What is Corporate Travel Management?
tl;dr: Travel management encompasses all logistical, financial, and safety aspects of business travel.
Travel management is how a company manages, tracks and reports on business-related travel and expenses. Travel management goes beyond booking flights and hotels. It also encompasses the logistical, financial, and safety considerations of corporate travel.
As your company grows, so will its need for business travel. The more employees your company has to send on business trips, the more complicated planning and managing corporate travel becomes. We created Lola.com, a corporate travel management software, to make the process easier for corporate travel managers, executive assistants, and business travelers.
Over the course of building our product, we’ve learned a lot about the ins and outs of corporate travel — best practices, common challenges, important lingo, and more. Questions about these come up again and again, so we created this guide to the most frequently asked questions about corporate travel management to equip you with the information you need to know about what corporate travel management means and where it’s headed.
Simply put, corporate travel management is how a company handles business-related travel for its employees — including behind the scenes logistics, expense reporting and duty of care.
How does a travel management company work?
Corporate travel management can be outsourced or handled in house. When it’s outsourced, it’s usually handled by a corporate travel agent or agency. When travel management is managed in house, it’s typically handled by a corporate travel manager.
But that doesn't mean a corporate travel manager has to handle travel on their own. Travel management software companies offer platforms to support both travel managers and travelers with all things business travel.
Travel management companies help businesses:
- Set up corporate travel policies
- Centralize all travel booking
- Manage employees' itineraries
- Track travel spend in real-time
- Accurately report on all travel expenses
- Access 24/7 traveler support
But how can they accomplish all of that? Travel management software platforms serve as a one-stop-shop for booking, managing and reporting on business travel.
Relationships between travel management companies and airlines, hotels, and car rental providers give users access to the same inventory they would find on consumer websites.
A single booking tool centralizes travel policy guidelines and all employee travel plans so travel managers don't have to chase down receipts or traveler information.
Integrations with common expense management platforms reconcile bookings and expenses — all within the same tool.
What does a travel manager do?
A corporate travel manager is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of, and overall strategy behind, a company’s travel program. A corporate travel manager’s role includes:
- Creating and enforcing the company’s corporate travel policy,
- Booking (or facilitating the booking of) travel and accommodations for travelers,
- Managing traveler safety,
- Overseeing the company’s travel budget, and
- Managing reimbursements for travel expenses.
Corporate travel management gets business travelers where they need to go while keeping the company’s finances top of mind.
What are the greatest challenges of travel management?
With so many moving parts (and moving employees), corporate travel management can be a tricky discipline to master. Challenges in travel management include:
- Enforcing corporate travel policy. About one in three American business travelers foregoes company policy when booking travel for work, citing convenience and price as top reasons for eschewing their corporate travel program’s rules.
- Ensuring the safety of business travelers and making alternative plans for them when flights get cancelled or delayed.
- Striking a balance between traveler comfort and the company’s budget.
The obstacles of corporate travel management are tricky, but not insurmountable.
How can challenges in corporate travel management be addressed?
In order for companies to combat the challenges of corporate travel management, they need to have dedicated corporate travel managers or travel agents who are on-call around the clock. Corporate travel agencies have a duty of care to ensure traveler safety, mitigate risks, and help rebook cancelled plans.
Additionally, it’s important for companies to have a comprehensive corporate travel policy in place and to enforce it. When there are policies and processes in place to help combat challenges, problems can be addressed much more efficiently.
What trends are we observing in corporate travel management?
Evolving tech and changing traveler expectations have made corporate travel management a quickly changing industry.
These are the latest trends in travel management:
- Convenience over cost - More and more, companies are choosing fares that provide convenience and flexibility over the cheapest fares, like basic economy.
- Lifting booking roadblocks - Companies are foregoing pre-booking approval in order to lock in the best rates on flights and accommodations.
- Bleisure - Business travelers are increasingly extending work trips for leisure.
- The rise of AI - Artificial intelligence is facilitating corporate travel management.
Innovation is rapidly changing how companies manage their travel program and write their travel policy.
How is AI transforming business travel?
Artificial intelligence is making the lives of business travelers and jobs of corporate travel managers easier. AI is learning (and automatically apply) traveler preferences like hotel locations and favorite seats on flights. When travel managers can spend less time booking, they are able to dedicate more time to strategic business decisions, caring for passengers, and enforcing company travel policies.
Where is the corporate travel industry heading?
The future of corporate travel looks bright. By 2023, business travel will be a $1.67 billion industry. That amounts to 4.1% growth in the market year over year.
Group travel is gaining popularity for corporate travelers for things like conferences and retreats, leading to a rise in the use of home sharing for corporate travel. While traditional hotels used to have a monopoly on accommodations for business trips, 700,000 companies now let their employees book accommodations through Airbnb for Work. This figure represents three times growth in Airbnb for Work adoption since 2015.
Growth in the corporate travel market, a rise in group business travel, and the popularity of home sharing have led to an increased need for managed corporate travel programs.
What are the best tools and resources for managing corporate travel?
Do you want to hire a corporate travel manager or equip your travel team with the right tools for the job? Here are our recommendations for finding the tools of the trade and a terrific travel manager.
What are the best resources for finding a corporate travel manager?
If your company’s travel needs are increasing and you need to bring someone on in house, read our guide for hiring a corporate travel manager and reference this cheat sheet:
- Identify what you need from a corporate travel manager and how much you can afford to pay them.
- Write a compelling job description.
- Share the job posting through the right networks: online job boards, travel industry associations, your employees’ networks, etc.
We also recommend asking business contacts who manages the travel program at their company. If anyone stands out to you, try poaching them from the competition!
What are the best tools for corporate travel managers to use on the job?
Have you found the perfect corporate travel manager for your company? Congratulations! Now make sure they never book another flight. Corporate travel managers should spend their time on strategic initiatives and traveler safety.
Save your corporate travel manager time by letting travelers book their own flights, rental cars, and accommodations. Lola.com is more than just an online booking tool. It empowers business travelers to book arrangements that align with company policy, and also helps corporate travel managers keep an eye on expenses and travelers.
Corporate travel management combines finance, administrative, and security roles to ensure that business travelers get where they need to go safely while keeping a strategic eye on the company’s spending. Lola combines all of the facets of corporate travel management into an easy-to-use tool.