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10 top tips for business travel

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Travel is an essential part of an exporter’s business; here are 10 ways in which your business should manage its travel to achieve time and cost savings. For businesses with a global presence, business travel is essential to growth. Across different parts of the world it facilitates the face-to face interaction needed to pursue new business opportunities, build critical relationships and secure new deals. Corporate travel should therefore be managed like any other controllable expense in your business. Taking a strategic rather than ad hoc approach where travel and entertainment activity is planned and measured can create significant time and process management efficiencies as well as tangible cost savings. A well-managed travel program will help your business monitor and measure all aspects of your travel from flights to accommodation, car hire, spend reporting, travel patterns and traveller security. To improve overall business performance, adapt these guidelines to suit the needs of your organisation, and help protect your travellers and your bottom line.

1. Work with one travel manager

For exporters, travel is an essential operational component, so travel management requires specialist expertise from a single travel manager or travel management company (TMC) that understands a business’ unique travel patterns, its needs and cost parameters. By using a dedicated TMC, your business has a single point of contact to take care of all your travel requirements, from bookings to insurance and visas to the negotiation of airfares. A travel manager has fingertip access to a ‘fares dashboard’, which shows the best airfares and hotel rates at the time of booking. By working with the one travel manager, businesses also have the security of knowing where their people are located at all times through a centralised booking system. There is also greater consistency in your business’ booking processes and travel patterns, which in turn can deliver long-term savings.

2. Create a cost savings travel plan

Ask your TMC to assess how your business spends its travel dollars and then work out a plan to reduce or contain those costs. This plan will help to define the level of service you need from your travel manager, strategies for business travel improvement, travel policy education for your staff, strategies to maximise your spend on air and accommodation and how you can provide traveller security.

3. Develop a travel policy

Put together a program that includes travel guidelines that everyone in the business must abide by, from the top down. The policy will include guidelines for booking accommodation, flights and car hire that will help to drive savings through strategic travel management. Make the policy black and white. This puts the onus on the traveller to think about how they are booking their travel and helps to develop a whole-of-business attitude that’s geared towards cost efficiency.

4. Educate your staff

Communicate the guidelines of your policy to staff clearly. This ensures all of your people know what is expected of them when they’re travelling for business. Staff should know about any changes to the policy and should be able to access the document easily. Your TMC can help you educate your travellers on the best way to achieve cost savings by focusing on ensuring business travellers understand why changes are needed, the benefits of the change and how it impacts them as individuals and as a business.

5. Streamline your air travel

The cost efficiency of your organisation’s air travel can be streamlined using a range of strategies including:

  • Working with your travel manager to source the lowest logical fares, also known as Best Fare of the Day;
  • Analysing whether more cost effective classes of travel can be booked, for example Economy class for domestic flights and minimum flight times for Business or First Class;
  • Businesses can also consider low-cost carriers for short-haul flights;
  • Ensuring there are ramifications for people in your organisation who make non-compliant bookings.

6. Maximise hotel bookings

Your travel manager should be able to assist you to further leverage your existing hotel program or accommodation processes so you can achieve better savings. You can do this by:

  • Analysing your accommodation patterns to determine whether there are more cost effective alternatives that are equally convenient;
  • Identifying preferred hotel suppliers to be included in your travel program;
  • Negotiating on the total cost of your accommodation by including value-added services specific to your business’ requirements, for example telecommunications, food and beverage, laundry;
  • Monitoring your organisation’s compliance to your hotel program by identifying leakage and lost opportunities for savings;
  • Proactively benchmarking your hotel rates against similar sized clients in the market to ensure your rates are competitive relative to current market conditions and renegotiating if the hotel rates are found to be uncompetitive;
  • Mandating that all business hotel bookings are booked through your travel manager where possible, to give your TMC more negotiating power to secure the lowest rates from suppliers.

7. Save through advance purchase

Include guidelines in your travel policy to encourage travellers to book their airfares as early as possible. A recent FCm study showed businesses could save up to 72 percent on the cost of their air tickets if they book three weeks in advance rather than at the last minute.

8. Hold regular reviews

Work with your travel manager to continually assess the success of your travel policy and program through benchmarking. Your travel manager can also help to identify opportunities to reduce costs by looking at items such as travel policy compliance, missed savings, advance purchase airfares or fees incurred through booking changes.

9. Protect your travellers’ security

Risk management planning is a vital part of protecting your business travellers. It is important that your travel manager can assist you in your duty of care to employees on the move or planning to travel. As a minimum, ensure a central travel policy is in place and that your travellers’ profiles have been supplied to your travel manager, conduct all travel bookings through the one TMC, and ensure business-wide compliance with your policy: this ensures your travellers can be readily located in the event of a crisis. Businesses should also use the risk management services of their TMC. These services can help minimise the travel-associated risks to your people, alert you to any incidents worldwide that may affect your travelling employees, track the whereabouts of your people and assist with transfers and urgent changes to bookings. This level of duty of care is essential, particularly if your people are travelling to places that are dangerous or unstable. Comprehensive travel insurance for your travellers is also important, as are comprehensive briefings for your travellers on all health-related requirements, such as vaccinations and precautionary medication, before they depart. FCm also recommends that you work with your travel manager to identify any potential safety hazards prior to each business trip and ensure all visa, passport and foreign currency exchange matters have been organised prior to departure.

10. Develop a handover strategy for travellers

Organisations should develop handover strategies that employees can use and adopt to suit their needs when they’re travelling for work and away from the office. It should be effectively communicated and implemented prior to an employee’s departure. Introduce a buddy system where colleagues take over the portfolios of their buddies to ensure clients continue to be serviced by someone who is familiar with their needs. This system involves creating detailed notes that can then be reviewed at the handover stage. Buddy notes identify key pieces of information, key tasks or checklists that ensure continuity of service. Buddies can be introduced to key client personnel via an email, telephone call or face-to-face. This ensures everyone knows who will be in charge when his or her usual contact is absent. Your buddy should be able to access account information, contact details, websites, email accounts and the appropriate equipment to successfully take over. -Sally Gordon is the public relations manager for Flight Centre Limited’s corporate travel brands including FCm Travel Solutions (www.au.fcm.travel).

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