How to Book Corporate Travel in 2019

Wondering how to book corporate travel in 2019?

Travel managers are facing three critical challenges when it comes to booking corporate travel in 2019:

  1. Keeping travel costs down as much as possible

  2. Ensuring that employees have the tools, resources and funds they need to succeed while they’re on the road

  3. Reducing the administrative burden of corporate travel and ensuring that systems scale efficiently 

When travel managers meet these three objectives, corporate travel is cost-effective for the organization and both more productive and more pleasant for the traveler. Still, travel managers can only meet these objectives by planning ahead and deliberately designing a set of policies and procedures for corporate travel that support these objectives. To help you get started, we're offering our best tips on how to book corporate travel in 2019.

Create a Corporate Travel Policy

Every business with traveling employees should create a corporate travel policy that governs the who, what, when, where, why and how of company business travel. The corporate travel policy should provide well-documented and repeatable protocols for booking airfare, hotels, and ground transportation in compliance with company policies, as well as what expenses are covered by your company and how to submit expense reports.

Corporate travel policies help to drive down the costs of business travel by introducing standardization to the process. Without a corporate travel policy, traveling employees end up booking hotels or flights without guidance - and worse it may not always be the most economical option. As you learn more about how to book corporate travel, you can update and modify your corporate travel policy to reflect your new wisdom and improve results.

Encourage Employees to Book Airfare and Hotels Early

When you're booking travel for your employees, you've probably noticed that booking rates for flights and hotels tend to increase as the date of the reservation draws nearer. That's because airlines are taking advantage of supply-and-demand economics to limit their risk and maximize their profits on each flight they operate. A newly listed flight with no tickets sold is advertised at a low price, but once many people have purchased tickets and there are few seats remaining, those final seats can be sold at an inflated price.

If you're a corporation whose profitability depends on maintaining low travel costs, it's important that you try to book flights and hotels as early as possible to get the best rates. If you know that you're sending people to a conference next year, book the flights and hotel as soon as the dates for the conference are announced - you'll find that it almost always pays to plan ahead. 

Booking your hotels and flights in advance is almost always cheaper than booking the day or the week before. Plan ahead as much as possible when organizing corporate travel and book your accommodations early to get the best rates.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Negotiate with Hospitality Partners for a Preferred Rate

Whether your company will be spending thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars booking hotels this year, you may want to consider negotiating a preferred rate with one of the world's leading international hospitality companies. 

You could set up an agreement where your traveling employees can book a stay at any of their hotels around the world at a reduced rate. Lower prices means that you can reduce your overall travel costs, while your hotel partners can increase the number of bookings they receive through your firm by offering you better prices - it's a win-win.

Implement an Approvals Process for Travel Bookings...

One of the most important functions of a corporate travel policy is to help control costs. The policy should establish cost limitations for flight, hotel and ground transportation bookings, daily meals, entertaining clients, and any other category of travel expenses that you intend to cover. Still, having a policy in writing only works if there's someone there to enforce it, and that's why it's important to have an approval process in place for travel bookings.

Approving travel bookings should be a simplified process when the corporate travel policy clearly defines which types of bookings are allowed and which are not. The approving person should ensure that travel bookings comply with the guidelines set forth in the company travel policy, and when a conflict arises, work with the employee to modify their plans. The approving person should have the authority to allow non-compliant itineraries in unique or unforeseen circumstances when required.

...But Make it Easy for Staff to be Independent

As architects of travel policy for our organizations, a key challenge is to maintain adequate oversight of the costs and logistics associated with travel while still allowing employees to make their own plans and solve their own problems while traveling abroad. 

Some companies designate a travel manager to coordinate and book travel for all employees that are traveling abroad. Employees would call into the office and say "Okay this is where I am, I need a place to stay," and the travel manager would research local options, book something affordable and circle back with the information. While this type of arrangement works in some corporations where tight cost controls are a priority, it's often much easier to have employees make their own decisions about where to stay - within company policy, of course.

Let's be clear - traveling employees need the flexibility to make their own bookings, and they shouldn't depend on someone at your organization to do it for them. To enable this, leading corporations today are automating the approvals process for new travel bookings, enabling instant approval for new bookings from anywhere in the world.

Establish Fair Allowances for Meals, Transportation and Entertainment

When our employees are traveling for business, they proudly represent your organization to the world in everything they do and say. When booking travel for them, you have to give them the tools to put their best foot forward, and that means establishing fair daily allowances for things like meals, transportation and entertainment.

Traveling employees likely won't have access to a kitchen or time to visit a grocery store, and they're depending on a reasonable meal allowance from their employer that can provide something healthy, tasty and filling. Your employees may need to impress prospective clients or partners with a nice dinner or a few drinks, so we need to make sure that we're providing coverage for that.

While traveling abroad, employees may have to entertain prospective business partners or customers with cocktails or an evening meal. Meetings like this are important for relationship building and part of the cost of doing business. Your corporate travel policies should acknowledge that and reimburse employees for their entertainment expenses while doing business abroad.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Streamline Expense Reporting and Reimbursements

For employees that are often on-the-go, expense reporting can be a major time sink and a drain on productivity. Organizations should automate the expense reporting process as much as possible to reduce or eliminate the need for manual reporting and help keep their employees productive while in the office or on the road.

Some companies have employees pay their travel costs out-of-pocket and reimburse them later for claimed expenses, while other companies assign their employees a corporate credit card that lets them charge travel costs directly to the company. While the former system creates an incentive for the employee to minimize their travel costs, the latter system may streamline the reporting process.

Get Creative to Find Cost Savings

When you're spending thousands every year on flights and hotels for your employees, a little change in procedure could add up to thousands of dollars in savings. 

If your employees book flights on a regular basis, you should recommend they sign up for a flight rewards program where they can earn points towards free or discounted airfare. 

Automate the Corporate Travel Process with Software

Deem's corporate travel booking solution makes it easy for corporations to maintain oversight of their travel bookings and control costs while giving employees flexibility and control over their travel arrangements. Deem Work Fource offers a suite of cloud-based and mobile applications that keeps your traveling employees connected with the leading travel booking services worldwide. Companies can customize Deem to permit only  travel bookings in compliance with pre-defined corporate policies, automating the approvals process and giving employees the ultimate freedom to book their own policy-compliant travel itineraries.