Business Travel Booking Procedure FAQsBy Kathleen Burns
If you think teleconferencing technology has replaced the need for business travel, think again.Thanks to the emphasis on face-to-face interaction in business and the increasing affordability of flights, the corporate travel sector is growing steadily at a rate of 3.2% each year, and it’s expected to hit $1.6 billion by 2023.
As the need for business travel increases, so do innovations in business trip booking procedures, services, and technology. Almost every area of the modern business has been streamlined and automated by technology, and corporate travel is finally getting it’s moment — a new wave of travel management apps have emerged to help companies book, manage and report on corporate travel.
But with dozens of options dedicated to corporate travel, it can be difficult to choose the right travel management solution for your company’s needs.
Here at Lola.com, we are dedicated to simplifying business travel for our clients. We serve companies of various sizes and have gotten all kinds of questions about best practices for booking business travel. We’ve rounded up the most frequently asked questions about booking corporate travel into this handy guide.
In this guide to business travel booking procedures you’ll learn:
- Common procedures for booking corporate travel,
- The best business trip services, tools, and resources,
- How to get the best deals on corporate travel, and more.
Procedures for booking business travel
The fundamental question at the center of corporate travel management is how you’re booking the actual travel — the tools you’re using and the processes you have in place.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to corporate travel management. We’re giving you the scoop on business travel booking procedures and corporate travel policy to help you decide which solutions are best for your company’s needs.
What are the most common business travel booking procedures?
Booking business travel can be as hands-on as opening 80 tabs on your computer to compare flights and hotels, as hands-off as outsourcing it to a travel agency, or something in between.
These are the three most common business travel booking procedures:
- Outsourced business travel booking. In this solution, your company delegates its travel booking needs to an external travel agent or travel agency who is responsible for managing and implementing the corporate travel policy, booking travel arrangements for your company’s business travelers, and managing travel expenses.
- Internal business travel booking. Rather than outsourcing to an external travel agency, your company can create an internal travel agency or hire a corporate travel manager who is dedicated to overseeing the company’s travel program. The corporate travel manager can hire a team member to book travel arrangements on behalf of the company’s business travelers, or they can use corporate travel software that lets travelers book arrangements through a centralized platform.
- Unmanaged business travel booking. In an unmanaged travel program, business travelers book their own travel using any means they want. This could mean booking directly through an airline or hotel’s site, or using an online booking tool like Kayak.com. With no travel manager, enforcing corporate travel policy can be difficult.
The travel booking procedure you choose will depend on factors like the volume and frequency of business travel, budget, staff availability, etc. But whatever method you choose, you’ll want a corporate travel policy that helps you keep bookings consistent and under budget.
What is a corporate travel policy?
No travel program is complete without a corporate travel policy. A corporate travel policy is a set of guidelines and procedures for booking business travel. If you outsource your business travel needs, your corporate travel agency can help you craft a policy. If you keep travel management in-house, hire a corporate travel manager with experience writing, adapting and enforcing a travel policy.
A corporate travel policy should set guidelines for and answer questions about:
- How to set booking guidelines and per diem policies
- Budget for airfare, accommodations, ground transportation, and meals,
- Which fare business travelers can book (basic economy vs. economy vs. business class)
- Procedures for booking business travel,
- Procedures for paying for and getting reimbursed for business expenses while on the road,
- Guidelines for international travel vs. domestic travel, and more.
A corporate travel policy helps keep the company's operational budget healthy and ensures that all business travelers get fair treatment.
Of course, even a carefully constructed travel policy doesn’t ensure that all of your travelers will follow it when booking.
Why do business travelers resist following corporate travel policies on booking travel?
Unfortunately, sometimes business travelers ignore their company’s travel policy and book travel and accommodations that fall outside of company guidelines. Most of the time, out-of-policy bookings aren’t done on purpose.
The most common reasons why business travelers resist complying with corporate travel policies on booking travel are that the guidelines are too confusing to understand and/or too difficult to follow.
How can you make booking business travel easier?
So how can you simplify business travel booking and ensure that business travelers adhere to the travel policy? The conventional wisdom is to employ a managed travel program, like an agency or an internal corporate travel manager, to enforce policy. Alternatively, companies can enforce travel policy by using a corporate travel booking tool that can be customized with the company’s guidelines. With each click, travelers see what’s in policy and what is out of the question.
Set your company up for success by outsourcing travel management to an agency or or by equipping your internal corporate travel manager with an online booking tool.
Best business travel booking services, tools, and resources
These are the top questions about the best resources for booking business travel. You’ll learn more about travel booking services, corporate travel agencies, and guidelines for crafting a travel policy.
- What does a business travel booking service do?
A business travel booking service, like a travel agency or internal travel manager, books flights and accommodations on behalf of your company’s business travelers. The service enforces the corporate travel policy and provide travelers with support when something unexpected happens on the road or in the air.
A booking service frees your business travelers from worrying about fares, corporate credit cards, rental cars, and expense reports so that they can focus on the work that they were hired to do.
- What are the best travel agencies for corporate travel?
Much like a travel agency you may use for a vacation, most corporate travel agencies are localized and small. The best way to find a corporate travel agency is to search “corporate travel agency [your city]” online or to ask for recommendations from colleagues at other companies.
After you’ve created an initial list of several travel agencies, it’s time to narrow them down. Here are some important considerations:
- Working style. How does the travel agency work with its clients? Over the phone, via email, in person?
- Support. What kind of support does the agency provide business travelers? Will there be someone on call at all times if a flight gets cancelled or a hotel is overbooked?
- Fees. How does the travel agency charge for its services? Look for agencies with fixed pricing instead of commissions from each sale. You want to work with an agency that won’t punish you for your using their services and who will fight for your best interests to negotiate the lowest prices.
- Specialty. Does the travel agency only deal with domestic travel? Do they have contacts with international travel agencies or relationships with experts in countries that your company travels to often so that they can get deals with international hotel chains?
If you hope to have a long working relationship with your corporate travel agency, don’t rush into any decisions. Properly vet each contender until you find the best fit for your company.
Sometimes, though, the best solution for corporate travel management isn’t an external agency at all, but rather a lightweight tool you can use in-house to streamline travel booking and management.
What are the best tools for booking business travel?
If your company decides not to hire a travel agency, it should equip its corporate travel manager with the best business travel booking tools in the industry. These are the booking tools that will make your business travelers’ lives easier, streamline travel management, and save your company money:
- Lola.com - Lola is an online business travel booking tool that lets business travelers, corporate travel managers, and admins book airline tickets, accommodations, and car rentals on behalf of themselves or business travelers. The tool is more than just software. Lola clients receive 24/7 support, so you can get a flight rebooked even if it’s 3 a.m. in the office’s time zone. The finance department will love the Expensify integration and the platform’s ability to customize the company’s travel policy.
- Amex Global Business Traveler - American Express takes the concierge service they’re known for and applies it to corporate travel with their Global Business Traveler service. Amex GBT features an app, around-the-clock traveler support, and crisis management services.
These business travel booking tools can scale your corporate travel manager’s impact.
What are the best resources for creating business travel booking procedures and policies?
Whether you’re just starting your company’s travel program or need to rework it, our website has lots of resources that can help you nail down your procedures and policies. We have ebooks about corporate travel management and creating travel policies that will simplify your company’s travel management.
Now that you’re equipped with the best tools, resources, and services for booking business travel, it’s time to learn how to save money on corporate travel.
How do you find the best deals available for business travel booking?
Saving money on travel is important whether your company’s travel budget is in the thousands of dollars or millions of dollars. Finding the best deals on business travel depends on your company’s travel management style.
Let’s say that you want to secure the best hotel deals for business travel. If your company uses a travel agency, the agency can score discounted pricing for your business travelers because they have long-standing relationships with hotels and provide them with lots of business. With a managed, in-house travel program, your corporate travel manager will work on building similar relationships with hotels to ensure the best prices.
A universal money-saving trick for business travel is to look for a corporate credit card that rewards business travelers for purchases like flights, car rentals, hotels, and more. Your company can earn cash back or points to use towards future trips by using the card.
Booking and managing business travel doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Consider your company’s priorities and needs and find a solution that fits those needs. Whichever option you choose, Lola.com is here to help. Not only are we a resource for all things business travel, but we are also the #1 rated travel management app.