Recent months have been turbulent, to say the least. But the professional world is beginning to bounce back – including with the resumption of business travel where possible.
We’re watching as international borders, airports and selected airlines establish new procedures that prioritise health and safety for individuals embarking on business travel. Travel corridors, compulsory travel regulations and stricter border controls are set to become the norm and, because of the fast implementation changes, it’s no wonder businesses may be feeling overwhelmed when it comes to designing their business travel policy.
To help make that process a little easier, we’ve compiled some important considerations when determining your business’ travel policy – based on years of industry experience and knowledge – so you can devise a plan that allows your people to travel safely and with full confidence.
This advice is formed from ACE Travel’s 3 Cs attitude to business travel: with Care, Climate, and Cost being main considerations at all times.
You don’t need us to tell you that the well-being of employees should be a primary concern, but whether you are planning a domestic, European or International business trip, it is important to understand each traveler's individual needs. This is going to be more and more important as business travel develops. The starting point should of course be talking with your traveller and understanding if they have any anxiety about travelling and explaining the measures in place that you have to support them.
Work Within Their Parameters
If you have employees that are eager to return home immediately after business is concluded, see if you can design a trip that works for them and limits time spent away. Having some flexibility for returning home sooner if possible could mean a lot to the traveller through a little added expense. It’s important to ensure that travellers feel cared for, and that you understand and value their personal requirements before planning a trip that works for them as well as your company. Your Travel Management Company should provide you with a range of ‘fare options’ at time of booking to allow you to decide the adequate fare and ticket restrictions that suit your policy and traveller expectations.
Ensure Your Employee is Fully Supported
Establishing reliable and clear communication links for employees whilst travelling is a vital way to assure them and their performance. As such, it’s important that they know there is a team ready and available to support them should they need it. Your policy could detail a daily check-in call, debrief or video meeting – whatever works for you!This will allow any concerns to be addressed promptly and efficiently. In a similar fashion, it’s a good idea to continue this communication following the trip. This will offer some further insight into how they found the trip and help identify areas that could be improved moving forward, allowing each person to travel with more confidence. Remember that your Travel Management Company is an extension of your organisation – so always share traveller feedback with your TMC to ensure that appropriate preventative action is implemented following any negative experiences.
Provide Information for the Trip
Ensure that travellers have the tools and information needed for a smooth trip. From emergency contact information to traveller tracking software – make sure that they can access the services they need when they need them. This could be provided in a simple physical copy or perhaps in a digital drive for ease and convenience!
Many organisations make it a mandatory requirement for a traveller to read and evidence their knowledge of the destination advice provided pre-departure, demonstrating the traveller’s awareness of the correct business etiquette, cultural differences, health and visa requirements etc. As travel advice changes on a regular basis – ensure that your traveller and the relevant risk approver/travel booker check all up to date information prior to departure – it may well have changed since the ticket was booked and confirmed! A variety of sophisticated tools are available to support this requirement so work with your Travel Management Company to find the correct travel risk platform to suit your requirements.
Similarly, if they are a new traveller, or entering a new market, ensure that they are up to speed on the nuances of the destination – such as local customs, dos and don’ts, etc and work with your TMC to provide traveller training and briefings if required.
Finding more sustainable business travel options is quickly becoming a concern for businesses – with major industries and independent companies considering their carbon footprint, corresponding carbon offsetting methods as well as immediate actions that can be taken to strengthen their environmental stance. And this is set to become an integral element of future business travel – from domestic travel, to short European trips and long-haul International expeditions.
As a result, it’s a good idea to consider the environmental implications of your business travel policy and how they can be actively monitored and managed.
At times, sustainable choices can come at an expense to your business, so it may not always be possible to take the most progressive route. However, by determining a set tolerance for cost in relation to carbon emission or other environmental concerns, you can establish a policy that makes those decisions easier moving forward. Many travellers are also very conscious of the environmental impact and are keen to work within organisations where a positive sustainability system is executed, some travellers may even question this at the interview stage.
Cost will always be a key consideration in any business travel policy. Whilst it’s unavoidable, there are ways in which you can monitor and promote cost-saving initiatives.
Keep it flexible
Whilst it may be tempting to establish a fixed policy and be done with it, this could have a negative financial impact in the long run. So, ensure that your policy is welcoming to flexible fares. These bookings allow you to amend the date and time of your flight prior to departure – meaning if a meeting overruns or an internal transport link is disrupted, you’ll have the ability to swiftly rectify the situation and get your employee home.
Your TMC will be ambitious to lower your travel expenditure – utilising a variety of methods to provide cost effective solutions that meet with your budget and flexibility requirements. TMCs have experience in fare construction and will use their knowledge and partnerships agreements to present savings that can’t always be achieved in the public domain.
Equally, keep your policy flexible in order to account for any value added propositions. If your boundaries are too strict, it may not allow for recommendations which could benefit your traveller. For example, having the option to upgrade to Premium Economy class at little to no extra cost.
Book in advance
Perhaps the most cost-effective way to plan a travel policy is to book as far in advance as possible rather than waiting until the very last minute. Your TMC will provide management information evidencing how far in advance a trip has been booked. Many organisations closely investigate trips that have been booked too close to departure, perhaps evidencing the non-conforming travellers!
Pre-pay or bill-back hotels
When choosing a hotel and room, it’s best to pay the hotel in advance or engage in your travel manager’s bill-back scheme. This ensures that your employee is not left to deal with the financial concerns and additionally ensures that no changes are made to the booking at an additional cost. It may seem a small consideration, but these things can quickly add up.
Pre-book car hire or other transport means – Research your travel options and pre-book these services in order to secure a fixed, often lower, rate. This also enables total tracking for cost and CO2, and eliminates the time-consuming job of claiming expenses. Arranging a complete trip for a traveller, including all of the logistical arrangements, allows your traveller to focus on the job at hand rather than experiencing the stress of hailing a taxi in a foreign country etc!
Analyse your MI
You can’t manage what you can’t control, and so it is very important that your TMC tracks and reports on all of your travel including ‘rejected fare savings’. Ensure that your travellers are aware of why you are utilising a TMC to avoid them booking out of policy and becoming ‘rogue’ travellers.
Ensure that your organisation is signed up to the relevant corporate reward schemes so that you can benefit from travel expenditure – using points accrued to drill down your bottom line. Similarly, track your MI to ensure that travellers are not booking their preferred carriers just to obtain their personal loyalty points!
Some travellers like to extend their corporate trip to allow for the opportunity to have some leisure time at their destination. Consider factors like insurance, costs, and duty of care whilst travellers are extending their corporate trip for leisure purposes, ensuring that there are no blurred lines in terms of duty of care.
In addition to ACE’s 3 Cs, there are a couple of other elements you should consider when devising your business travel policy.
For example, the majority of organisations implement an approval system to ensure that bookings are assessed by relevant personnel prior to confirming. It’s important to not make it overly complicated. An ‘approval tree’ can be created in many different ways; for example setting tolerance limits and only seeking approvals over certain values. Ensure that your TMC can implement, amend and capture your approval data to monitor compliance etc.
One of the most crucial parts of a successful business travel policy is to secure traveller ‘buy in’ and ‘compliance’. When compiling your policy, seek your travellers' opinions to get them on board and ensure that travellers understand why you are implementing a TMC. The traveller engagement will really drive the policy, so ensure that it is accessible and not too clunky. Some organisations have a simple, easy to read policy document working in conjunction with a traveller handbook – ensuring that revisions can be made easily.
If you require any assistance in planning or managing your business travel policy, or simply need more information on travelling during the pandemic and beyond, get in touch!