Business travel trips provide the opportunity to network, meet clients face-to-face, attend conferences, and explore new markets — plus, they tend to be pretty fun. However, business trips are also a significant expense, often representing a substantial portion of a company’s operational costs. On average, companies spend around $799 per person per day during a business trip. That’s not cheap — especially if your company sends multiple employees on a few trips each year.
The good news? There are plenty of tools and strategies available to make corporate travel more cost-effective. From planning and booking to accounting and reimbursement, each stage of the travel process provides opportunities for optimization. Let’s explore six business travel tips that can help your company make the most out of its travel budget, ensuring that each trip is not just essential but also cost-effective.
1. Plan Ahead and Set Budgets
The early bird does catch the worm, especially in the world of corporate travel. When it comes to booking your flights, sooner is always better. Last-minute flights are typically more expensive — and the earlier you begin comparing flights, the more likely you are to score the best deal. The same is true for accommodations and transportation. It pays to book early — literally.
While you’re making arrangements for flights, hotels, and rental cars, it’s a good idea to go ahead and set a travel budget. A well-defined travel budget can serve as a guide for your employees, empowering them to make financially conscious decisions during their travels. By establishing clear parameters on spending ahead of time, you can prevent unnecessary expenditures and instill a sense of financial responsibility in your team.
2. Leverage Rewards and Loyalty Programs
Every trip can be an opportunity to earn for the next. Signing up for loyalty programs allows companies to accrue points or miles while traveling for business that can be redeemed on future bookings. Over time, these savings add up, empowering you to essentially pay for your travel by traveling.
It’s also smart to establish a company travel policy. A travel policy is a company’s rules and procedures that define and regulate business travel arrangements and employee expenses. A travel policy benefits employees and businesses alike, providing more autonomy and flexibility over the booking process, promoting fairness, and limiting unforeseen expenses during travel. Pro tip: Looking into a company credit card that automatically tracks and controls company spending during travel is a great way to monitor expenditures in real time — ensuring no one is overspending.
3. Utilize Technology for Savings
Business travel is still incredibly important, but modern technology can help you connect across borders when airfare is out of the budget. The advent of reliable video conferencing tools has made virtual meetings more effective than ever, and by switching to virtual whenever possible, companies can eliminate some travel-related costs altogether.
However, when it’s time to close the laptop and hop on a plane, leveraging travel apps and tools that compare flights, accommodations, and transportation prices can ensure your business always gets the best deal. Some travel management tools will even book the trip for you!
4. Take Advantage of Expense Tracking and Reimbursement Software
Manual expense tracking is not only a tedious and time-consuming task — it’s prone to errors. Harnessing the power of expense management software ensures employees can easily report and get reimbursed for expenses, and you can accurately monitor and record them.
Encouraging employees to use mobile apps to log expenses can streamline the reporting process. A tool that offers easy receipt scanning can especially be beneficial, ensuring that nothing gets missed and the submission process is seamless. Plus, a seamless and digitized expense tracking process means less work for you when it’s time to reimburse employees.
5. Encourage Cost-Conscious Behavior
A penny saved is a penny earned, and this adage holds true for business travel. Here are a few ways to cut back on costs by empowering your employees to be cost-conscious while they travel.
- Set meal allowances: Establishing a daily meal allowance can help regulate food expenses and allow employees to enjoy their meals without splurging. Plus, having a predetermined meal allowance can streamline the expense reporting process. Employees won’t need to keep and submit every single meal receipt, saving time for both the employee and your finance department.
- Encourage shared accommodations: Platforms offering shared lodging options for groups can be a game-changer. If multiple employees are traveling together, consider this to cut down on costs. Not only does it reduce the financial burden, but sharing accommodations can also foster team bonding and camaraderie. Plus, shared spaces often come with communal areas that can be used for impromptu meetings or brainstorming sessions.
- Utilize public transportation: While it might not always be the most convenient, public transportation is often a fraction of the cost of taxis or rental cars. By familiarizing employees with public transit options in their destination city, you can drastically reduce transportation expenses. Using public transportation can also offer employees a more local experience of the city they’re visiting, potentially boosting their overall trip satisfaction.
6. Evaluate Travel Necessity
Questioning the “why” before every trip can be enlightening and cost-effective. Before approving travel, managers should evaluate its true necessity. Will the trip contribute to business goals or can its objectives be achieved differently? Sometimes, sending one representative instead of a whole team or conducting a seminar online can be just as effective as sending multiple employees on a trip — and it’s far less costly.
Travel is essential to many businesses, bridging gaps, forging alliances, and driving growth. However, the misconception that effective business travel equates to exorbitant costs is just that — a misconception. By embracing these business travel tips and cultivating a culture of cost awareness, your company can navigate the complex landscape of corporate travel, ensuring that every trip is productive and economical.