Business travel is fast becoming an integral pillar of a smooth-running business. Owing to it, all the aspects and moving parts of all of a company’s numerous travel plans form a vast information overload on a company’s business travel manager. The person working on it would often find themselves overwhelmed with all the different queries, requests, suggestions, and non-negotiable changes, and last-minute adjustments made by all the people involved in business travel in the company. All of these issues multiply and compound however large and sprawling the business is. Therefore large businesses usually find themselves hiring a travel management company that has the experience and a system of structured flow of steps to automatically take when dealing with any type of issue or query. Such a system or structure is called the Travel Management process flow.
Travel Management Process Flow
It inevitably will become a cluttered mess, if one tries to manage and schedule an entire business’s travel arrangements via a series of emails or messages or anything of the sort. However, what a business travel manager, whether internal or external, must do is overview all the different trips and travel arrangements of a business. Let’s look at the flow of such an arrangement.
1. Determine priorities: negotiable and non-negotiable.
All the parties involved in any particular business travel, have different priorities. The parties usually involved in a single trip are an administrator, the manager, the traveler, and the client. Each has demands, queries, and suggestions, and a business travel manager must figure out a plan that works best for everyone. The administrator would look for a financially compatible trip that aligns with the travel policy and mean allowances that the business provides for business travel, the manager will be satisfied with an efficient and quickly done trip while the traveler will be looking for a decently comfortable trip which could involve perhaps a rest/off day to indulge in the city for leisurely travel after a successful business leg of the trip. The clients will also be looking at the trip to fulfill their own schedules and deadlines and for it to have a swift closure. And every business itself can have its own unique constraints and conditions. The travel manager needs to prioritize the most important of these and build an efficient plan accordingly.
2. Incorporating Open Booking as a part of the Travel Policy
Open booking means that the traveling employee is given the freedom to book their own travel and accommodation arrangements prior to their trip. It is an alternate approach and it is seen as giving the employee more headspace and flexibility to make their own decisions. The regular and traditional approach involves the business travel manager or an externally hired agency taking these decisions. But with changing times, open booking has earned a steady liking. A business trip above all has economic functions, where a successful trip means opening up both parties to new economic avenues and opportunities. To that end, the traveling employee’s well-being during and prior to the trip is of great importance. And managers have seen that open booking and the traveler getting a day off prior to or after the meeting dates do help employees remain fresh and headstrong during business hours. Which leads to better business opportunities.
3. Streamlining processes
A lot of the delays and bottlenecks in processes prior to and during a business trip are awaiting process approval and policy checks. Installation and incorporation of AI supervision or process streamlining systems will create a smooth flow of processes with much fewer bottlenecks in the way. TMCs often do incorporate AI or specialized operators for streamlining functionality. Which internal managers need to catch up on. Because streamlining processes and bottlenecks is crucial for travel management process flow.
4. Provide direct support and duty of care
With an employee on the field, a lot can go wrong with a business trip. Wrong or delayed bookings, overbooked flights, cancellations, force majeure, and whatnot. An employee may or may not be inclined to be calling their bosses directly about this. And on the other side of the coin, they may be very frustrated if their office can’t help them deal with this. A TMC can be a great solution to this but that usually takes away the perks of open booking in most cases. However many TMCs are inviting the idea of open booking and some booking platforms also provide 24/7 post-booking care services. Travel managers should be looking for these organizations and platforms for their employees so that direct on-field support and duty of care is never a point of concern during the business trip.
5. Optimize travel management and travel budgeting
Business travel can be a complicated expense. With optimizations to travel management, keeping track of the budgetary flow and reducing it should be a procedural goal. Creating a budgetary projection for next month, next quarter, or next month can be straightforward, but for a finance manager or CFO to keep track of everyday travels is asking too much.
A TMC will keep track of daily expenses, create charts and reports about weekly, monthly, and trip-wise expenses. All of which will lead to leaner spending and higher returns on spending.
Quarterly and yearly reports are still a very big necessity but this sort of micro-level lens helps managers truly understand business trips and their finances. And over the long term, this data and understanding will smoothen the travel management process flow even further.
Complications and bottlenecks in business travel will become commonplace as businesses try to cut down on costs while trying to make the best of available resources. Unfazed by the Covid-19 slowdown, business travel is growing at unprecedented rates. Therefore businesses today look for a seamless experience when looking for business travel management options.
With detailed reports, on-field support and duty of care, and streamlined booking processes, TMCs or specialists can be a value add to any organization. However, hiring or moving an internal team to prioritize business travel solutions is also an option for those looking for cheaper long-term answers.