Business travel is becoming more common for all employees. Today, it's not just C-suite executives that make business trips every year.
India is a big part of business travel, with 90% of businesses expecting employees to travel for work in 2021, and close to 80% of India-based employees keen to travel again for work.
Whether you have employees traveling to, throughout, or through India, there's a lot you need to know when building a policy that accounts for the country's travel policies.
Greater demand in business travel in India means a greater demand in travel expenses, India air travel or car rentals, travel budgets, company credit card allowances, and more.
Plus, corporate travel in India—both domestic and international travel—can come with significant expenses like airfare, hotel rooms, and personal expenses, to name a few. You need to ensure you outline how your company handles reimbursements for employees in India in a way that's accessible, learnable, and adaptable.
This article focuses on providing you with a solution to make travel reimbursements, and other typical problems of business travel in India, a whole lot simpler by formulating a company travel policy for employees in India.
What is a business travel policy?
A business travel policy is a set of company-specific guidelines that encompass all travel expense-oriented details, including expenses to be reimbursed, how they'll be reimbursed, and the processes your employees need to follow to get approvals.
The company’s financial controller typically creates a corporate travel policy, often collaborating with a travel manager. As well as financial elements, the policy can also outline details about
- Whether employees are permitted to fly business class or economy class
- When bookings need to be made
- Guidelines that need to be followed for traveling to a specific destination
- A company dress code or code of conduct
- How and with who all bookings need to be made (including hotels and airlines)
A travel policy streamlines your business's travel management process, from bookings to reimbursements. You can even allow self-booking so your employees can make travel arrangements for themselves.
Self-booking is more prevalent in the United States but is quickly catching traction in India as well. This allows your admin staff to free up some time that can be better spent elsewhere.
What should you include in a corporate travel policy?
Every corporate travel policy template for employees in India should ideally have the following information for you to tweak to your needs:
- Expense policy: your travel policy should have an expense policy section that lists the expenses payable to the employee. For instance, an employee may incur business expenses like travel and meals, entertainment expenses, and personal expenses while traveling.
The expense policy should clarify if your employees will be reimbursed only for expenses incurred for business purposes, or also for any personal-related expenses.
- Reimbursement process: The process of expense reimbursement should be communicated upfront with employees so they're prepared with the documents required by their approver or manager—if any.
This also lets an employee know when they can expect their expenses to come through, and how.
- Approved travel agency or vendors: Let your employees know your preferred vendors for travel bookings, travel insurance, hotel rooms, personal vehicles or ride-shares like Uber and Ola. It’s worth noting, you’re able to automate this process if using a self-booking tool.
This can help you cut costs if you've made an arrangement with a vendor that has a presence across the travel destination.
- Allowable booking costs: You should mention any total or per diem caps on room rate, dry cleaning, airfare, or incidental expenses, to avoid any awkward conversations at the end of the trip.
- Special rules for tier-1 cities: Outline any additional guidelines for employees traveling to metro cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, or Pune and mention the reimbursable expenses for these particular locations.
Since entertainment expenses may be high in these cities, you may want to exclude them from travel or provide a higher budget.
- Travel support and duty of care: From losing passports to falling ill while on a business trip, there are several things that can go wrong for employees. As an employer, it's your legal and ethical duty to ensure their safety as best as possible.
You’ll also want to provide employees details of how they can seek travel support while on the go. Mention the health expenses that are eligible for reimbursement and any insurance plans they’ll be on when traveling to locations throughout India or overseas.
International vs domestic travel
International and domestic travel can both be addressed with a single travel policy. While you can get away without a separate foreign travel policy for employees in India, there are a few things that should be addressed in the original policy.
For instance, a company may need to revise the cap on booking costs upwards for international travel or even provide a travel advance to employees if they’re usually located in India.
Your travel allowance policy in India may not stay relevant outside the country.
You may also need to add regional guidelines in the policy because the costs differ significantly for, say, traveling to the U.S. vs the UAE.
How does a corporate travel policy benefit you?
Travel policies aren't just about making rules; they're about efficiency and autonomy. Employees might not be excited about reading a 10-page document.
However, they will be excited to learn that they have the option to book a hotel room or choose the mode of travel themselves if using a self-booking platform like TravelPerk. All they need to do is book within policy. Rather than having to read through a lengthy doc, your booking platform should only showcase booking options within policy.
Any company policy that offers employees more autonomy typically sees more buy-in and helps you streamline internal processes. Plus, research on employee autonomy has proven to create more successful businesses in the US.
A comprehensive travel policy helps you optimize your travel spend so there are no unexpected spikes coming from an employee's travel expense claims. It also helps minimize costs by providing clear guidelines to employees on room rates, airfare, and eligibility for personal expenses.
A corporate travel policy also frees up some time for your admin staff, travel manager, and finance team. When an employee has queries about booking tickets or accommodation, for instance, the policy can act as an FAQ for your employees.
Most importantly, a detailed travel policy fosters a culture of trust and fairness. Employees have all the information they need, which reduces the frustration that often accompanies a long or complicated reimbursement process—or ambiguity about the eligibility of expenses.
Are there challenges to implementing a travel policy?
When was the last time you read a travel policy? This is where the challenge is. Your employees may not want to read a policy, let alone remember what's in the policy. Assuming your employees do read the policy, they're often hard to understand. As a result, your travel policy gets shelved, fast.
Companies often have a budget that doesn't align with the current cost of travel, compelling employees to book outside of the travel policy. For instance, an employee traveling to Mumbai is simply not going to be able to find a hotel room if your policy caps the rate based on room rates for Ahmedabad.
The non-compliance with trip policies isn't an employee-specific issue, nor a cultural issue, it's a global problem, but what that can be solved with the right tech.
Companies can address this issue by digitizing their travel policy. Here, digitizing doesn't mean creating a word document and emailing it to your staff, it means using booking technology like TravelPerk’s to implement the policy for you.
The tool will allow employees to book for travel within a preset framework, but raise a flag when they book out of policy. This helps employees learn by doing rather than requiring them to read through a long policy.
The solution: customizable travel policies
Automate the implementation of your travel policy through booking technology that allows customization whenever you need to.
Allow any admin or employee to book a trip as long as it's compliant within your policy. If the trip is non-compliant, the system will notify the relevant manager so they can approve the trip before it's booked.
If you’re trying to streamline your business’s travel bookings and automate your travel policy’s implementation, consider using a tool that’s equipped with powerful technology today. Your employees will have more autonomy and you’ll save up on time and resources; it’s a win-win.
Make business travel simpler. Forever.
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