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The role of a corporate travel planner

8 Sep 2021

Brought to you by TravelPerk, the #1 business travel platform.

The role of a corporate travel planner

A corporate travel planner—also referred to as a corporate travel manager—is responsible for every aspect of business travel. They play a valuable role within the business and can end up saving a lot on travel costs and other business travel-related expenses. 

In this article, you’ll learn all the benefits that come with corporate travel management and why it’s a necessary role to fill within your business. We’ll explore the ins and outs of what a travel planner does as well as options of employing a travel planner in-house or outsourcing this valuable resource.

What is a corporate travel planner?

A corporate travel planner is in charge of all of the company’s travel for all employees. From securing accommodation and venue spaces for events, to meetings, restaurant bookings, and various types of ground transportation—they do it all and more!

The skills required to be a corporate travel manager include excellent communication and great organization. Plus, they need to consider long-term company goals, so strategic thinkers make great corporate travel planners. 

Being adaptable is also essential considering the ever-changing travel conditions that corporate businesses face, particularly in this current climate.

What does a corporate travel planner do?

There are many tasks that a corporate travel planner will need to do when it comes to their job description and what’s expected of them. These are some of the typical duties you’d expect to find on travel planner job boards:

  • Handles credit card schemes and charges
  • Handles travel expenses and reimbursements
  • Looks after all overseas travel arrangements and logistics
  • Manages relationships with vendors and use of travel agencies
  • Provides all travel documents for insurance and any regulations in place
  • Develops relevant corporate travel policies and programs for corporate travel
  • Develops an improved travel program for both international travel and domestic travel

Prior to having a corporate travel planner, the role of a travel manager would usually fall into the hands of an office manager or someone that operates within the HR department. However, due to an ever-increasing rate of business travel, there’s more need for a dedicated and exclusive role for this task.

As well as having great communication skills, ideally, the individual needs quite a few years of experience within the travel industry. This experience is essential when it comes to acquiring travel, making rapid decisions, and handling crises. 

With 400 million Americans going on long-distance business trips annually alone, there’s no doubt the demand for this role will continue to grow, especially as we ease into a new way of travel.

So, we know you need a travel planner. Now’s the time to decide how and where you hire that person—or team. 

Hiring a corporate travel planner in-house vs. via agency

You can choose to hire a travel planner internally to manage their business travel booking, or you could seek an agency to supply the role for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Ready to explore a few? 

The pros and cons of in-house corporate travel planners

Firstly, with an in-house travel planner, you’ll likely have access to the role more so than an agency. Perhaps they’re sitting in the same office, or on the other end of a Slack message, either way, their priority is your business. 

However, with an agency planner, you only pay for the hours you need them for—without the financial commitment of hiring them full-time. 

One of the major benefits that come with having an in-house corporate travel planner is that your hiring manager (maybe you) has specifically chosen the person for the role. The selected individual is likely to be more trusted as a result. 

Having someone in-house can make generating and processing travel reports easier, as this person is traditionally more in line with the company goals and has great access to company data. There’s certainly a better awareness of the pattern of traveling for the business, and the expenses incurred because of this. 

Another pro is that an in-house travel manager can work closely with your finance team to ensure everyone’s keeping within the travel budget, finding the best rates for their bookings, and reporting to their line managers accordingly.   

To do their job better, an in-house corporate travel planner will likely utilize software and tools like TravelPerk that can assist with many of the daily tasks they have, and automate the more mundane ones. A booking tool like TravelPerk can help speed up most processes and save on time and your overall travel budget.

So, there are a lot of advantages, but what about the disadvantages of hiring an in-house travel planner? Well, expertise is crucial and it can be near impossible to meet the joint force and expertise of an agency with one person. 

Plus, having one travel planner may not be scalable. If your business suddenly has a great demand for travel bookings, one person will likely not be able to handle the workload. This will affect the quality of their service, and the speed of their work. It can also potentially result in some disgruntled employees and even losing your business money. 

The pros and cons of agency corporate travel planners

When you use a travel management company, you’re getting guaranteed travel experience from their team. There’s a high chance they can fulfill all of your company’s travel needs, whether it’s a nice-to-have or a must-have.

With an agency, you’ll likely have access to more than one corporate travel planner for your travel needs. Plus, you’ll get access to their toolkit—from booking flights, acquiring rental cars, or something else, they’ll have processes and systems in place to secure you a good deal fast. 

An agency can help develop a corporate travel management program that suits your business and its available budget. This means they’ll help optimize your cost savings and can track employee patterns of travel to ensure compliance with your company policy. However, they can only do this if you share your data with them, or use third-party software that you both have access to. 

Another bonus of outsourcing a corporate travel agent is that you’re not dependent on one individual, so there are fewer chances of your team being stranded if something goes wrong and they’re in an out-of-office hours timezone. 

When you’re outsourcing the work to an agency, you’re not solely dependent on one person. This can be a benefit to you as opposed to having someone in house. If someone from the agency is OOO, you’ll have someone else to turn to, whereas this may not be the case with a one-person in-house travel team. 

It’s not all smooth sailing/flying with a travel planning agency though. There are some negatives that come with an agency too. 

For example, if you’re a small-knit team and want a total overview of company culture, it may be tough for someone that’s outsourced to feel like a true team member and for in-house team members to feel they can truly relate to this person, or reach out with their needs.

Plus, typically, outsourced travel agents are handling multiple accounts. This means they may not always be at the other end of the phone when you need them. 

Travel management companies (TMCs) may not have access to a full inventory of flights & accommodations. Often, they’re tied into pre-established partnerships with various travel companies, which bring you limited and perhaps pricier options.

Lastly, TMCs tend to charge by the hour, which can mean by the minute! Rightly so, they’re not full-time members of staff and we need to respect people’s time. However, if you have a problem, solving it won’t be free and will most-likely cost you more than if you were dealing with an in-house role.  

A corporate travel planner is essential for your business 

When it comes to travel planning, it’s important to assess what your business travel looks like right now, and how much it’s costing your company.

If you’re a business that has travel plans beyond just your own country—and particularly within growing economies—then having a travel consultant at hand is a must. It’s not just about the savings in costs, but the efficiency with which your corporate travel is handled.

Being able to get multiple staff to various locations on time, finding the cheapest flights, rail, or car transfer, having the right protocols and policies in place for emergencies, they’re all tasks that can be handled with business travel management and someone solely responsible for this area. 

All you need to think about is whether or not you want to fulfill this position in-house or via an agency. 

Any business with corporate travel can benefit from having this role available to them, particularly for those who have frequent business travelers within the organization. It’s time to weigh up the pros and cons mentioned above and make a decision based on what your company will benefit from the most. 

If you need any advice along the way, TravelPerk is here to help. 

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