You did it! You got the job and you’re going to be a travel manager! How hard can it be after all? You’ve booked your own holidays on the internet over the years, and it’s easy enough giving a hotel a quick call to make a reservation, right?
Whilst being a travel manager can be a rewarding role, when organising corporate travel requirements there are many things to consider which you wouldn’t normally when booking for yourself. Not only will you be booking for numerous people to various destinations, all with different preferences and specific needs, if you make a mistake it’s your travellers and not you who will be stranded at the airport missing that crucial meeting. Not only could this impact the growth and success of the business, it will also mean exhausted and frustrated travellers directing their anger at you.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, here are our top survival tips for first-time travel managers… and remember…you can do this!
#1 Be organised
This may go without saying, but being organised is the number one rule for any new travel manager. If you have been employed solely as travel manager, chances are there are numerous travellers and trips happening at any given time which you are directly responsible for the smooth completion of. If you have other responsibilities as well as booking business travel, you need to ensure you are well organised so you can effectively manage your time and keep on top of your workload.
Booking travel can be quite frenetic at times, especially if you have high maintenance travellers who make a lot of changes to their tickets. A good tip is to create a folder in your email system for each traveller to keep on top of your inbox, or to put the passenger name and destination in the subject line of the emails. This way you can easily find the last email relating to the trip or traveller quickly finding their itinerary and booking confirmation details.
Make a separate file for each traveller with all their important travel details on, such as their date of birth, passport details and frequent flyer preferences much like a traveller profile form a business travel agent would use. Also, keep a note of their seating and dietary preferences as well as any other special requirements. Once you start on a booking, you will want to get it completed there and then before the price rises so you need to avoid waiting for the traveller to get back to you with any missing information.
#2 Have a travel policy
This may already be in place, or you may have to create one for the first time – but a comprehensive business travel policy is essential to effectively booking corporate travel for your company.
Not only will it eliminate you booking something you aren’t supposed to, but it will also mean you have a point of reference for any pushy travellers asking you to book something they aren’t supposed to.
The key to any good business travel policy is for everyone to be aware and working off the same page. If your travellers are not complying, make sure they are fully aware of what they can and can’t book from the start, making your life organising their business travel requirements so much easier.
If you need help with creating a travel policy, here is a FREE guide to making your own.
#3 Be proactive
It can be a daunting task overseeing everyone’s travel plans. You may have people from all levels within the company asking you to book things for them, and whilst it is your role to assist them, it is also your role to ensure the smooth running of the business travel programme and to ensure corporate travel costs are being kept to a minimum.
If you have a traveller who changes their mind on dates and times for travel on many occasions before finally confirming, suggest they come to you when they have a more concrete idea of their itinerary. This will cut out a lot of unnecessary work researching options for a trip that’s dates aren’t yet confirmed.
On the flip side – if you know a trip will be happening and the traveller hasn’t booked yet, proactively ask them for the details so you can get working on it before the prices rise too much. The general rule of thumb is the earlier you book flights and hotels, the cheaper they are, being ahead of the game is key to keeping costs down.
Remember to explore your options! Try to see if you can get the cost of the trip down by using different different airlines or indirect options as this can dramatically reduce the cost too. Availability on a flight determines the price, which means you could find a much cheaper flight on the same airline, just at a slightly different time. By researching different options when looking into flights, you can rest assured you are getting the best value for the company and eliminating unnecessary overspending.
Just be sure to make the traveller aware, and if they still choose the less cost-effective option, keep a note of missed savings for when your company reviews the business travel policy or looks for ways to reduce corporate travel costs. A good Travel Management company will provide this data through an Account Management service, using MI reporting to give you all the business travel data you need to alleviate future costs.
#4 Be aware of the ticket rules
This may be one of the biggest differences when making the jump from booking your own holidays to booking corporate travel and could be something you haven’t ever come across before.
Each flight ticket will come with its own set of rules and flexibilities and you should always be fully aware of what they are before making the purchase.
If you know the traveller may change or cancel their, consider semi or fully flexible tickets. The cost of these will be higher than the non-changeable or non-refundable tickets but are cheaper than losing out on the ticket and buying a new one – especially when taking into account the almost certain price rise since you booked the initial ticket. The same can be said for hotel bookings, some come fully refundable, some non-refundable and some are refundable up to a certain date, so make sure you are aware of the rules before booking.
#5 Be prepared
You’re doing well! You’ve sourced the best deals for your trip, your travellers are happy, the Accounts Department are happy and your Finance Director is over the moon. What else is there to think about?
Many travel bookers tend to forget one of the most important aspects of sending employees to foreign countries, making sure travellers are safe when away for business.
Duty of Care Compliance refers to the moral and legal obligations of employers to their employees in maintaining their well-being, security and safety when working abroad, and as their travel manager, you need to ensure there is a process in place should an emergency arise. (Here we have 7 Tips to help you create a crisis management plan)
Emergencies can vary from little things such as lost passports or missed flights, right up to things out of you and your traveller's control, such as terrorism, natural disasters or world events.
So, in your business travel programme, you’ve already considered employee safety for as long as you can remember, but how much thought have you given to your travellers’ happiness and well-being?
Travelling for business can be exhausting for employees, long periods away from home, Jet Lag and high-pressure meetings can take its toll on a person’s well being (do you know how happy or unhappy your travelling employees are?), the very least a company can do is to ensure they are looked after in an emergency.
To avoid being called in the middle of the night when an emergency arises, make sure you let your travellers know the correct emergency numbers and processes for all the suppliers you have booked the trip with. Ultimately the easiest and most effective way to comply with Duty of Care is by enlisting a Travel Management Company providing a 24/7 out of hours service. By doing so, it means the whole trip can be amended in one call without you being woken up at 3 am.
#6 Consider a travel management company
Sometimes managing a large business travel programme alone isn’t the best way forward, and in these instances, you should think about the value a travel management company (TMC) will add to your role.
The biggest concern for a travel manager when considering enlisting the help of a corporate travel agency, is the worry of their role becoming redundant - this is far from the case! Your company will still require you to co-ordinate the travel inhouse, but by working with a travel management company you can add value to your bookings whilst also eliminating the time you spend looking into trips.
Business travel agents work alongside you as an extension to you and your company. They do the hard work researching and sourcing the best options available, meaning you don’t have to! What's more, is that they will also have access to fares and rates which aren’t published online and unavailable to you (via their Global Distribution System).
Another benefit is that travel management companies can also hold seat prices for you whilst your travellers decide on concrete travel plans, helping you to avoid having to restart the booking process all over again.
A good travel management company can help with all of the above tips; from creating and enforcing the business travel policy for you, to giving expert advice on ways to lower your business travel spend, whilst having all your bookings under one roof. This all comes especially in handy when needing emergency assistance, or even just when you need a copy of an invoice you’ve misplaced.
Hopefully, the above tips will help you navigate the first months in your new role. If you have any tips for a first time Travel Manager then we’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment in the box below...