Managing your organization’s travel budget

In this increasingly connected world, business travel is seeing some major growth. In fact, Skift reported that in regards to business travel spending, business travel is set to “accelerate to 6.1 percent in 2018 and about 7 percent the following two years.” That’s a lot of money to account for in the travel budget.

When hearing the words, travel budget, many may cringe, knowing the horror stories of coffee-stained receipts and shrieks at denied reimbursements. It doesn't have to be a nightmare. There are many ways that travel arrangers can manage their organization’s travel budget more smoothly.

Here are just a few of our ways to manage a budget that works company-wide.

Set an official travel policy
While creating your travel budget, be sure to include clear and specific rules on what is permitted during employee trips in the travel policy. This includes identifying key personnel, reimbursement procedures and all employee expense parameters. By setting detailed guidelines on how employees can book their travel and manage expenses during their trip, travelers will have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. From there, they can hold themselves accountable for any discrepancies that may arise in future bookings.

Book in advanced
As obvious as this may seem, it’s important to ensure that you’re booking your trips ahead of time. An easy way for your organization to go over budget is to wait until the last minute to make reservations. It’s recommended to book flights 6 to 8 weeks in advanced.

Track and control travel expenses
Monitoring your travel expenses doesn’t end at what you’re paying for your traveler’s flight and accommodations. Based on your travel policy, travel arrangers must track what their employees are spending while on their trips, such as their meals. To do so, arrangers need to set how they will collect and analyze these expenses. With so many tools out in the market to aid in this, it’s important to figure out how they will do so. Applications like TripCase or SAP Concur offer features for travelers to snap pictures of their receipts, which can be saved to be analyzed at a later time.

Think about loyalty programs
Is there a specific airline that your travelers use frequently? If so, it may be worthwhile to invest in that airline’s loyalty program. For example, Delta’s SkyBonus program offers the opportunity to get free flights, upgrades and more when redeeming points. As you can imagine, this can be very useful to key personnel that may travel often.

Offer employee incentives
Does your budget account for a maximum amount for employee food expenses? If so, what happens when an employee goes under budget? If you’re unsure, it may be a good idea to reward those employees. While some companies offer cash back on the money travelers save, there are also other ways to reward these employees, like offering reward points or upgrades for future travel. While saving money, you’ll also be able to boost your employee’s moral. With incentives, they’ll be more likely to go under budget, saving your organization more money.

Get help from a TMC
Is your company’s travel budget getting too big for just yourself? It may be time to look into a travel management company. TMCs are equipped with specialized tools and systems that are not offered to the public. These tools all travel counselors within the TMC to compare fares from more airlines you can imagine. In a study from Expedia Group, it was found that consumers visit an average of 38 sites before booking. By using a TMC, travel arrangers will have save time and money for their organizations.

Be open to feedback
It’s important to hear what employees have to say about your organization’s travel policies. It will provide travel arrangers with some much-needed insight into what travelers need. They are the ones that are being affected by it, so they’ll have some hands-on experience into what is needed and what needs to be changed. Don’t be afraid to regularly collect information from your travelers. In the end, it’ll help you to manage a travel budget that works for both the organization and the employees.

Katlyn Pierre