How to Set up a Business Travel Programme that Doesn’t Suck

How to Set up a Business Travel Programme that Doesn’t Suck

Are you interested in saving up to 45% on your company’s business travel costs?

Whether you’re in charge of doing the booking, or are a regular traveller yourself, there’s a lot to be gained from a having a well-managed travel programme in place.

Sure. it all sounds rather bland and boring…and we know as an employee you’d rather be saving up those precious Virgin air miles.

However, by showing support for a travel programme or even creating one yourself, you could do a lot to benefit your career…AND snag yourself some rewards in other ways.

The Benefits of a Managed Business Travel Programme

Business travel programmes aren’t just for large businesses. Small and medium-sized enterprises are benefiting too – in some cases more so.

As well helping to cut the costs of transport, accommodation and other commodities in the long term, a business travel programme can also help you to improve processes, increase traveller safety and increase compliance across the workforce.

Additionally, cutting costs isn’t just about saving money but providing more value. When implemented right, a business travel programme can bring a ROI of up to 10-12% according to And the National Business Travel Association claims that companies with a travel programme save up to 45% more than those without.

Convincing the Team

Like any new system, one difficulty of implementing a travel programme is convincing those within your business or company.

Not only do you need to obtain buy-in from from senior management; you must also be able to show users (i.e. other employees) how it’s delivered and how they might benefit, in order to get the best results.

So how exactly do you go about doing this? And more importantly, how do you make sure your travel programme does what it promises?

Check out our steps below that’ll help you get your travel programme off the ground.

1. Create a corporate travel policy.

A corporate travel policy will set the tone of your business travel programme, ensuring that desired goals are met from the start.

It will also act as a guide for traveling employees on things like what is acceptable expenditure and what to do in emergencies etc, so will help set a prerequisite for compliance later down the line.

1. Identify your business’ ethos and culture.

As with any policy, your travel policy should reflect your company’s overall ethos and culture. Think about what it is you are trying to achieve when you do business and how you like to convey your brand to the world. If you already have a brand vision – consult it. If you don’t or its out of date, then spend time deciding on these identities and values, which will in turn help set the background for your travel policy.

2. Define your goals.

What  is it that you’d like your policy to achieve? Is it keeping down costs? Increasing traveller safety? Ensuring employees have a bit more fun when travelling to make them productive? Whatever ways you hope to improve your business travel, make a note of them now.

3. Keep it simple, to start with.

Your should keep your policy to two pages, to begin with, to keep things simple. You should also aim for 90% of your employees to understand 80% of the policy. This means no jargon or business cliches. You want your employees’ participation in this, after all; it may as well be something they can understand.

4. Set clear guidelines for all aspects of travel (and more).

You do want to be the cool, chillaxed employer…but you also don’t want to mince your words.

Be firm and direct in the policy about guidelines such as spending limit; transport booking rules; additional expenses and what is expected of them whilst on the trip. It needs to have no room for doubt, so try to be as specific and detailed as you can.

Whether it’s looking for Liverpool apartments to rent or a return flight to Cologne, your employees will ideally be fully aware of what’s within limit.

5. Ask your employees what they think.

That’s right – you will need to ask for your employees’ input if this policy is going to be worth having. You could do this via an online poll that you circulate around the office (at an earlier stage perhaps) or a larger meeting or workshop where employees get to voice their concerns or questions. This is also a great way to cover any special scenarios you may not have thought about.

Everyone likes to have a choice. so maybe also think about giving your employees options, such as a selection of airlines or hotel providers.

6. Make sure your travel policy is easy to find.

There’s no point having a policy that’s hidden or hard to find. You need to make sure everybody knows what the travel policy is to begin with and then where they can find it, should they need to refer to anything.

Make sure all newbie travellers are reacquainted with the policy before they embark on their first trip.The policy also needs to be communicated properly with all managers, so they can enforce it.

2. Consider offloading the weight with a travel management company (TMC).

A travel management company (TMC) are business travel agents that don’t just help book travel, but help with the control and visibility of business travel spend, helping you save in the long term.

Here’s how to weigh up whether a TMC could be for you or not…and if so, how you can pick the right one.

1. Think about how many employees you have travelling.

A TMC may be a necessity if you have over a certain number of travelling employees. If your company doesn’t travel very often or it doesn’t involve many of the workforce, then it may not justify the extra cost.

However, as you’re here wanting to set up a business travel policy, we’ll assume you do have a certain number of travelling employees, so move on to #2.

2. Decide on your regional, national and global requirements.

Does your business mostly travel locally, nationally, or to other countries? This will all determine the money you spend on travel, your needs and requirements.

National and international travel, for instance, will demand probably more bookings, more organisation, more money and will generate more data. So a TMC could make a huge difference in how all of that is handled, and the the savings you could make in the future (more on this below).

3. The size of the TMC is not as important as the cultural fit.

Most companies will say they want a TMC that fits with their business – not necessarily one that has most power in numbers. There is a good reason for this – you want your travel offering to reflect your business culture, so it’s only natural you’d want the company taking care of this to reflect this too.

Look at how things are done within your own company – the way you communicate with clients, for example, or the benefits/freedoms you allow your employees – and look for a TMC that does things similarly.

4. Speciality vs. versatility

Many TMCs will say they look after companies in all sectors, whilst others will specialise in particular industry sectors, like Diversity Travel (NGOs and charities) and Reed & Mackay (law and finance).

In the same vein, some TMCs may say they have specialist divisions, which is usually cosmetic because the business is handled in mostly the same way for all clients.

Rather than look at the sector they are in, ITM’s director of education Sandy Moring suggests to look at the type of transaction they do. If you are working in a highly regulated industry, like pharmaceuticals she says, then you also need a TMC that understands the external rules and requirements involved.

5. Regional might get you the best deal.

Regional TMCs are usually more expensive, but they will often have more of a bespoke service and will hold more purchasing power in locations off the usual circuit.

This could be worth considering if you do a lot of business in one location and want to get the best deals.

6. Don’t forget the additional costs of a TMC.

A travel manager will need to explain how a 5-7% increase on the company’s travel budget (usually the cost of hiring a TMC) will eventually deliver savings on 95% of other travel costs. This can be a tall order because it is quite normal for savings not to be apparent straight away – sometimes up to six months or longer.

You also need to factor in the cost of incorporating a TMC or changing to a new one. For example, you might potentially save £100,000 switching from one booking system to another, but the change itself could cost up to £300,000 once you factor in labour and technical resources.

3. Streamline cash flow by automating expenses.

Automating expenses saves time and improves productivity for your employees.

It also helps with judging spend, as it reduces inaccuracies and avoids inflated claims. This means you’ll be better able to identify areas to cut down on.

1. Automate your expenses using expense software.

There are many software kits and applications today that help to automate expenses effortlessly. Many of these also integrate with apps, that your employees can use on their phones when they travel.

Some great expense automation software includes Concur, Xpenditure and Expensify.

2. Enlist the help of your TMC

If you’re using one, your TMC may also offer an end-to-end booking and expense management system, that will allow you to see exactly where money is being spent.

Once everybody is on the same booking system (via a TMC), then this detailed spending date can be much more easily accessed and put to good use.

3. Utilise good data.

Drawing on our previous point, having a hoard of great data thanks to your TMC can make budgeting and spending for future trips much easier. Generally you will need around six months of good data before deciding what changes can be made to your current travel practices. But it is often worth the wait.

A TMC can give you some great detailed data such as times of bookings; class of bookings; types of accommodations booked etc. and this gives you plenty to analyse so that you can negotiate better rates with service providers.

4. Incentivise your employees to participate.

Many employees may not like the idea of having to use a specific TMC, agency or service providers for arranging their trips. Especially if they’re part of frequent flyer or other loyalty programme.

Hopefully you’ll have ironed out most kinks when consulting employees on your travel policy. But there’s bound to always be hesitations, so be prepared to bolster your team and make them want to jump on board.

1. Think about having a company corporate card.

Corporate cards can sometimes be a tricky business, as they require plenty of trust to make them work.

However, if there are a few commodities your clients are allowed to place on a corporate card (as outlined by your travel policy), then employees will often feel much more at ease with travelling and won’t need to worry about being out of pocket for certain things.

As well as this, a corporate card also helps to improve policy compliance, and provide more transparency on what is being spent on travel and entertainment.

2. Build ‘blesiure’ into the business trip.

‘Bleisure’ is a term that’s being thrown around more and more now, with the majority of millennials coming to expect it from their business trip.

‘Bleisure’ of course means the merging of leisure and business. Whilst this may sound more expensive at first, it can actually help inventivise travellers to spend less on certain commodities, by ‘meeting them halfway’.

For example, by taking a smaller apartment or room, or a lower airfare class, your employee might be rewarded with money towards other leisure activities, such as tickets to a show, tours, or gym membership etc.

3. Be flexible with accommodation arrangements.

Many travelling employees are likely to be millennials and, as with the previous point, flexibility is really important to them.

However, no matter the age of your travellers, offering flexible accommodation arrangements will go a long way.

For example, many may prefer an Air BnB style of apartment, or catered accommodation like short stay apartments in Liverpool, rather than a hotel room right next to their conference destination. (In fact, Bloomberg reported that  250,000 companies are now registered to book accommodation via AirBnB.)

Although you may have selected approved accommodation providers through your travel policy and/or TMC, some flexibility is important to encourage more employees to hop on a flight.

Do you have any other tips or experiences in making your business travel programme take off? Let us know below!

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