What is a travel manager?
A travel manager is a person responsible for all aspects of business travel. They help to make a company’s corporate travel policy, create relationships and deals with travel agents, and organize travel expenses. Post-trip, a travel manager is in charge of analyzing data and using it to streamline future travel. They must also have a set of skills that include excellent interpersonal and negotiating skills and a keen eye for data management.
What different kinds of travel managers exist?
Travel managers fall into two main groups: internal and external.
An internal travel manager is usually part of either the HR or finance departments and organizes travel on top of their other responsibilities. Startups and small to medium-sized enterprises are more likely to choose an internal travel manager due to cost restrictions and low-volume business trips.
An external travel manager can either work in-house or remotely and is more likely to specialize in corporate travel and be well-connected in the industry.
External managers may be freelance or part of a corporate travel management company (TMC). Those who are part of a TMC can often link their travel management with the travel agency arm of the TMC. This streamlines the entire process and saves the company money.
Responsibilities of a travel manager
Corporate travel policy
One of the main roles of a travel manager is to set a corporate travel policy. This takes into account all the potential costs of a trip and sets rules and guidelines for employees to follow when organizing a trip. With their industry experience, travel managers can coordinate special deals with airlines and hotel chains, reducing the overall cost of a company’s business travel. These deals then become a part of the corporate travel policy and make expenditure more predictable.
Booking transport and accommodation
Some companies decide to make their travel manager responsible for booking all the key parts of employees’ business trips, however other companies leave that up to the employees themselves. The two most important aspects are transport and accommodation, but responsibilities also cover travel insurance, airport transfers and much more.
With the corporate travel policy established, travel managers seek to book trips in accordance with pre-arranged guidelines so company managers know they are getting the best deals. Travel managers also include more specific details regarding transport and accommodation. For example, most corporate travel policies specify travel class (e.g. business or economy) and hotel categories.
Another aspect of corporate travel that is relatively hard to predict is credit-card management and in-destination expenses. Travel managers are in charge of setting acceptable spending limits for each trip, which again makes tracking finances far easier.
Putting a cap on credit cards and expenses give the company more control over business travel expenditure. However, for employee morale, there needs to be a certain degree of freedom. A travel manager is therefore responsible for striking the balance between freedom and cost efficiency. As the cost of living varies from destination to destination, spending limits must vary accordingly.
A potential pitfall here is that it is difficult to gauge the right amount for each trip. Therefore, a travel manager with experience in the industry is often a good choice due to their knowledge and resources.
While a corporate travel policy aims to cover all eventualities of a company’s business travel, it is important to analyze trips made. A travel manager must collate data from all trips to make informed decisions for travel policy going forward.
For example, if there are recurring instances of employees booking trips that exceed the budget, this aspect needs to be addressed. With a reliable dataset based on past trips, a travel manager can identify issues and consult employees to see what changes are necessary.
Finally, financial data is useful when setting KPIs and analyzing the profitability of business trips. Office managers can clearly see expenditure versus the gains of every trip to see which are most beneficial.
Using new technology
Technology related to business travel advances very quickly and travel managers need to keep up with it. Improvements in booking tools make things faster and more efficient for the entire business. For example, with a travel policy in place, employees now have the option of booking their own travel while following policy guidelines.
Another advantage of new technology is on the data side of corporate travel. Tools such as TravelPerk store data in one place so it is easy to analyze. A secondary benefit to intelligent data storage is that it cuts down on the need for streams of emails when organizing trips.
Therefore, keeping up with new advances gives employees more autonomy and travel managers more time to focus on other things.
Why is a travel manager important?
Costs related to business travel often represent the second-largest expense for companies, behind employee salaries and benefits. And as face-to-face meetings are still highly valued across industries, corporate travel shows no signs of slowing down. Both of these points mean that travel will continue to play a major role in a company’s expenses. Therefore, it is a good idea for corporate travel to be managed professionally.
How is using a travel manager different from not using one?
Whether the travel manager is an in-house member of the HR or finance department, or an external expert, using a travel manager adds a strong element of control to corporate travel. Unmanaged travel can lead to a lack of coordination and therefore increased and unexpected costs when it comes to organizing trips.
How is a travel manager different from a travel agency?
A travel manager is responsible for the behind-the-scenes organization and strategy of a company’s business travel. They recommend guidelines, set up preferential rates and give recommendations to employees, and are generally in-house.
On the other hand, a travel agency only plays the role of actually reserving flights, accommodation and other aspects of business travel.