per meeting, to expense allowances; payment methods; advance booking requirements; and travel documentation. By including all the relevant information as comprehensively as possible, there will be no room for deviation and travellers will have a clear understanding of how to follow the policy.
There should not be one-size-fits-all when it comes to travel policy and what works for one organisation might not work for others. One key point to consider is whether your travel policy mirrors your company’s culture and if it is attuned to the different types of travellers within the company.
It could be as simple as making sure the style of corporate language you use is aligned with the company culture, to working with the human resource team to ensure that the travel policies are consistent with the incumbent policies and level of flexibility that employees are used to.
Once a sound travel policy is in place, the onus is on the travel managers to ensure that bookers and travellers adhere to the policy and book within its guidelines. If non-compliance is an ongoing issue, work with your travel management partner to identify the best plan of action to address the situation.
Ultimately, travel managers need to build a travel policy that satisfies employee’ needs and protects the company from a financial and liability standpoint. It is also an opportunity to create a positive impact on business travellers, making them feel valued and well-cared for while away from home on business.
Joanna Patterson is a French national and has lived in Asia for four years now. She joined FCM as an Account Director handling all aspects of their corporate clients' travel programme.
Prior to this role, Patterson was with China Eastern Airlines, where she headed up the Global Corporate Sales Department, with a special focus on international markets as well as assisting China Eastern in improving their corporate sales execution and process. She has over 20 years of experience in the airline industry, starting her career in sales and marketing with British Midland Airways. Joanna then joined Lufthansa’s Global Corporate Sales team before becoming part of the Lufthansa Private Jet project team. Patterson then moved to Air France KLM, where she ran the corporate sales team in the UK for seven years, managing the merger of Air France and KLM’s sales teams, and the integration of the Delta joint-venture.
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