Business Travel Solutions
tl;dr: Your guide to the challenges, benefits and tools for effectively managing business travel
With the explosion of virtual conferencing software and distributed teams, you might think that business travel is less important than it used to be. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s to meet with clients, attend conferences, or hit the investor circuit, business travel is more important than ever.
It’s also more complicated than ever. Dozens of loyalty programs, constantly changing itineraries, and the rise of Uber and Airbnb for corporate travel have made corporate travel management a full time job.
Luckily, these new needs have spawned a wave of new tools for booking and managing travel for business. We’re sharing everything you need to know about your options for managing business travel.
Challenges in booking and managing business travel
But before we analyze the solutions, let’s take a look at the challenges.
As companies grow and more of their employees start traveling for work, the challenges of booking and managing business travel grow as well. These challenges include:
- Business traveler support. Companies need to help business travelers get to where they need to go when flights are delayed or cancelled.
- Travel policy adherence. It can be difficult to ensure that travelers are booking flights, accommodations, and car rentals within the company’s corporate travel policy — guidelines that dictate rules and limits for booking travel arrangements.
- Travel spend visibility. Corporate travel managers and finance teams don’t usually know how much of the travel budget was spent until well after the books have closed.
Most companies know they need to address these challenges, but few know the best tools and processes for doing so.
Methods for managing business travel
There are two primary approaches to handling business travel: managed and unmanaged.
A managed business travel program involves using travel agents or internal corporate travel managers to oversee business trip booking and spending. One way to get the benefits of managed travel (business traveler support, travel policy adherence, and the convenience of having all bookings in one place) without adding to your payroll is to use an online booking tool built for business travel.
An unmanaged corporate travel program doesn’t involve a central booking hub or travel manager. It leaves business travelers or executive assistants to book travel using any method they want. In an unmanaged corporate travel program, colleagues Ted and Angela take the same flight and stay at the same hotel while going to a conference, but Ted might book all of his travel through Expedia, while Angela might book her flight through United and her hotel through Marriott. In order to make sure they’re adhering to their company’s travel policy, they would have to refer to their company’s guide throughout the entire booking process.
Solutions to business travel challenges
A managed travel program is the key to solving challenges your company may encounter while dealing with business travel. A travel agency or dedicated manager will be able to resolve problems expediently.
A corporate travel manager oversees business travel management for the company. While corporate travel managers aren’t necessarily the ones doing the booking, they are responsible for big picture strategy like creating the corporate travel policy, managing spend and travel expenses, and making sure travelers get support when plans go awry.
Equipping your travel manager with corporate travel management software can reduce your company’s travel spend. Flexibility is the hallmark of a cost-saving travel management program. When business travelers can book their own travel using corporate travel software, and don’t have to wait for approval from a manager to book a flight, they can lock in the lowest rate. If something comes up, the flight can be cancelled within 24 hours. If a traveler has to wait for manager approval, the fare could increase, wasting the company thousands of dollars each year.
How to control and track business travel costs
Business travel is a large investment for companies. Tracking business travel expenses is important because it ensures that business travelers spend the company’s travel budget wisely.
The problem is that most corporate travel booking solutions don’t let you see your company’s travel spend in real time, which makes actual spend a mystery until well after the books have closed.
The easiest way for your company's business travelers to track travel expenses is by using a tool built just for that. Expensify is a great example, as it enables travelers to upload receipts from business expenses directly from their phones. Expensing software makes creating expense reports a piece of cake.
Beyond expensing software, it’s important to also look for a holistic travel management software that can help you create a corporate travel policy, facilitate bookings, and track your company’s travel spend in one place. Look for a corporate travel expense tool that integrates with your travel management software.
Best tools and resources for planning business travel
What should you look for in a business travel solution? Here are some factors to consider when making your choice:
- Flexibility - Look for a tool that facilitates travel policy adherence but lets travelers book out-of-policy when emergencies come up during business trips.
- Virtual credit card permissions - This feature ensures that no one at your company has to wait around for the one person with the company card to come to their desk to give them the precious digits. Virtual company card access is a safe way for multiple business travelers to book arrangements simultaneously.
- Traveler support - A corporate travel tool without traveler support is not worth the investment. Look for a solution that has 24/7 access to support when flights are cancelled or you need help booking.
You should also avoid these features when looking for the perfect business travel tool:
- Approval to book - Having to wait for manager approval to book a flight can make you miss out on the lowest fares, costing your company thousands of dollars.
- Sliding fees - Be wary of travel agencies or travel agents who ask for a commission based on your company’s bookings. These fees will quickly add up as your company grows. Keep your company’s travel costs in check by looking for a flat fee solution
So what’s the best tool for planning business travel? Lola.com is an all-in-one solution for companies of all sizes. We created our tool to be friendly for business travelers, travel managers, finance executives, and admins. Business travelers and finance teams will love the Expensify integration.
Booking, managing, and troubleshooting corporate travel can be a headache. Your company can experience easier business travel with the right tools and business travel solutions in place. Have you met Lola?