What is a Corporate Travel Program?By Kathleen Burns
Lola.com’s guide to picking the perfect program to help you manage corporate travel more effectively.
Even though technology makes it easier for us to conduct business virtually, nothing can replace a face-to-face connection. As flights become increasingly affordable, it makes good business sense to send employees on business trips to meet with clients and colleagues and to attend conferences.
As your company’s business travel grows, so does the importance of implementing a corporate travel program — a process for managing business travel. This short guide will teach you how to select the right corporate travel program for your company’s unique needs.
Types of corporate travel programs
There are two main types of corporate travel programs: unmanaged and managed.
An unmanaged corporate travel program is an oxymoron because it involves a lack of order and processes. Corporate travelers book their own travel arrangements for business trips using whatever methods they like.
A managed travel program is less ad hoc and involves outsourcing to a corporate travel agent or hiring an internal corporate travel manager. Whether internal or external, this person’s role is the same: writing, updating and enforcing a corporate travel policy, booking flights and accommodations, supporting travelers when flights get cancelled or changed, and handling expense management.
How to choose a corporate travel program
Whether you’re building your company’s travel program from scratch or want to adjust an existing process to fit new needs, here’s how to choose a corporate travel program.
What does a corporate travel program entail?
A corporate travel program is the beginning-to-end framework for how employees book, expense and budget business travel. First, travel arrangements are booked. Bookings can be completed by travel agents, corporate travel managers, or business travelers themselves.
During a business trip, the corporate travel program sets the framework and process for providing support to travelers if something goes wrong, like a flight getting cancelled.
After the trip ends, the traveler submits expense reports and the finance department processes reimbursements.
In all aspects of the corporate travel process, the corporate travel policy — a set of guidelines for spending limits, what to do in case of emergency, etc. — should be obeyed.
What should you look for in a corporate travel program?
Create your company’s travel program with the following priorities in mind in order to make traveling for business travel a smooth experience for everyone involved:
- Flexibility - Let your traveler make last minute arrangements in cases of emergency without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops.
- Predictable costs - Whether you use a travel agency or corporate travel software for your travel needs, look for providers that charge fixed costs rather than service fees based on the number of trips booked. Your company shouldn’t be punished for traveling!
- Support - Business travelers will have emergencies when the rest of your team is out of the office. Build a corporate travel program that provides travelers with support around the clock.
Efficient corporate travel management
The best business travel program is the one that fulfills your business’ unique needs and reduces time and money waste. When it comes to efficient travel management, we recommend a hybrid approach that involves hiring a corporate travel manager and equipping them with the best corporate travel software.
An online booking tool built for businesses streamlines corporate travel by enforcing the company’s travel policy. The software also makes the booking process more efficient by displaying all travel options in one place and giving business travelers the ability to book their own travel through virtual access to the corporate card.
How can you reduce corporate travel costs?
Another aspect of building an efficient travel program is reducing travel costs. It’s important to create a program with real-time spend visibility and policy monitoring. When you know how much of the travel budget has been spent and how much is left, you can figure out if your team can afford to go to a last minute conference or sales pitch. And by having clear visibility into which employees are booking in and out of policy, you can more easily control spend and provide a consistent experience for all travelers.
Believe it or not, foregoing an internal approval process for booking flights can save your company thousands of dollars by helping travelers lock in the lowest fares without unnecessary back and forth. In the time that it may take for an employee to get a manager’s permission to book a flight, the fare may have gone up. Thanks to an industry-wide 24 hour penalty-free cancellation window, removing bureaucracy is an easy way to reduce travel costs.
Another way to save on business travel is to allow travelers to book flexible fares. While basic economy boasts the lowest fares, the fare’s inflexibility can cost businesses thousands of dollars in change fees each year.
Best deals on corporate travel programs
Ensure you get the best deal on your corporate travel program by comparing the prices of different types of travel management options.
The cost of an unmanaged corporate travel program can be calculated by adding up how much time your business travelers spend booking flights and accommodations on travel websites instead of doing their work.
There is a lot of variability in how much managed travel planning programs can cost.
Travel agencies charge booking fees, retainers, and/or commissions for their services. Expect to spend 2-5% of your travel budget on a travel agency’s services if you choose to go that route. For a $1 million travel budget, these fees amount to $20,000-$50,000. Keep in mind that fees will grow as your travel spend grows.
In comparison, the average salary of a corporate travel manager is $67,299. While a travel manager will eventually ask for a raise, your company is ultimately in charge of deciding how much to pay for this role.
We suggest equipping your travel manager with corporate travel software. Lola.com charges the following for their plans:
- Bootstrappers plan - up to 10 travelers - $99/month
- Startups plan - 11-100 travelers - $250/mo
- Corporate plan - 101-250 travelers - $900/mo
Any company that sends employees on trips would benefit from codifying their business travel processes. Building a strong, flexible corporate travel program is an important step towards ensuring your company’s success and longevity. Think about the future of the business as you build or amend your corporate travel program.