What is a travel manager?
A travel manager is responsible for all aspects of business travel. They help design a company’s travel policy, manage travel arrangements, assist with choosing the best corporate travel agency for the business, organize and monitor travel expenses, and look out for the well-being of business travelers. Post-trip, a travel manager is in charge of analyzing data and using it to streamline and improve future travel. They must possess the right set of skills that include excellent communication and organizational skills as well as be keen, strategic thinkers.
Previously, the role of a travel manager was undertaken by an office manager or someone within the HR department who organized travel on top of their other responsibilities. Nowadays, more and more companies of all sizes are seeing the benefit in hiring a dedicated corporate travel manager.
What does a travel manager do? Main tasks and responsibilities
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. The policy should contain information about the following aspects of the company’s business travel practices:
- Booking procedure and approved travel booking tool
- Allowable cost of booking (hotels, flights, ground transportation)
- Special exceptions or rules for more expensive cities or routes
- Preferred company vendors
- Approval process for trips that exceed typical limitations
- Reimbursement process
- Permitted and not permitted expenses
- Travel debriefing process
- Travel insurance carrier
- Duty of care vendor or procedures
Overseeing travel plans and arrangements
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 its 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.
Managing expenses and the travel budget
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 trips to simplify finance tracking.
Putting a cap on credit cards and expenses gives 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.
Embracing 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. Online corporate travel management 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 technological 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 while COVID-19 drastically reduced business travel in 2020, the industry is already recovering at an encouraging pace and is expected to make a full recovery in the coming years.
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?
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.
A travel manager constantly seeks to improve the business travel experience for team members and is also bound by the duty of care, ensuring their safety and well-being.
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. With the emergence of new technologies like TravelPerk, many of these tasks can be handled and managed by the travel manager in a way that is perfectly in line with the company’s travel policy.
We caught up with Natalie Marcantonio, office manager at Quadmark to hear her thoughts on corporate travel being an appealing area to work in:
"Within our area of work travel has always been a crucial part of delivering our training and meeting clients and our employees. We are a global company with a flex of remote working. Being able to travel and meet with our team, clients and attending events globally was up until the covid pandemic a huge part of our company." (Natalie Marcantonio, Office Manager, Quadmark)