4 Ways to Optimize Your Company’s Business Travel for Efficiency and Cost Savings

We may live in an age where people can work remotely and we don’t need to travel as much as we did 20 years ago. But if anything, there seems to be more business travel, not less.
In fact, business travel is essential to success in most industries: It takes up a large portion of resources, it means a lot of time spent doing something other than work, and the company is expected to cover all the employee’s living expenses on the road — food, lodging, transportation.
In fact, according to an Entrepreneur magazine article, business travel can claim up to 31 percent of a corporate budget.
To get your money’s worth the next time you or your employees have to travel for business, here are a few tips that should help you save money while still ensuring your staff is properly representing your company at your important meetings and conferences.
First, use a travel agency. For one thing, they’re plugged in to all the deals and steals on hotel and airline costs, which add up over time. Plus, travel agents most often get paid commissions on the travel plans they book, rather than getting paid fees upfront. So you’re not paying for the agent, the airlines and hotels are.
Lastly, consider the value of your employees’ time, especially their per hour cost. Rather than booking their own business travel, and thus losing those hours of productivity, you can recover that time by hiring a travel agency to make all your travel arrangements.
Second, create a corporate travel policy and stick with it. Rather than just coming up with suggestions and guidelines for best practices, make it a requirement for everyone to follow them. Create policies for things like meal stipends, preferred hotel and airline brands, reimbursement and receipts, and bleisure travel.
Be sure to get the input from your staff members so they’ll all feel a sense of ownership and buy-in. And we’ll take a risk and say, do not let your non-traveling employees dictate what the travel policies should be. We’ve seen business travel policies that look good on paper, but are a disaster in practice: 2-layover airplane tickets just to save $40, hotels in unsafe areas of town, travel itineraries that eat up a person’s weekend but doesn’t allow them time off to recoup those lost days.
Plan ahead. Think of the big picture and include everyone in your potential trips. Look at all planned trips and see if you can cut and consolidate. If you have two separate people flying to Atlanta and Nashville, is it possible to send one person to cover both cities? Are you flying people home for two days only to turn around and fly back out? Give them the option of a couple bleisure days between trips. You could ask them to cover their own hotel costs, but even if you paid for them yourself, it would still cost less than two roundtrip tickets for two separate trips.
Look for lower-priced alternatives. For example, an alternative airport with a rental car could be cheaper than a direct flight. For example, what are the money and time savings flying into Chicago’s Midway rather than O’Hare? Or are there nearby airports in smaller cities, such as Chattanooga instead of Nashville, Melbourne (Florida) instead of Orlando?
Regional airports typically cost less and they’re less hassle than the big-city hubs. They’ll have shorter lines, shorter wait times, and you can show up an hour before your flight instead of two hours; parking costs will often be lower as well. Plus, you can find significant savings in hotels that are a bit out-of-the-way. For example, smaller hotels may be willing to work out a deal, unlike their larger competitors. (However, don’t blow your savings on taxi and ride-sharing costs because you picked a hotel 20 miles from your meetings.)
Business travel doesn’t have to be a big drain on your company’s budget. Look for best practices, try to plan ahead to maximize your trips, use a travel agency, and set a corporate business travel policy to make sure everyone follows it.
How does your company manage its business travel? Do you have policies and practices in place, or does everyone handle their own arrangements? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.
Photo credit: RobertBMueller (Pixabay, Creative Commons 2.0)