Business travel expenses add up. From food to taxis to flights to accommodation, a single trip can produce dozens of transactions. Saving on employee business travel isn’t easy. Unlike other expenses, which are managed by department leaders, office administrators, and IT, business travel expenses are spent by everyone. That makes travel costs extremely difficult to both analyze and control.
Global business travel dropped by 61% in 2020 and is expected to regain its 2019-level spend by 2023 or 2027, according to different research. While long-haul flights may never fully recover, short-haul flights and ground transportation are expected to continue to gain speed.
As business travel rebounds, it’s important to keep an eye on expenses, so they don’t quickly get out of hand. No matter how frequently or infrequently your company travels, there are many ways to save.
Here are some smart ways to reduce business travel expenses.
What’s in this guide:
- Educate employees
- Invest in smart technology
- Find opportunities in data
- Streamline travel expenses
- Improve productivity
- Enforce practical travel policies
- Encourage shared transportation
- Advocate alternative accommodation
- Set an expenditure allowance
- Offer budgeting incentives
If you don’t educate your employees about your company travel policy, it is likely that they won’t know how to follow it.
It’s important for your employees to adopt your travel process fully, and for that to happen, they need to understand the policy and its significance. 60% of corporate travelers say they don’t understand the need for a company travel policy. So, make sure to highlight why the policy is so important. A policy increases fairness amongst all employees and makes it easier to ensure traveler safety. If employees are breaking policy by booking travel with the wrong platforms, travel managers won’t be able to track their whereabouts and provide duty of care. What’s more, a travel policy helps keep the business profitable so it can run (and continue to employ).
In your policy, it’s a good idea to outline what isn’t acceptable when traveling for business. These can be things like spending more than the daily allowance for food, opting for costly hotel stays, or using the company card to purchase clothing for events.
When making major updates to your policy, make sure to also discuss it in an all-hands meeting, include details in a company newsletter, or post an update on your intranet.
And keep in mind that policy documents can only take your company so far. You should consider a solution that allows you to create custom policies for specific team members, locations, and more.
Invest in smart technology
Technology can help make some of the most mundane or time-consuming admin tasks a breeze. The pandemic has shown us how much we can rely on technology to deliver outstanding results, so there’s more reason to introduce technology into your travel management processes.
Here are some of the benefits of using a smart platform for booking travel:
- Travel policies go into effect at the time of booking to prevent out-of-policy expenses.
- Business travelers don’t need to be reimbursed when the platform offers consolidated invoicing.
- Administrators and finance managers can log in at any time to access real-time travel spend data.
- Many platforms integrate with expense management solutions, reducing the need for manual expense reporting.
Tech can bring a sense of order to your travel management program. Without technology, you rely on people, which can present issues — mistakes can be made, it usually takes longer to acquire insightful data, and expenses can run high.
Consider advocating for smart travel technology within your organization. Explain the benefits that it brings (streamlined processes and accurate cost control) and what’s at stake without it.
Gett, our ground transportation platform, can help your business save valuable time and money by corralling ground travel costs in one place, with customizable policies. Gett can save businesses up to 45% annually on ground transportation spend.
Learn more about Gett – A global technology platform for corporate Ground Transportation Management, designed to save businesses time & money.
Find opportunities in data
If you’re using multiple providers, where employees are booking rides through various apps, you’re losing visibility. Booking through separate providers not only wastes the employee’s time trying to find a suitable vehicle, but you’re unable to optimize travel because you can’t see the full picture. How often are employees booking rides? How far is the average ride? What times of the day are employees booking?
Data equips your business with the knowledge you need to identify spending trends and optimize your budget in order to lower travel costs. For example, you might find that certain departments or teams are continually booking out of policy. Unless these teams have a legitimate reason for booking last-minute travel, they may well need to reign in their spending.
When your company is booking travel on a smart platform, you can collect all sorts of data, including:
- The average cost per trip
- Individuals and teams who spend big on a monthly basis
- Individuals and teams who spend big on a per-trip basis
- Individuals and teams who book travel most frequently
- Cost per team per time period
- Cost per team or entire company relative to budget allotment
Discover problems with data, and then solve them with smart policies. For example, you might find that too many employees are booking premium taxis. You could solve this problem with a platform like Gett by only allowing senior employees to book premium cars.
Streamline travel expenses
Submitting travel expenses manually is one of the most common gripes with business travelers and PAs. It takes 20 minutes on average to file an expense claim. One study claims that 19% of all expense claims contain errors, which take an average of 18 minutes to correct. That means that every fifth expense claim could take a total of 38 minutes to process. This time-consuming process also creates a lack of real-time visibility for finance managers and budgetary decision-makers.
Automatic expensing can drastically improve the traveler and admin team experience — manual ground travel management is, perhaps unknowingly, draining your resources. Did you know that although it only accounts for 5% of your travel spend, ground travel could zap 65% of your time and effort? That’s because most companies aren’t using a centralized booking system, which can lead to hundreds (or even thousands) of individual ground transportation expenses per month — rather than a lump sum invoice.
Choosing an effective ground transportation solution can streamline your business travel expenses by aggregating them into a single vendor. Let’s say your employees use taxis frequently. If you plan ahead, you can capture that spend in one place instead of struggling to account for it at the end of every month.
Travelers must ask themselves, is this trip necessary? Post-pandemic, there’s been a greater acceptance of virtual meetings, asynchronous communication, and other forms of remote collaboration. For some industries and roles, physical travel absolutely is necessary. But it’s also time-consuming, so make sure there’s a valid reason for the travel time. If you want to lower your company’s travel overall, you might include a flowchart in your policy and intranet to help employees make the call.
Travel planning itself can also be a massive waste of time. Too often, travelers have to communicate back and forth with travel managers or other administrators to book their trip. Instead, travelers could be given access to a travel booking platform where they can arrange their plans within policy. For example, with the Gett platform, travelers need only to download one app to handle all their ground travel needs. They can pick from various vehicle types to suit the situation and relax as they travel, knowing they’re riding in a licensed taxi. This can boost productivity by saving time for both the administrator and the traveler, who can book a taxi whenever they need without having to plan for it hours in advance. High-quality and stress-free ground travel experiences allow for improved productivity while traveling. Employees can feel better about checking their email or editing a presentation when they know they’re well taken care of.
Streamlined expensing and invoicing procedures also save time for administrators and travelers. Use a consolidated booking platform that integrates with your expense management solution. This reduces the need for reimbursements and expense reporting.
Enforce practical travel policies
Your company travel policy has the potential to save a lot of money. But it has to be enforced. Here’s how to make sure travelers are following protocol:
- Technology tips: A one-size-fits-all policy almost always isn’t accurate, making it impossible to enforce. A travel booking solution should allow administrators to create multiple types of policies. This way you can customize policies to fit individuals, departments, or offices. For example, junior-level employees might only be allowed to book taxis away from your home city, while senior-level employees can also book taxis locally. You should also use travel booking software to set different approval processes. For example, you might use your booking solution to encourage employees to walk short distances instead of hiring a taxi, or you might block short-distance bookings altogether.
- Individual guidance: When you book travel with a smart platform, you’ll be able to discover your worst policy offenders. For example, you’ll find which individuals have sought approval for out-of-policy trips the most often, and you’ll find which teams spend the most. You can use this data for individual guidance. Instead of railing against the entire company in an all-hands meeting about policy issues, you’ll be able to set up one-on-one meetings with the right travelers and department leaders to discuss specific compliance mishaps.
- Strong stance on unallowable expenses: Your company might decide to take a no-warnings approach to impermissible travel expenses. For example, if your policy states that minibar purchases aren’t allowed, and a traveler submits a reimbursement request for one, you might choose to not reimburse that cost. Or you could offer one warning per traveler only.
- Level of trust: What’s your company culture like? This should dictate the way that you enforce travel policies. For example, at very large corporations, employees might have a false view that the company has plenty of money to spare, and might be more likely to color outside of the lines. While, at a fresh startup that’s spending investor funding as opposed to revenue, employees might understand that their job and equity are on the line if the company can’t reach profitability. Employees at startups and small businesses might be more likely to follow the rules on their own. This means that trusting employees and taking a looser approach could actually benefit the company by continuing to foster a culture of trust. Your company’s mission and how much your employees are emotionally attached to it can also be a factor.
- Regular audits: Regardless of how you create or enforce your policy, make sure that your finance team is regularly auditing expense reports and transactions. With automated technology, less manual work is required, which means that your finance team isn’t studying each and every transaction. Consider requiring your finance team to review large transactions over a certain amount and to also create a system for auditing a sample of smaller transactions every month. Switch up your samples to cover different teams and transaction types.
Encourage shared transportation
When employees are traveling to destinations within or around the same location, it can be a major waste to not share transportation. Not only does it cost more, but it also increases the carbon emissions of trips and raises your company’s carbon footprint.
For longer, pre-planned trips, make sure to talk with team and department budget-owners about the importance of sharing car rentals instead of booking individually. Your finance team might want to occasionally audit car rental expenses for carpooling opportunities and remind those teams and individuals to share a car for their next trip.
Advocate alternative accommodation
For longer stays, one choice is to encourage employees to book hotels, Airbnbs, or apartments that include a kitchenette. This will help cut down on food costs. Travelers can cook sometimes, or heat up pre-made meals from a nearby grocery store.
While alternative hotels like Airbnb’s can save you money in certain cities, your company might be better off booking with a large hotel chain that allows you to negotiate rates. You’ll need to consider how frequently you travel to cities that popular hotel chains cover, and approach different chains to understand what sorts of discounts they can offer.
Accommodation expenses can quickly accumulate. These add-ons often occur within the fine print, such as WiFi, parking, and minibar charges. In your policy, make sure to outline which hotel add-ons are and aren’t allowed.
Set an expenditure allowance
Budgeting for business travel is a must. The more specific the budget, the easier it is to follow. You could set various allowances for ground transportation, accommodation, and food for all employees. For frequent destinations, including the maximum rate per night that employees should stay below.
If you book third-party ground transportation using an app like Gett, you’ll be able to prevent employees from choosing expensive alternatives like Uber or taxis that are marked up by hotel concierges.
And when it comes to food, a daily allowance forces employees to maintain their budget. If they want to eat dinner at a fine restaurant, they’ll have to bring their own lunch from home.
Offer budgeting incentives
Cutting travel costs can be very successful when incentives are offered to employees for staying on budget. You can track their compliance with your travel booking platform or expense management system. If you want to take advantage, continually reward teams and individuals who are frequently under budget. Or gamify the reward and create a temporary competition. For example, you could reward those who spend 75% or less of the food allowance.
Here are some ways to reward the employees who help your company save on travel:
- Gift certificates
- Prepaid credit cards
- Cash bonuses
- Team, department, or company lunches
When marketed internally, these sorts of incentives also serve as effective training. Getting the entire company onboard further solidifies the concept that cost savings are mutually beneficial.
As a business, you can’t save tons of money just by avoiding minibar charges. You need solutions that hit every aspect of travel, from planning productivity to expense management to actual cost reduction.