What Does a Travel Manager Do in 2019?

As the global market for corporate travel continues to grow annually, travel managers are facing a fast-paced environment with changing responsibilities. While travel managers still need proficiency with the GDS, increased digitization of corporate travel solutions is necessitating travel managers to expand their skill sets and develop new expertise to effectively serve their organizations.

So what does a travel manager do? You're about to find out - below, we've highlighted some of the most important roles and responsibilities that travel managers should be prepared for in 2019 and beyond.

Plan, Develop and Implement a Corporate Travel Policy

A corporate travel policy provides a set of policies, procedures and protocols for booking corporate travel and claiming travel-related expenses. Organizations typically implement a corporate travel policy as a means of introducing standardization and cost control to their corporate travel process. When effectively enforced, the policy drives down travel costs and makes them more predictable while fulfilling duty of care obligations to employees in the field.

A travel manager may be responsible for developing a travel policy that reflects the organization's need to reduce costs and standardize the travel process. If such a policy already exists, travel managers are responsible for executing on every aspect of that policy through their daily operations.

Control Travel Bookings, Including Policy Exception Reviews and Resolutions

A corporate travel manager is the process owner for the corporate travel booking process, meaning that they hold ultimate responsibility for every travel booking that takes place. While a corporate travel policy dictates the terms by which travel should be booked, it's up to the travel manager to exercise direct control of bookings and ensure that they comply with the policy.

Still, corporate travel managers should have the ability to authorize exceptions to the policy when required, either for a business purpose or to ensure the safety and well-being of an employee.

A corporate travel policy includes guidelines for booking airfares, including how to book, how to pay and how much to pay for airline tickets. Employees that book their own travel are responsible for complying with the policy. Travel managers review employee travel bookings to verify their compliance, but they may choose approve (or decline) bookings that do not comply with policy, depending on the unique circumstances of the situation.

A corporate travel policy includes guidelines for booking airfares, including how to book, how to pay and how much to pay for airline tickets. Employees that book their own travel are responsible for complying with the policy. Travel managers review employee travel bookings to verify their compliance, but they may choose approve (or decline) bookings that do not comply with policy, depending on the unique circumstances of the situation.

Manage Compliance with Corporate Travel Policy

Beyond exercising control over individual travel bookings, a travel manager's responsibility for compliance extends throughout the entire contents of the corporate travel policy document. This means ensuring compliance in airfare bookings, hotels, ground-fare bookings, expense claims, and throughout every other aspect of corporate travel covered by the policy.

Compliance management is one of the main areas where travel managers add value to the organization. Their attention to detail in reviewing and verifying expenses and accurately reimbursing employees according to corporate travel policy is imperative to achieving cost reduction targets.

Managing Complex Itineraries and Solving Travel-Related Problems

The need to drive down costs in every phase of business travel means that travel managers are expected to manage increasingly complex itineraries, solving travel-related problems on an ad-hoc basis to ensure the success of employees in the field.

When an employee runs late for their flight, misses a connecting flight or finds themselves without ground transportation and far away from their hotel, they depend on their travel manager to negotiate a quick and cost-effective solution that keeps them moving. Travel managers need an exceptional working knowledge of fares to ensure that last-minute resolutions can be implemented at the lowest price available.

Ensure Optimization of Enterprise Travel Booking Tools

As organizations increase in size, so do their needs for structured travel management programs. As a result, many larger enterprises have implemented software travel booking tools such as Deem Work Fource.

In addition to a mobile application that streamlines the travel booking process for employees, Deem automates compliance with corporate travel policy through its intuitive policy-builder. A corporate travel manager would be responsible for configuring Deem's mobile application and desktop application to ensure that employees have as many options as possible when booking their travel within the guidelines set forth by the policy.

Deliver Education and Training to Employees

The contents of a corporate travel policy should be transparent and available to all employees of the organization that enforces it, and while a travel manager might be assigned as the "owner" or "administrator" of the policy, it should be clear that employees are still individually responsible for compliance.

Corporate travel managers play a role in delivering education and training to employees in regards to the corporate travel policy, its structure and contents, how to comply with the policy, and how they will be held accountable for compliance. A travel manager may be given opportunities to present key facts about the travel policy to groups of employees, such as in meetings or in more informal contexts like a "lunch-and-learn". Topics could include:

  • How to access the corporate travel policy

  • Responsibilities of employees under the travel policy

  • How to book travel or submit expenses using the enterprise travel booking tool

Collaborate with Key Service Partners

In addition to operating internally and acting as a travel resource for employees, travel managers are increasingly expected to collaborate with key service partners. That includes corporate credit card vendors, business travel suppliers, travel agents and travel technology vendors that supply your organization with tools that enable your corporate travel program.

To ensure the long-term stability of your corporate travel program, a travel manager must maintain positive and mutually beneficial relationships with corporate vendor partners. Travel managers need to be personable and friendly while representing their organization's interests in business dealings with travel suppliers and other vendors.

Participate in Annual RFPs and Procurement for Travel Suppliers

Corporations should always be looking for ways to reduce their travel costs when a better deal can be negotiated that does not reduce service standards or put travelers at risk. For most organizations, that means putting out an annual request-for-proposal for airlines, hotels or other travel suppliers that are willing to service the organization's ticketing demands at the lowest price point.

Travel managers are expected to play a key role in the annual RFP process, helping to evaluate suppliers and ultimately to choose which travel supplier the company should contract with. When choosing a supplier, travel managers need to be focused on cost, convenience and service. While the organization would prefer to pay less, it is also important to ensure that travelers are safe and satisfied while representing the company abroad.

Corporate travel policies should help organizations achieve their efficiency, standardization and cost-reduction targets, but they should also ensure that travelers have all of their daily needs met in a way that helps them perform at their best. Travel managers must balance these (sometimes competing) interests when participating in the annual RFP and travel procurement process.

Corporate travel policies should help organizations achieve their efficiency, standardization and cost-reduction targets, but they should also ensure that travelers have all of their daily needs met in a way that helps them perform at their best. Travel managers must balance these (sometimes competing) interests when participating in the annual RFP and travel procurement process.

Report on Operational Metrics and KPIs

As corporations increasingly apply digital solutions to address their travel management needs, travel managers are gaining more ready access to data that captures the organization's travel expenses. These operational metrics need to be analyzed, understood and reported on by the travel manager, typically to someone in an executive financial role like a CFO.

Corporate financial officers are responsible for cost control throughout their organizations, and they are likely to provide ultimate oversight of the efficiency of the travel management program. The CFO or board of directors may establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for the travel manager, such as achieving specified cost reduction targets. Whatever KPIs are assigned, the travel manager will be responsible for reporting their performance along with important operational metrics.

Continual Improvement in Travel Management

Travel managers in 2019 have unprecedented access to real-time data that can yield insights into their organization's travel management performance and reveal opportunities for improvement. A travel manager can implement a new corporate policy, benchmark the success of the policy through initial data collection, then collect data at a later time to determine whether KPIs were improved by the policy change.

Travel managers need to master the metrics of travel management. Their deep understanding of how costs accrue during travel and where savings can be achieved can inform the RFP and procurement process, travel policy decisions and even approaches to travel risk management.

Why More Travel Managers Depend on Deem

Deem's travel booking and management tools are used by more than 50,000 corporate customers around the world, including Fortune 500 organizations and the world's largest travel management companies.

With Deem, travel managers get access to tools and features that make it easy to manage and enforce travel policy compliance while providing the best service for traveling employees. To learn more about how Deem can work for your organization, request a demo today.