When is it time to invest in a managed travel program?
Business travel is back. For companies who have grown quickly during the pandemic, it can be especially daunting as people get back on the road. It’s one thing to book travel services for a dozen employees. It’s quite another when the employee roster has grown to triple digits.
As you reevaluate the role of travel within your company there are several things to consider – especially during an economic downturn. Here are five key pieces of advice from the Egencia team so you can make sure to do travel right.
1. Ask the question, “Is business travel serving us in the same way as it was before?”
You’ve grown. And it’s likely your travel needs have too. Samantha Shoemaker, Senior Director of Worldwide Sales Development for Egencia, suggests you take a beat and evaluate. “Is your travel program still serving the needs you had as a smaller company? Or is it fueling your growth moving forward?”
(Read 3 golden rules for using travel to fuel fast growth)
2. Know that there’s a lot about corporate travel you might not know yet
Companies who aren’t yet familiar with corporate travel management can often have a simplistic view of how a travel program works. “Cost savings” is often associated with wholesale slashing of the travel budget or cutting down on employee allowances.
But today’s managed business travel is much more nuanced than that. A travel management company (TMC) can help you optimize the value of your travel program, reducing overall costs through preferred rates, negotiated rates, and even advanced machine learning.
Egencia’s Savings Finder for Air and Hotel, for instance, automatically rebooks trips when prices drop after a purchase. This feature alone saves our customers an average of 14% on airfare and 7% on hotels.
(Watch this video for more on maximizing business travel spend)
A travel management company can also help you create a travel policy. A travel policy is essentially a set of rules, with varying levels of enforcement and exceptions, that collectively lead business travelers to choices
that both care for the traveler and serve the company’s needs. These can be details like fare class, per diem rates, and even carbon emissions caps.
“There are so many levers to consider when making your travel policy,” says Shoemaker. “And layers you’ll want to consider as you continue to grow. Egencia is here for our long-term clients to help them every step of the way, from initially evaluating the business needs and developing travel policy to collecting data, reporting, adjusting, and refining.”
(Read 7 steps to build an effective corporate travel policy)
3. Widen your perspective of how business travel can help your company
Your travel management company can play a much bigger role than just helping your company save money. “Really evaluate the purpose of your travel program and the goals you’re looking to accomplish with a travel partner,” says Shoemaker.
Business travel isn’t just about getting people from A to B anymore. As home offices replace headquarters, for instance, smart organizations are using travel strategically to build teams and create a company culture.
Having a corporate travel program can also play a strategic role in talent attraction and retention. “It’s a competitive market out there for talent,” says Shoemaker. “Enhance the traveler experience by providing support for your teams and making life easier for them when they’re out on the road representing your organization and growing your business is a huge value-add.”
Ronan Bergez, Senior Sales Director EMEA for Egencia, says, “The biggest piece of advice I would give fast-growing companies switching from unmanaged travel to working with a travel management company is to think of travel not as a cost, but as an investment. Think about the benefits in terms of value, sustainability, talent attraction.”
(Read why business travel is the new center of company culture)
4. Get the data you need
When there’s no travel policy in place on where or how to book business travel, there’s also no data to learn from. Partnering with a TMC, on the other hand, will give you consolidated data that you can mine for actionable insights.
In real time, you can see which routes are most heavily used, what hotel chains your employees favor, and even benchmark what similar companies are spending on certain flights and hotels for their business trips.
“From start to finish, our team is here to make sure you have all the data at your fingertips to make smart, strategic decisions to fuel your growth,” says Shoemaker.
Having data to measure the cost of a trip against the value gained – whether that’s landing a new client, servicing an existing customer, or investing in relationships – also gives you a holistic picture of how your travel program is driving ROI.
Data also gives fast-growing companies the ability to make strategic shifts swiftly when circumstances are changing quickly. “We are living in an environment where having the flexibility to adjust at any moment is super critical,” says Bergez. “I would recommend using a data driven approach as much as possible, with data insights to adjust travel policy and the business travel program at any time.”
5. Consider investing in a travel manager
For fast growing businesses, bringing on a dedicated resource to manage your travel program could be a wise investment. Travel managers today are more than just transactional gatekeepers. They can be part of the conversation about how to strategically carry company culture, initiatives, and goals well beyond the office walls.
“Post-pandemic we’ve seen new functions. Chief data officer, chief happiness officer, chief well-being officer,” says Bergez. “So it’s a great opportunity for travel managers and purchasing departments to make sure that business travel will have an impact and will drive value for every department and key stakeholder.”
When is the right time for a fast-growing company to move to managed travel? That’s a question Shoemaker gets a lot. She answers by asking if they’re looking for cost savings, expense management, risk management or process improvement, or that amenity to enhance duty of care for travelers while they’re out there growing your business. “And if the answer is yes to any of those questions, then I think it’s the right time to look for a travel management company.”
For more, get our checklist: How to find the right TMC to scale your business