What You Need to Know When Planning Corporate Group Travel
tl;dr: Managing corporate travel for individuals is hard enough — but what do you do if a large number of employees are traveling at the same time?
Do you ever send a team of employees to a trade show? Organize a corporate retreat? If so, you’re likely familiar with the unique difficulties of organizing group travel. In this article, we’ll look at the common challenges of group travel, tips for streamlining it, resources for managing it, and more.
What are the Biggest Challenges of Group Trips?
Booking for a single business traveler is often complex enough, so organizing a trip for an entire group can be a real bear. The pain points of planning can be endless including:
- Coordinating across many different schedules while ensuring each travelers’ airline and flight time preferences are taken into account. This can be time-consuming and lead to multiple bookings across an abundance of sites.
- Providing duty of care to ensure safety for employees while traveling and at their final location.
- Adhering to company expense policies while providing comfortable accommodations for travelers.
- Providing support for multiple travelers in the event of any travel disruptions.
Group travel always seems to end up including hassle and last-minute changes and the entire planning process may appear overwhelming, but it can be simplified with the right initiative, organization, and tools.
How can these challenges be addressed?
Whether the event is a company-wide retreat or departmental conference, the key to planning a corporate group trip is organization.
There are so many moving parts in corporate group travel, so it is vital to keep all this information in one place which makes travel management a necessity. This is traditionally done by either an in-house corporate travel manager or outsourced to a corporate travel agent.
However, with improved AI and modern UI, software is another option to alleviate some of these pressures of booking corporate travel.
Whatever option you choose, it’s important to make sure you’re following a few basic principles to ensure efficient, organized group travel.
- Book flights first as they are likely to be the most complex part of the process. People are potentially coming from different areas and flight prices fluctuate often making it more difficult to stay on budget.
- Maintain access to each traveler’s itinerary to know where they are while traveling.
- Communicate a clear and employee-friendly corporate travel policy to avoid overspending.
- Consider using a travel management software to allow travelers to book their own travel accommodations to meet their preferences.
But managing the travel itself is just the first piece of the group-travel puzzle. It’s also important to control costs.
How to Manage the Costs of Corporate Group Travel
Because travel expenses account for such a large percentage of a company’s discretionary spend, it is important to stay on budget. When organizing a corporate group trip, the most expensive items will be flights and hotel accommodations; other lesser costs will potentially include ground transportation and food.
To manage overall spend, focus on reducing the highest expenses first. If booking for a group of travelers, look for special rates and group discounts, or depending on the group of attendees, consider alternative accommodations like Airbnb. If business travelers are each booking their own accommodations, encourage them to stay on budget with a well designed travel policy. Finally, set realistic per diems so employees know what meal expenses are and are not appropriate.
To improve T&E spend practices over time make sure to have expense reporting in place. This will allow your travel manager to see where each dollar is going in order to minimize wasted spend on future bookings. Reports will also allow you to have visibility into potential flaws in travel policy which can be altered for future travel.
Finding deals on corporate group travel
Reducing travel expenses often hinges on special rates or discounts. Most airlines offer discounted fares for group travel. In fact, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United all offer special discounted fares for groups of ten or more people traveling together. To access these rates, simply call the airline directly or fill out a group travel form on their website.
If your travelers are attending large event or conference, look into the nearest hotels. For larger events hotels sometimes have discounted prices for attendees of said events which can save you money. These rates may not be posted everywhere so check the event program for information and get in contact with hotels directly.
If there aren’t discounted rates available, consider using company rewards points. Travelers most likely aren’t going to use their personal loyalty points on company travel; but if you’re part of a corporate business loyalty program, you can choose to use your rewards to reap extra savings on these expensive bookings.
Resources and Tools for Planning Group Travel
In order for group travel to work on more than just a hypothetical level, the actual business travelers need to be content with their experience. Keep travelers and travel managers happy with a software platform like Lola.com that allows travelers to not only book their own travel but do it in minutes.
Lola includes these features helping to create a seamless and centralized corporate travel experience:
- A traveler map to make duty of care simple and ensure employee safety
- Sharable itineraries to aid in simplifying communication which is especially helpful for group trips
- Book on behalf features allowing employees to book for one another
- 24/7 free customer service to answer any questions or handle any last minute changes that are inevitable while traveling
- Savings features to keep travelers within policy by clearly indicating the amount they are within or outside of policy
- Reporting capabilities to increase visibility of spend in real time bookings are made
The struggle of corporate group travel is maintaining complete organization while striking a balance between the company's budget and travelers’ comfort.