Companies that spend heavily on business travel could see profits soar by as much as 47%. That is according to new research by the Harvard Business Review.
The research shows that companies with a strong travel culture – where the leaders see corporate travel as an investment rather than an unnecessary cost – experienced much better business results compared to those with a weak travel culture. Travelling companies saw double the rate of improvement in areas such as customer loyalty and retention (50% vs 21%), market share (43% vs 22%), and employee satisfaction (35% vs 15%).
There can be no denying that in-person interactions foster closer relationships with customers and business partners. For organisations operating on a global scale, face-time demands investment in travel. It enables employees to build closer relationships with key customers, collaborate with partners and suppliers better, and to understand customer needs and create the kinds of experiences that they want the research shows.
While it is clear from the findings that cutting back on business travel will not save your company money in the long run, there are various ways to be smart about travel spend. Adopting a traveller-centric company culture doesn’t have to break the bank, says Oz Desai, General Manager of Corporate Traveller. The key, he says, is to strike the right balance and ensure optimal return on investment.
Desai shares four ways to help companies manage their business travel spending:
Implement a company travel policy
A travel policy is an essential tool for both a company and its employees, as it helps ensure that any travel conducted pays dividends. Although a travel policy is often viewed as a way for a company to ‘police’ the travelling employee, that is not what the document should be about.
A good travel policy matches an organisation and staff’s unique travel needs with the goals of the business. It provides travelling staff and travel bookers with useful information and, more importantly, provides parameters when booking travel arrangements.
A typical travel policy will contain but is not limited to, guidelines for domestic and international travel, which airlines should be used, who should travel in economy and who is permitted to travel in business class. One of the significant benefits is that businesses can accumulate air loyalty miles and benefit from exclusive fares negotiated on their behalf.
There is power in having oversight on what you spend on travel and by looking strategically at how to make the most of that travel spend. That is where a good Travel Management Company (TMC) is essential. A TMC to book, analyse and review your spend for you, while continually looking for new ways to save money without impacting your travellers, is vital.
Leverage your Travel Management Company’s airfare expertise
The majority of companies with a strong travel culture use a single TMC, according to the HBR report. When using a TMC such as Corporate Traveller, companies will be working with travel managers with extensive experience in both leisure or corporate travel backgrounds. That means they are familiar with ticketing complex routes and are up to date with the latest fares, ensuring you have access to the best rates.
Experienced travel consultants know the tricks of the trade, which will help you to get the most from your airfares. They’ll tell you, for example, that it’s better value to book as early as possible. In 2016, the average client booking through Corporate Traveller saved 28.4% on the cost of a domestic flight when booking between 22 and 30 days in advance, compared with clients who booked just three to seven days before travel.
Your TMC will also advise you that rather than choosing fully flexible fares, you can save with semi-flexible tickets, which allow changes for a small fee. And, booking different cabins for the outbound and inbound journeys can reduce the overall price of a return ticket, especially when flights are full.
Enjoy loyalty programme perks
Encouraging staff to sign up for an airline’s individual traveller loyalty scheme can often mean benefits for your travellers at no additional cost. Just like airline rewards schemes, many large hotel chains have loyalty programmes that award points every time a traveller books. Points can be exchanged for a variety of discounts and freebies, increasing the travellers’ enjoyment and saving the company money.
Take Marriott for example. The hotel group's loyalty programme allows travellers to exchange points for retail gift cards and free hotel night stays at Marriott brand hotels, as well as premium experiences such as concert tickets and sporting events.
British Airways' On Business scheme gives points each time your travellers fly with British Airways, American Airlines, Iberia and other eligible partners, which can be spent on cabin upgrades and reward flights. Better yet, if you book flights using a British Airways American Express Corporate Card or Corporate Card Plus, you can earn 50% more points. Any of your staff signed up to BA’s Executive Club will continue to earn Avios points when they fly.
Emirates Business Rewards programme gives one Business Rewards Point for every USD1 spent with the airline. Companies can register as many employees or guest travellers as they like, and points can be redeemed for travel in any class or for one-way or return class upgrades on most Emirates flights.
Take advantage of free extras
Usually, to qualify for an upgrade or negotiate a discounted rate at a hotel, companies would need to commit to booking a minimum of 100 nights. That can be a tall order for many businesses, especially those with a small travel spend.
That is another example of how a TMC service can be useful. Corporate Traveller has access to the Flight Centre Global Hotel Programme, an easy-to-use booking solution that has a wide selection of hotels and discounted corporate rates.
Corporate Traveller’s SmartSTAY programme also provides additional extras such as free breakfasts, late and early check-in and free upgrades, which can mean considerable savings.