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The modern corporate travel manager guide

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All you need to know to become a corporate travel manager

As business travel continues to grow and is expected to rebound post-COVID-19, more people are considering shifting career path towards corporate travel management. In recent years, more companies of all sizes have been shifting from unmanaged to managed business travel. Where previously HR staff or office managers would carry the burden of managing all travel arrangements, it has become more commonplace to engage in-house travel managers and use the services of travel management companies (TMCs) to do this.

This has ultimately helped companies reduce their travel costs, better manage the time of other members of staff and increase the efficiency of the travel planning process.

This field has also gained a lot of popularity from people working or looking to start a career in the travel industry because corporate travel managers are known to receive significantly better average salaries than their leisure travel counterparts. According to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), corporate travel managers can earn over $10,000 per year more. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a travel agent’s median annual salary in 2020 was $42,350.

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The corporate travel manager job description

A company’s travel needs are vital to their growth and success and normally eats up large chunks of their budget. This means that the decision to hire a corporate travel manager is a strategic move that requires a strategic-minded individual to take on the task. Corporate travel managers are normally responsible for:

  • Creating and implementing the company’s corporate travel policy 
  • Overseeing all travel plans and travel arrangements
  • Managing and controlling the travel budget
  • Collating and utilizing data
  • Implementing the right plans to cover crises, security, and risk management while maintaining a duty of care. 

For more information on what companies look for when hiring a corporate travel manager, check out our previous article here.

How to become a corporate travel manager

The experience required to become a corporate travel manager is quite substantial which means there are no real entry-level corporate travel manager positions you can start out in. This makes becoming one a little trickier than other career paths you might choose. 

But fear not! We’ve outlined the four main steps to help you on your way to landing a job as a corporate travel manager:

1. Get the right education and training

While it is not unheard of to get a corporate travel manager job with a high school diploma and the right know-how, you increase your chances by having the right college degree. This includes a bachelor’s degree in areas such as tourism, travel, and hospitality. A master’s degree in the travel services industry will also give you more of an edge.  

Besides this, you should seek out further and more specialized training and certification from well-established institutions in the field such as The Travel Institute and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). Such courses will equip you with knowledge and skills in areas such as travel business administration, travel scheduling, travel accounting, international travel knowledge, and much more.

2. Learn GDS

GDS (Global Distribution System) is a reservation tool used by travel agents that is vital to master in order to enter the industry. It’s a complicated and tricky system but mastering it will get you very far in the industry. 

You can enroll in GDS courses or be sure to get GDS training while starting out in your entry-level positions (more on this next) early in your career to give you a head start. 

3. Start off on the right foot

While you won’t find entry-level corporate manager jobs, there are many positions you can occupy which will give you the experience needed to get there. Start off as an account manager or agent with a well-established travel agency, a reservation agent with an airline or cruise line company, or other similar jobs that will give you the introduction to the industry as well as the years of experience you’ll need going forward. 

4. Network, network, network

In pretty much any line of work, one of the best ways to get your foot in the door is to get to know the people inside and have them show you the ropes. Attend the right conferences, reach out to well-established travel consultants via LinkedIn and ask corporate travel agents if you can shadow them. Get your name out there and learn from the best.

Finally, hone these skills

Experience and qualifications aside, there are certain qualities and skills that you really want to master if you want to become the best corporate travel manager you can be. We also outlined these in our previous article but here’s a recap:

1. Know the travel industry inside and out

This might be an obvious one but it can’t be overstated. Understand its ins and outs and, more importantly, keep up-to-date with it. Stay on top of the trends, the policies, best practices, and the right tools to use (particularly, platforms such as TravelPerk). 

2. Become a master communicator 

Communication skills are vital for corporate travel managers. You need to be the biggest and best advocate of your company’s travel policy and everything it’s aiming to achieve. You’ll need to do this with staff members at all levels of your company. Furthermore, you’re their point of contact before, during, and after their trip and can have a big impact on improving their travel experience.

3. Think strategically

As we mentioned earlier, a good corporate travel manager is a strategic asset to any company. You’ll need to have an eye for data and the frame of mind to use that data to fine-tune your travel policies and practices. Be on the lookout for new ways to streamline your administrative processes in order to save your organization time and money and by improving the lives of your business travelers. 

4. Be well-organized

As a corporate travel manager, you’ve got a lot on your plate and you need to have a clear view of it all at the snap of a finger. This is especially true when you’ve got staff members booking, traveling, and returning from trips simultaneously. You need to possess great organizational skills and you need the right tools to help you do this. The best corporate travel managers use solutions like TravelPerk that give them full control and visibility of every aspect of their company’s business travel from expense tracking, obtaining actionable insights, and streamlined corporate travel management workflows. 

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