Now is a good time to take a step back and assess your travel management program. What worked well? Which areas need improvement? Where can you streamline operations? How can you find additional cost savings?
Use this time to look at trends in the market and anticipate your company’s future travel needs. This is also your opportunity to show upper management your travel program is a strategic asset, not just a budgetary line item. The more you plan ahead, the better the results will be down the line.
How can you find new ways to improve efficiency and generate more savings in your travel program? Our consulting experts developed the ultimate guide to help you reshape your travel program for the new year. Here are five key areas you should focus on now to prepare your travel management strategy for 2019.
1. Encourage upper management involvement
As a travel manager, how do you prove your value and ensure buy-in from those in the C-suite? Approach this challenge with a strategic mindset and plan for communicating with management.
First, make sure you understand management’s key objectives and plans for the upcoming year. Once you have the big picture, determine how your travel program positively impacts the bottom line:
- Savings and increased buying efficiencies
- Travel needs that match with business growth targets
- Risk management
- Key talent retention
Next, decide the best way to distribute this information throughout the organization. What internal and external channels are available? Make sure you tailor your message and choose the right channel for your target market. Find out which company intranets, extranets, newsletters, and social media channels are the most popular with your travelers versus executives. Also, be sure to attend meetings where you can get in front of key leaders and decision-makers.
Finally, follow up with your results. Show how your program aligns with the company’s major key performance indicators (KPIs). Take advantage of data analysis tools that make it easy to produce and share updates about how your travel program is performing.
2. Leverage all your data
We live in a digital world where data is king. How well do you manage and act on the information available through various online, offline, and mobile data sources?
Your method to collect and use data determines your success and impacts the bottom line. To do this, you need to identify what information you need, analyze the data, create insightful reports, and build an action plan. Don’t forget to focus on the essentials, especially if data analysis is a new component of your travel program. Define three to four key areas and do a deep dive into them.
Make sure you define your KPIs, such as online adoption, policy compliance, mobile usage, or the number of full-time employees per trip. Identify the type of data you need to make informed decisions. For instance, not all employees need to travel to the same meeting or spend the same amount of time there. How can you identify that? Did you consider other options such as pushing one-day trips and one-way fares?
Once you have your data, you need to analyze it. Data visualization and predictive analytics are revolutionizing the industry and helping transform what was traditionally viewed as a cost center into a strategic part of the business. Tools, such as Egencia Analytics Studio, consolidate all your data into one place and provide a clear picture of how your travel program is performing. These tools display your key metrics visually, making it easier to understand how your decisions impact the bottom line.
Each company has its own methodologies for reporting certain KPIs. Whether it’s how you calculate compliance, view TMC leakage or set spending caps for meals, you may need to incorporate your expense data and exchange rate tables. Our consultants can help you build a tailor-made visualization dashboard that puts all this information right where you need it.
Don’t forget to define the frequency of reporting you need. Are you sure you get valuable information from monthly reporting? Would you get a more relevant analysis with a quarterly reporting?
3. Beyond price: Focus on ROI
Let’s face it, travel is expensive. Airlines, car rentals, hotels, and meals add up quickly. Then there are hidden costs: Surcharges for making changes to reservations or traveling during peak times, loss of productivity, missed meetings when flights are delayed or canceled, or extra taxes and baggage fees. This is why it’s important to consider all the costs in your travel program and focus on getting the best ROI.
Start by taking a fresh look at your travel needs. Make a list of all the travel objectives that are important to your company and employees. Work with the business units to cut down on non-essential travel. Not all meetings need to be face-to-face. In some cases, a phone call or video-conference is just as effective. If you tend to organize numerous events or conventions, don’t forget to include those numbers in your global planning.
Make sure you utilize all of your TMC’s reporting tools to identify travel patterns. Which cities do travelers visit most often? What routes do they use most frequently? Use this data to look at your preferred supplier list with fresh eyes. You’ll want to plan as far ahead as possible and negotiate long-term contracts that don’t need to be renewed every year.
Be open and flexible when negotiating rates and amenities for your travelers. Some hotels have moved to a percentage-based discount rather than a fixed rate. Don’t be afraid of this change. This model can ease the timely negotiation and RFP process with hotels. Once again, focus on data and your travel patterns. Identify your less-frequented cities where you can contain costs by setting a city-cap on hotel spending.
4. Manage risks
Natural disasters, illness, accidents, political unrest and terrorism put your travelers — and your company — at risk. Is your company prepared for potential disruptions? Do your employees know what to do during an emergency?
Make sure your corporate policies and emergency action plans are up to date with clear steps for dealing with disruptions at home and on the road. During an emergency, time is critical. You need to know where your employees are and how to reach them. Make sure travelers update their profiles and itineraries to include a mobile number and other contact information so that you can reach them quickly. External travel security companies, like International SOS, provide additional peace of mind for employees traveling abroad.
Today’s sharing economy adds an additional wrinkle to corporate travel. Companies like Uber, Lyft, and the use of alternative lodging present new challenges to companies trying to ensure travelers’ safety and compliance with standards. Make sure your travel policy clearly explains your company’s position and policies regarding these services and don’t forget to update it.
5. Look at your travel program in a new light
It’s important to think strategically about improvements to your travel program. Now is a good time to take a step back from your day-to-day operations and consider other areas that need attention.
Have you ever considered leveraging your travel policy as a recruitment tool? A strong travel program is an asset in recruiting and retaining top talent in key positions. Negotiate for extra features, such as airline fast track, waiting lounge access, flexible scheduling, or special business rates that make travel more appealing. Work with your corporate HR and communication teams to ensure your program aligns with company culture and policies. This will also help increase compliance in your travel program.
If sustainability and the environment are important to your corporate culture, is your travel policy aligned as well? Could you leverage it to promote travel by train instead of plane? Or your travelers to share rides when renting a car? You can also make sure your preferred partners are doing all they can to reduce their impact on the environment.
Every year brings new challenges and new opportunities. We encourage you to review your travel program with these five steps — our consultants are ready to help with any of them. Fill in the form to get in touch with our consulting team.