Hey travel managers! You! Yes, you. It’s time for your business travel policy check-up. And good news—the TravelPerk doctor is in.
Let’s take a look at your track record over the past year. Things were going well. Your travel program was pretty healthy until March 2020, although there was room for improvement. Maybe your travelers weren’t fully complying with your travel policy. Maybe you were incurring high cancellation or change fees. Or maybe you were just spending far too much time on simple tasks that didn’t need to take the time they did.
Then came March 2020. Business travel came to a screeching halt at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Your business travel policy became just another unused document. Now, as business travel begins to recover, it’s time to take the policy for a much-needed check-up.
Business travel is already on the road to recovery
At the time of writing this article, more than 800,000,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given. As the weather starts getting warmer, and the coronavirus vaccination rollout gets stronger, business travelers are growing more and more eager to get back on the road.
Domestic travel is returning at a faster pace than international travel. Our data indicated that towards the end of 2020, domestic travel had bounced back to almost 14%, whereas international travel lagged behind at just 7%. Sure, that might not seem like much—but it’s plenty to get us started. In fact, data from McKinsey gives us cause for optimism. China was the first country to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s naturally among the first to emerge from it. At the end of August 2020, for example, hotel and flight occupancy on domestic flights within China was at more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels. It's just a question of when rather than if.
2021 will be a year of transition
No one said business travel would be back in full force right away. No one said it would be the same as it was before the pandemic. But it will be back. And it will be different. That’s exactly why your business travel policy needs a strategic check-up today.
Both the way you travel for business and the reasons why will undergo a transformation. Things that we previously took for granted (like the value of sharing a business meal with a client) will become more highly valued. We’ll also have to reshape the way we think about what a business trip is.
So, what might this look like?
People will travel to bring together distributed teams
Many companies will have changed their people management over the next few months. It will no longer be about having everyone in one, centralized location or office. Companies will likely have several different hubs worldwide, and people will now have to travel to meet their teams in person. The “hybrid” working model that combines work-from-home and face-to-face contact will become the norm. And it’ll bring this new type of business trip with it.
People miss human interaction and connections
Business travelers themselves are itching to get back to traveling. A recent study revealed that 64% of business travelers enjoy their jobs less when grounded. They indicated that what they miss the most about traveling for business is the human connections that they forge with colleagues, clients, and customers. In fact, on average, these travelers miss out on 7 connections out of every 10 trips they couldn’t take. So, if you were wondering whether there is a need for business travel to return… There is.
There will be an increased need for safety and information
Safety and duty of care will take a front seat when planning a business trip. Travelers and travel managers will need to know all about the latest travel restrictions, travel advice, and safety measures implemented both at home and at their destination. They’ll need more information at the point of booking and in the days leading up to each trip than they did before. This includes things like entry requirements to different countries, vaccination information, travel insurance, health insurance, or other healthcare details.
Flexibility will rule the day
If the coronavirus pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we need to learn to live with uncertainty. That’s why booking flexible fares on flights, trains, and accommodation will become commonplace. With travel restrictions changing regularly, travelers and travel managers will need to be able to change or cancel any aspect of a trip to adapt accordingly. Without flexible fares and policies, that would become very costly.
The journeys themselves will be a little different
Travelers will need more than a passport to travel. They’ll need to provide additional travel documents as proof of having received the coronavirus vaccine, or a negative PCR/antigene test. Additional procedures like temperature checks or rapid COVID testing will be put in place at airports. Travelers will need to arrive earlier and more prepared. The use of trains is likely to become more prevalent as domestic travel recovers faster than international travel.
How to analyze your policy for business travel checklist
If you’re looking to give your business travel policy a much-needed refresh before the next trip you plan, start with the basics. Ask yourself the following questions to figure out what areas you need to work on.
For more in-depth information, download our helpful ebook How to Write a Company Travel Policy. You can also check in with our quick test to see if you need a travel management platform.
Are your employees complying with your company travel policy?
If your compliance rate is at less than 50% (check this), then it’s time to think about changing it. Consider why employees might not be complying with the policy. Do they know it exists? Is it easy to understand and follow? Does it afford employees the freedom to book for themselves?
Are you giving business travelers enough liberties?
Did you know that 64% of millennial business travelers prefer to organize their travel plans on their own? It could be a major pain point for them if your policy doesn’t allow them to do so. Using a corporate travel management tool, for example, that allows them to manage their own trips while browsing through an in-policy itinerary might be a good solution.
Does your policy accommodate flexibility?
The need for flexibility in the next normal is not up for debate. If your business travel policy doesn’t provide the ability to change or cancel trips on an as-needed basis, then it’s time to rethink that. Travelers need peace of mind in the knowledge that should they wish to change a trip for whatever reason, they can. Without incurring additional costs to their team or company.
Are you putting traveler safety front and center?
Restoring traveler confidence as we navigate business travel in this new reality is key. Show them that you can keep them safe by providing them with a tool that helps them keep track of all of the latest travel and safety measures worldwide. In these unprecedented times, being informed is the best way to stay safe.
Are you making the most of your business travel budget?
Do you frequently find yourself going over budget, or simply just spending a little more than you had hoped on business trips? In a time where cash is king, finding new ways to save can really help you take your business travel budget further. For example, using a travel management platform that helps you reclaim VAT on business travel expenses quickly and easily can make a huge difference.
Are you using a centralized platform to help you manage business travel?
Using consumer booking sites to book business travel is not the most efficient. If you have to open a thousand different tabs to book a flight and a hotel for a business traveler, then you should know that there’s a better way. With a good travel management system, you can book, manage, and report on business travel all in one place. The best thing about it? You’ll only get one, consolidated invoice per trip!
Does your current policy consider sustainability?
No, sustainability is not just a nice-to-have anymore. According to a recent study, 40% of top-talent millennials chose a job because of company sustainability. Including a “green travel” provision in your travel policy is a great way to make your company greener as a whole. Think about using providers that can offer you this option, like offsetting your carbon footprint when traveling for business.
Have you been woken up in the middle of the night by frustrated travelers before?
OK, so maybe that’s a little extreme. But, if you’ve had a situation where a traveler is having a problem, and you need to drop everything else just to help them, then the time has come to find another way. Using a service provider with 24/7 customer support (run by real people, not bots!) is the answer. That way, your travelers will always be provided for.
Do your internal approval processes need to be more streamlined?
Could the approval processes between finance and admin teams be more efficient? Do you think that you need a better way to collaborate when it comes to managing and reporting on business travel? Your updated travel management process needs to optimize these processes.
Is your travel policy automated?
An automated travel policy can make everyone’s life much easier. With the right travel management tool, all you need to do is set the parameters of your policy straight within its inventory. This will make the whole process from booking to managing business travel much smoother.
Feel free to use our travel and expense policy template to create your own policy.
Your travel policy diagnosis
There’s always room for improvement in much of what we do. Maintaining a successful travel policy that employees follow and engage with is a challenge. It’s something that must mold and shape with the times to reflect your travel manager’s and traveler’s needs. As we start to navigate travel in the new normal, these needs are naturally different than in a pre-pandemic world.
Help your travelers understand how to travel in this new reality. Offer them helpful "before you go" travel tips or a packing list that reminds them to take extra face coverings and hand sanitizer. Make it easy for them to access all of the information they need straight from their cell phones.
If you’re struggling to find the best way to adapt your travel policy, our dedicated team of professionals is here to help. Why not request a demo and chat with one of our experts?
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