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Top three findings for finance professionals managing travel expenses

7 min
Posted: 20 May 2022Updated: 13 June 2022
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As corporate travel returns, companies are showing increased focus on driving compliance through a corporate booking tool and are walking away from online travel agencies. The era of time-consuming processes, booking outside of corporate policy, and overpaying for travel changes is over. Companies of all shapes and sizes are rethinking how to manage business travel expenses and traveler wellbeing. Here are a few key findings that explain this trend.

Key finding number 1: Business Travel Expenses are the second-largest controllable expense in a company[i]

One of the best ways to control expenses is by making it easy for your employees to support your saving goals. If your employees have an incentive to control costs for business purposes, they’ll help you. If not, you’re on your own. When you partner with a corporate travel booking tool, it’s easy to increase compliance through built-in policy guidance. And as compliance goes up, costs go down.

Situations are so fluid these days that travel policy is — or should be — continually updated. To make it easy, travel and budget policies are built-in the corporate booking tool to guide traveler’s spend and support compliance. Visual flags alert both travelers and travel arrangers when a booking is made above the cost limit for that specific traveler. Different policies and cost limits can be set for different types of travelers for large and small businesses alike.

Harvard Business Review recently reported that 51 percent of business leaders said their organization-maintained control over business trip expenses and reduced costs over in-person business meetings in the last year thanks to their strong travel culture and subsequent approach to travel management. Here are a few examples of how a corporate travel platform can provide cost control:

  • Automated, real-time policy compliance monitoring and enforcement
  • Custom policy groups by departments, teams, and projects
  • Relevant travel options at a lower rate than publicly available
  • An automatic refund or credit note for eligible unused air tickets
  • A mobile app with last-minute hotel deals of up to 70 percent off

Business travel is both a controllable expense and a driver of growth. Travel management platforms provide you with visibility to measure the success of your travel program through reporting tools. Reporting provides visibility on policy compliance and online adoption, which are two critical drivers for savings on travel costs. It’s easy show your travel program's actual cost and value when you have access to dashboards that allow you to filter spend history, booking data, and traveler behaviors. And don’t forget that access to real-time spend analytics supports better financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting.

Businesses that partner with a travel management company see a positive return on investment. The fee structure is low, and it essentially pays for itself by tracking unused air tickets. When travelers must change or cancel a flight, they shouldn’t have to go through the hassle of managing vouchers or jumping through tedious hoops to recoup unused airfare tickets. Corporate travel platforms make it easy to apply for credit from unused tickets to new bookings, displaying credits right in the search results.

Key finding number 2: Businesses that operate without a corporate booking tool spend an average of 13.6 hours per trip to process travel and related expenses[ii]

If you’re currently operating an unmanaged travel program, you still rely on manual work and inputting data into spreadsheets to manage travel and actual expenses. Research from Forrester found that it takes travelers, approvers, auditors, and accountants a combined 13.6 hours per trip on average to process travel and associated expenses.

Contrast that with the average time it takes for a traveler to books through a corporate travel platform – four minutes for a hotel and five minutes for air, car, and train. Travelers no longer need to spend hours on every trip communicating preferences, approving itineraries, submitting expenses, or changing bookings. They can focus more time on their job.

The role of a travel management company is to secure the best deals effortlessly with an intuitive booking experience for travelers and arrangers. Following travel policy and compliance is necessary, but employees are happiest when they have options. There is a need to lean towards providing your employees with the information needed to make the best travel decisions on their own. The more your employees are empowered to arrange their own travel, the lighter the burden becomes for your admin and finance teams. And employees want to manage their itineraries. The goal is to offer opportunities without costing your business more money.

Key finding number 3: Most finance managers (84%) say their company is less than entirely prepared to handle an increase in business travel in 2022[iii]

One reason finance managers don’t feel confident about relaunching their corporate travel program is because the company is relying on outdated and manual processes. There are some serious challenges with the payment and reimbursement process. Travelers are not only tracking transportation receipts but dry cleaning, business meals, incidental expenses and other business activities.

According to the Egencia Business Travel and Technology Survey, 33 percent of business travelers use personal cards exclusively for business travel expenses. This complicates the range of deductible business expenses and involves a paper trail. Many companies are hesitant about providing physical corporate credit cards to their employees, but with a corporate travel platform, the credit card information is secure and filed in the booking platform. No physical card is needed. Purchases on the credit card can be set up not to be charged until an approver reviews the itinerary. The approver will be notified as soon as a purchase is made. Consolidating credit card transactions directly into an expensive system with just a click creates a more seamless traveler experience.

The other main reason finance managers are hesitant to increase their business travel is that they lack the resources to mitigate risk. To successfully compete in the global marketplace, companies need to show genuine empathy and concern for their employees’ wellbeing, which means considering new factors beyond savings and basic corporate travel safety to give their travelers peace of mind.

More businesses are looking for travel solutions that support their travelers at every stage of their trip. Here are examples for each phase of the business travel journey:

  • Pre-travel: Supporting travelers’ pre-business trip means removing obstacles and paving a smooth path through the booking process while ensuring that your travelers are empowered and informed. Corporate travel technology prioritizes search results based on intelligent weighting of variables like layover time, bag costs, and even travelers’ preferences based on previous choices. Another layer of transparency is access to supplier-specific health and hygiene information in the booking process.
  • While on the road: A big part of risk management when your travelers are on the road is making sure you can reach travelers in case of a crisis so they can receive help, support, and timely information when they need it. When an emergency strikes or is on the horizon, it’s essential travelers are immediately informed. Corporate travel platforms keep travel managers and travelers aware of disruptions to an itinerary through instant messaging on their phones and in the mobile app. You can also access covid-related protocols or guidelines for specific business destinations. Learn more about travel risk management here.
  • Upon return: Travelers appreciate saving time and headaches with expense reporting once they’re home. Your travel program needs to streamline expense reporting for travelers and finance staff. The right travel partner will allow you to capture employees’ business travel expenses within the booking tool. Travelers can capture any additional trip receipts with their phone to attach to their itinerary and create and submit expense reports straight from their phone that managers can approve with a simple click. All data – offline, online, and any custom data – is passed to an expense management system for a simple, streamlined reimbursement process. Anything transaction-based or tax-deductible is consolidated in one reimbursement.

Your travel program can play a role in building an inclusive and unified company culture. With the support of a corporate travel platform, finance professionals can control costs, reduce manual processes, and improve the business traveler experience.


[i] Money Control News

[ii] Forrester study

[iii] Sap Concur

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