Your “Return to Travel” guide

Business travel will always be an essential part of doing business. A strong travel culture helps companies nurture strategic relationships, drive innovation, and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. But there’s no denying that business travel looks very different now than it has in the past.  

As companies move through post-COVID-19 recovery, travel managers are being challenged to juggle risk management and business growth like never before. The good news is, there are steps you can take to be proactive and prepared.

Follow our five step guide to relaunch your travel program with confidence once the pandemic is past.

Table of contents:

Step 1: Prepare for – and step into - the evolving role of travel manager

Step 2: Become an expert at managing risk by leveraging your travel policy

Step 3: Help your travelers feel confident and comfortable

Step 4: Mitigate risk and control spend by mandating your TMC

Step 5: Track and optimize your travel program

Step 1: Prepare for – and step into - the new role of travel manager

Business travel has radically changed in the past year and, along with it, the role of the travel manager. With risk and spend management high on the business agenda, the c-suite is paying attention to travel in a whole new way. Your role is to provide critical information and strategic input to reshape and manage your travel program in a way that will serve your company best during these uncertain times. 

Here are four ways you can prepare and educate yourself for this new direction:

  • Identify new key stakeholders: The importance of business travel has shifted in many companies and is now a table stakes c-suite discussion crucial to bottom line recovery and employee welfare.
    As a first step, create a list of stakeholders around travel, health, and safety -- whether executives, HR, facilities, or another area – and think through the concerns and risks relevant to each one. Talk to department heads too, about ways their employees may need to be supported differently going forward.

    As you’re reviewing your list, capture which of these stakeholders will need to review and approve decisions, from strategic program level down to individual trip approval. Once you’ve identified and established your network, keep them in the loop with updates relevant to the business and their needs. Learn more about showing up stronger as a business travel manager.
  • Get educated with webinars: We tap the experts for compelling, actionable webinars on highly relevant topics like “How to prepare your business travel program for post COVID-19” and “Plan ahead: How to stretch your travel budget as travel resumes post-COVID-19.” Tune into our “New normal webinar series” with Egencia executives, leaders from the industry, and supply and industry partners. You can sign up for upcoming webinars and access recordings of past ones right in the Webinar Hub.
  • Engage with your peers on best practices: The Egencia Connect Community has just gotten a turbocharge. With the emphasis on digital connection and community these days, we’ve created a place where travel managers can stay current on industry news, connect with peers on best practices, and learn from Egencia leadership.
  • Join Egencia’s Corporate Travel Management Training: We’re making our consulting team’s travel manager training material freely available to you to help you manage the added complexity of this new environment. Whether you’re a seasoned travel manager or new to the role, this program will help you gain insights and learn the new skills you need to succeed.

    The goal of this four-course curriculum is to:
    • Educate you on the current business travel landscape. 
    • Prepare you to take part in strategic conversations about business recovery and return to travel. 
    • Give insights into the evolving topics of travel risk management and duty of care in a world recovering from COVID-19. 
    • Share best practices for managing your business travel program, including setting up the best payment method, achieving sustainability, optimizing savings, and maximizing ROI.

Step 2: Become an expert at managing risk by leveraging your travel policy

The starting point for managing risk is defining your company’s new travel guidelines and implementing them into your travel policy by following these four steps:

  1. Align with your internal stakeholders to answer these six questions:
  • When will your company allow business travel – and what types?
  • Where will you allow your travelers to travel?
  • Who will be allowed to travel?
  • Why would someone be allowed to travel or not (purpose of trip)?
  • Who needs to approve – or veto - travel at each level?
  • What are your safety guidelines and procedures? Read this article for more on how to rebuild travelers trust.
  1. Examine any external factors to vet destinations and suppliers:
  • Travel restrictions and mandates: Use the Egencia Travel Advisor to get the latest updates on entry requirements of your home country and the ones from your frequent business travel destinations, as travel may be prohibited and/or post-arrival quarantine mandated. You’ll also find information on necessary health documents and PPE requirements.
  • Supplier health and safety practices: Travelers booking a hotel on the Egencia website or mobile app will see the property’s health and hygiene measures right in the details of the listing. As travel manager, it’s also good practice to check the websites of your preferred supplies to review their response to COVID-19 in terms of flexible modification or cancellation policy and safety measures. Get more information on our Supplier Help Center page.
  • Gain insights for making informed decisions about returning to travel: Egencia’s Business Travel Trends During COVID-19 resource shows various indicators based on Egencia data from our Early Recovery Simulator (ERS), like which countries are returning to travel (and how), which industries are back on the road or preparing to return, and which destinations and products (flight, hotel, rail, and car rental) are being booked. This will help you understand what your competitors are doing so you can make informed decisions for your company.
  1. Implement your revised policy on the Egencia booking tool. Once you’ve reviewed internal and external factors and decided on what to include, you can update your travel policy on Egencia with all of the new information. Be sure to cover:
  1. Traveler limit – Limit the number of travelers on the same flight
  2. Out of policy destinations – Define high-risk routes or destinations as out of policy or block the ability to book flights to specific destinations
  3. Approval settings – Define who should approve trips -- and under what circumstances -- for each traveler group
  4. Updates to advance bookings policies – Make sure your policy reflects both what your travelers need and the current state of your suppliers

Get more information on updating your travel policy in this article.

If you don’t yet have a written policy, click here for Egencia’s COVID-19 business travel policy guide.

Step 3: Help your travelers feel confident and comfortable

As eager as your employees are to see colleagues and customers face-to-face again, it’s likely they’re feeling apprehensive about getting back on the road too. One of your roles as travel manager is to make sure your travelers feel secure, comfortable, and cared for throughout the entire journey. Here’s how:

Before booking – Invest time in preparing and educating your travelers before the need for travel arises.

  • Run an internal awareness campaign using our relaunch communication toolkit to remind travelers of your company’s booking process and security guidelines. If you’ve never run an internal awareness campaign, use this guide to help
  • Make your safety policy and security procedures accessible by adding a customized link to the menu in the booking tool. You can also add your offices to custom locations for easy access during booking. Learn more here.
  • Create traveler messages – both general and contextual – to help guide your travelers during the booking process. Learn how here.

While booking – Egencia empowers travelers with support and relevant information to make informed decisions.

  • Booking on Egencia puts travelers at ease – whether on the website or the mobile app – because of the familiar, intuitive experience.
  • Employees can get 24/7 help when booking -- Egencia Virtual Assistant (US and France only) is available on the website and mobile app to direct travelers to answers, pull up details of their itinerary, etc. just by typing in a request. If travelers need personal help during business hours, they’ll be redirected to an Egencia travel consultant to chat.
  • Travelers can check the Egencia travel advisory page while booking travel to see if there are any travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines, or other requirements that would affect their itinerary. 
  • Travelers can see a hotel’s health and hygiene protocols right in the details of the listing in the Egencia search results. And as more and more hotels and destinations develop programs around a set of standards, conforming properties will be tagged accordingly in the booking tool.  

Visit this page for more information on modifying bookings.

Click here to learn more about hotels’ safety procedures.

Before traveling – There are simple steps you can take before your travelers hit the road to keep them secure and put their minds at ease.

  • Request that travelers update their contact information and their emergency contact information on the booking tool. Learn how here.
  • Share a pre-travel safety checklist with travelers to help them feel in prepared and well informed. Feel free to download and customize this one here.

During travel – In today’s environment, it’s crucial to empower travelers with the information and technology they need to stay connected and up to date while on the road.

  • Remind your travelers to download the Egencia App so they stay plugged in and in control while on the road. Download resources to promote the app through your internal channels.
  • Sign your travelers up for Egencia Travel Alerts so they’ll be notified immediately of any events impacting their trip. Contact your Account Manager to set this up.
  • Keep in touch with your travelers using Egencia Traveler Tracker. If a crisis arises, you can quickly identify which travelers are at a given location during a specified time window and communicate with them directly. Learn more about Egencia Traveler Tracker.

After travel – Make it easy for your travelers to make the process even better.

Create a feedback loop so you can learn from stakeholders and travelers. A post-travel survey, for example, will help travelers, managers, and other stakeholders feel heard and give them a way to share valuable insights on what’s working, what’s not, and needs you may not have anticipated.

Read “How to effectively communicate your travel policy internally”

Read “5 tips for HR professionals to build business travelers’ confidence”

Read “Hotel health and safety: How Egencia and hoteliers are innovating for business travelers” 

Step 4: Mandate Egencia to mitigate risk and control spend

Using several different travel partners or allowing travelers to book through various websites disperses your data and weakens your ability to mitigate risk and optimize savings. Mandating your travelers to book with Egencia will enable you to achieve four key objectives:

  • Manage Risk – When travelers book on Egencia, you’ll be able to reach them immediately in case of emergency through Traveler Tracker and traveler messages. Plus, we’ll keep them abreast of developing situations affecting their plans with travel alerts.
  • Increase leverage for supplier negotiations – Mandating your travelers to book on Egencia means that all of your data is consolidated. Pair that with intuitive visual displays, robust drill-down capabilities, and benchmarking reports, and you have an arsenal of powerful information to bring to the negotiating table.
  • Conveniently optimize savings – When your travelers book on Egencia, your company will save even more in multiple ways that are practically invisible to the traveler. The savings begin with our Smart Mix search results, which prioritize rankings based on your company’s travel policy and the traveler’s preferences. Your preferred suppliers and negotiated rates – along with special rates negotiated by Egencia -- show up at the top of list. We also save you money after a traveler books. Savings Finder for Air and Hotel monitors price changes and rebooks eligible tickets at a lower price, all behind the scenes.
  • Manage unused tickets – With Egencia, unused tickets are displayed right on the home page of the booking tool for each traveler. Clicking on it will show which airline it can be used for, how much it’s good for, and when it expires. When a traveler books a flight on an airline with an unused ticket, the option to use the credit will show at checkout.

Watch this Customer Story on how Egencia helps with duty of care.

Read about negotiating with suppliers during and after COVID-19

Read about tackling air refunds and credits.

Read about travel reporting impact amidst COVID-19.

Step 5: Track and optimize your travel program

As we all know, the ins and outs of everyday life are very fluid at the moment, and they’re likely to be so for the foreseeable future. This makes it more important than ever to stay on top of your travel program’s performance, the impact of global events on travel, and the specific needs of your company as it relates to your travel program. Here’s how:

  • Leverage the suite of Egencia risk management toolsEgencia puts the tools for duty of care, traveler communication, and trip approval at your fingertips.
  • Create a feedback loop -- A post-travel survey, for example, will help travelers, managers, and other stakeholders feel heard and give them a way to share valuable insights on what’s working, what’s not, and needs you may not have anticipated.
  • Share and learn best practices around COVID-19 -- Visit the special COVID-19 Center within the Egencia Connect Online Community to share with and learn from your peers.
  • Access COVID-19 specific reporting at the touch of a button – The COVID-19 travel reporting hub in Egencia Analytics Studio (located on the home page) provides a collection of reports to help you mitigate the financial impact of pandemic-related travel disruptions. 

Join the community

Learn about the COVID-19 travel reporting hub