Travel Manager Job Description
Some companies rely so heavily on business travel that they need full-time employees to handle all of the logistics and minutiae associated with travel.
Employees responsible for travel logistics are known as corporate travel managers, and they play a critical role in maintaining and optimizing travel operations at companies where employees are constantly on the road.
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What does a corporate travel manager do?
Travel managers wear many hats, but their core job description includes:
- Managing the entire travel program
- Creating and optimizing a travel policy
- Negotiating preferred rates with airlines and hotels
- Booking trips on behalf of employees
- Identifying areas where T&E spend can be reduced
- Creating reports and conduct analysis on travel spend
- Tracking travel spend against budget
- Managing real-time reporting and financial accounting for travel expenses
Basic requirements of travel managers:
- 3-5 years of travel industry experience (preferably as a travel manager or travel agent)
- Familiarity with business travel management processes and practices
- Existing relationships with airlines and hotels
- Understanding of Global Distribution Systems (e.g. Amadeus)
- Knowledge of standard finance expensing processes
- High attention to detail and organization
- Strong written and oral communication skills
- Proficiency in Excel and data analysis tools
- Bachelor’s degree
What is a corporate travel manager?
Put simply, corporate travel managers are responsible for helping employees get from point A to point B, quite literally. If an employee is headed out of town for a trip, it’s up to travel managers to help them book their travel arrangements (i.e. flights and hotels). They also own the company’s travel policy, providing clear guidelines for employees on what they’re allowed to spend while on the road. If employees have any questions about traveling or issues that arise on trips, travel managers are their trusted resource for all things travel-related.
One of the main goals of travel managers is to make sure their company’s travel spend is on track with the amount budgeted, so they regularly create reports to ensure the company isn’t overspending. Another part of the job is partnering with airlines and hotel brands to negotiate preferred (discounted) rates.
And let’s not forget, travel managers also need to work closely with finance to submit T&E expenses so that employees get reimbursed as quickly as possible.
How is a corporate travel manager different from a travel agent?
The primary difference between travel managers and travel agents is that travel managers are typically full-time, in-house employees, while travel agents are outsourced employees who work for travel agencies (or independently) and manage travel programs for multiple companies. By hiring a travel manager, you get a resource fully dedicated to (and knowledgeable about) your business. Working with a travel agent, you get some of the perks of partnering with a travel agency (like access to better rates), but less attention and reliability, since you’re just one of the agent’s many clients.
Who might benefit from hiring a corporate travel manager?
Large enterprise companies that spend millions of dollars on travel expenses and have hundreds of traveling employees are most likely to benefit from hiring a corporate travel manager. Without a full-time travel manager, these types of companies have a hard time tracking and organizing all the logistics and costs associated with business travel.
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are less like likely to need a full-time travel manager. Instead, they’re typically better off using a corporate travel management solution, such a Lola.com. Lola helps companies save time and money on business travel by making it easy to book, manage, and report on travel in an easy-to-use platform. But even larger companies need to keep budget in mind when they work to optimize their travel programs. Which raises a natural question: how much is a travel manager going to cost you?
Costs of hiring a travel manager
According to Salary.com, travel managers make between $77k - $109k, with an average salary of ~$92k. That said, they are typically managing multi-million dollar budgets in travel spend and can save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars on corporate travel costs by negotiating discounted rates, tracking down cost-effective trip options, and saving employees time on booking their own travel and accommodations.
What should you consider before hiring a corporate travel manager?
Before posting a travel manager job description, there are few things you want to think through:
- Does your company spend enough on its business travel program for this hire to make sense?
- Who will this person report to?
- What will their first 90 days look like?
- What sort of travel management experience is required / preferred for this position?
- How will you measure the success of this person and your travel program?
How can hiring a travel manager reduce your company's travel costs?
There are multiple ways that travel managers can help companies save money. The most obvious way is by working with airlines and hotels to negotiate preferred rates. If your company consistently books with one airline or hotel, they may be willing to offer discounted rates in exchange for your loyalty to their brand.
Second, hiring a travel manager reduces the amount of time spent booking trips, since they often book on behalf of travelers, and as they say, “time is money.” For some companies, it can take an average of 3 days to book a business trip, factoring in the time it takes to get approval.
Third, travel managers are responsible for optimizing thresholds for spending limits on travel-associated costs, so they can save money by lowering the spending caps and customizing the limits by location. For example, you don’t want employees spending the same amount on a hotel in Cleveland as they’re spending on a hotel in San Francisco.
Travel managers tend to also be cheaper than working directly with travel agencies, so transitioning from an agency to a travel manager can cut costs as well. They’re also responsible for ensuring that all travel costs are counted as deductible expenses, which ultimately saves money too.
How can hiring a travel manager make business travel easier for your employees?
Travel managers can take away a lot of the pain employees often associate with business travel. When planning business trips, travel managers can book flights and hotels on behalf of others, so employees don’t have to spend valuable time researching the best options. And if something comes up during a trip (e.g. a flight is cancelled) travel managers can deal with contacting customer support so that travelers don’t have to.
How can hiring a travel manager make your business more efficient?
Hiring a travel manager has many benefits that can pay dividends for your business in the long run. Most of the increase in efficiency comes from a cost-savings perspective, as travel managers significantly reduce travel expenses, which tends to ultimately cut down on overall business operating expenses.
But traveler managers can also help make other employees more productive. Reducing the stress and complications of corporate travel can help your business travelers stay focused while on the road. They make sure trips go smoothly so that employees don’t have to deal with hiccups that may arise. Nobody wants to have to call a customer service line while on the way to a client’s office or an important event.
What can you expect when you hire a corporate travel manager?
When your travel manager first joins your company, it will obviously take some time to get them up to speed. Even if they’ve been a travel manager or travel agent at another company, and even if they’re filling a position that has already existed at your company, it will still be a process for the new travel manager to learn the ins and outs that are unique to your company’s travel procedures.
What should you look for in a corporate travel manager?
When scanning resumes and interviewing candidates for a travel manager position, you should be looking for someone who has experience with the travel industry, first and foremost. If they’re currently a travel manager at another company or if they’ve held a travel manager role in the past, they’re probably worth a phone screen at least. If you receive applications from people who currently work at travel agencies, or have worked at a travel agency in the past, they’re probably worth a look too.
In your conversations with candidates, you should press them the depth of their travel industry knowledge:
- Do they have relationships with hotels or airlines?
- Will they be able to use their rolodex to get you preferred rates?
- Have they managed a travel program before?
- Do they know how to create a corporate travel policy?
- Are they up-to-date on the latest trends?
You might be able to hire a travel manager with zero travel industry experience, but chances are you’ll be better off with someone who knows the ins and outs of the business.
How do you know if a corporate travel manager is right for your business?
Hiring a travel manager isn’t much different from hiring for any other position — you want a candidate who checks all of the boxes and vibes with your team. You want to find someone who is excited about joining your company and has the chops to make an immediate impact. You’re looking for someone who is hyper-organized, reliable, and takes initiative. You’ll want them to interview with the hiring manager, the head of your finance team, and your top traveler, at least. By having candidates talk to employees with different perspectives on your company’s travel processes, you can hedge your bets on whether or not they’re the right fit.
How can you recruit the best corporate travel manager for your business?
When recruiting a travel manager, it’s worth doing some cold outreach to people who are currently travel managers at companies similar to your own. Message them on LinkedIn or send them a personalized email to see if they’re feeling up for a new challenge. Sure, you may get some decent applicants just by listing the job description on your careers page and job boards, but in order to land a rock star travel leader who’s going to really transform your travel program, you’ll probably have to poach a travel manager or someone who has years of experience at a travel agency.
Manage it with travel management software
Travel managers play a critical role at enterprise companies that spend a hefty amount on business travel. If your company is thinking about hiring a travel manager, make sure you take your time and find someone who is going to take full ownership of your travel program, put a dent in overall travel costs, and make sure your travelers enjoy their time on the road.
For large corporations, travel managers are a good way to improve the efficiency and satisfaction levels of their travel programs. But many companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses, find that corporate travel management software like Lola.com can be an even more lightweight, cost-effective way to book, manage and report on corporate travel.