How to Implement and Grow Your Corporate Travel Program
Corporate travel programs can sometimes get a bad reputation, so much so that some employees are known to avoid using them all together in favour of organising business travel by themselves. But there’s no reason why this should be the case for corporate travel planners, and if you’re just starting to implement a program then you have a great opportunity to engage employees from the beginning.
From key services to the different software you can use, there are plenty of different aspects that feed into managing corporate travel, and that’s before you even get to promoting the services. In this article, we’ve put together a guide to setting up a corporate travel program and then shared different ways to grow and promote this.
In this article:
What is a Corporate Travel Program?
A corporate travel program is an internal hub for business and incentive travel within a company. Whilst some organisations choose to outsource their travel management and use an agency to plan this, many companies find that it is easier to have an internal program with dedicated staff that manage all of the corporate travel arrangements for the business.
Many corporate travel programs are set up so that employees can arrange their own business trips within an established system of providers. Travel managers will oversee these bookings and help to organise trips when needed, but they also oversee the system they have created that allows employees to have more autonomy when travelling for work.
Having a corporate travel program helps to save money and manage resources more effectively within a company, as you can control bookings, select transport and accommodation providers, and keep all of the information for trips in the same place. It can also help to save time when business travel needs to be arranged quickly, and makes it easier to rectify problems without too much of a negative impact.
Organisations with corporate travel programs tend to have more successful travel risk management systems, which help employees to feel more relaxed and supported whilst travelling and minimise mistakes that can cost the company money. These programs may take longer to set up when you’re starting out, but they’re definitely worth the investment for the benefits they bring to a business.
What to Include in Your Initial Program Launch
If you’ve been tasked with implementing a corporate travel program, there are several things that you should definitely include in your initial launch. The majority of programs grow and adapt over time based on the company’s needs, but below are the elements that you’ll need to establish a program and begin its journey successfully.
The majority of corporate travel programs have a selection of trusted providers that employees are directed towards when they’re booking business travel. This will likely be a group of transport and accommodation providers that the company has agreed to work with that they trust, making it much more straightforward for employees to sort out where to stay and how to travel
Alternatively, you might have partnered with a travel management company that organises transport and accommodation for you. You could also have partnered with a booking tool that lets employees organise this themselves, but only uses certain providers to do so.
What’s important is that employees know which providers they need to book with and that this information gets fed back to your internal management team so it can be recorded.
If employees are booking travel themselves, you need a system to track expenses so that they can claim back the money they spend whilst travelling for work. There’s plenty of existing software out there that you can use to manage this, or some corporate travel services have systems custom-built to fit their needs.
Along with a system for tracking expenses, make sure that your business travel expenses policy is clear. You might have limits on the amount that employees can spend or only allow them to claim back money from the business for essentials, and this needs to be clearly communicated to avoid any mistakes.
Business travel risk management is a huge part of a successful corporate travel program. Your employees need to feel safe and supported when they’re travelling for work, and you need to be prepared for things to go wrong so that you can minimise the damage this causes.
It’s also a legal requirement to provide risk management for business travel, as it falls under the ‘duty of care’ that employers have to their staff. When you’re implementing a corporate travel program, make sure that you have a risk management policy and that you’re prepared to carry out comprehensive risk assessments for every trip that employees take.
If you’re managing a corporate travel program that requires employees to book their trips themselves through a central system, you need to put together a book guide that will help them with this. In the early stages of establishing a program, staff won’t know which processes they need to follow or where they need to provide information about their trip, and a booking guide is the best way to share clear instructions that get everyone up to speed.
As part of the booking guide for your corporate travel program, you need a company policy for business travel that lets employees know what they can and can’t expect when they’re arranging business trips. This will include guidance on which providers to use, when to arrange trips and how to manage your time when you’re away.
This policy also needs to include details of your systems for claiming back expenses and the risk management duties that you have as an employer. This policy might adapt as your program grows, but there are several legal elements to corporate travel (like risk management) that you need to cover by creating an official policy.
Travel Management System
Managing corporate travel can get quite tricky when you have a lot of staff travelling for work at one time, which is why so many businesses choose to use travel management systems as part of their program. These systems are usually digital tools that can help to streamline the processes involved in travel management and provide a hub that employees and travel managers can use to see relevant information about trips.
There are quite a few different travel management systems out there, each offering a range of functions that can include all aspects of business travel, or just certain elements like transportation, expenses or travel documentation. It’s definitely worth investing in a system if you work in a large company, as they can make managing the program much easier and more efficient.
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Promoting Your Corporate Travel Services
The best way to implement a corporate travel program into an existing company is to work with all of the existing departments. Make time to talk to people from each of these about their previous experiences with business travel and what they’re looking for, and then help them see how your program can help with this.
If you’re introducing new corporate travel services, consider how you’re going to launch this. If you’ve got a significant budget then you might host an internal event to let the company know what’s available, but at the very least you should plan a series of internal announcements that target different employees within the company. Think about the trips these groups tend to go on and any common experiences or challenges, and then tailor the announcement to include these.
One of the biggest initial challenges that you might face is people not knowing how to engage with your services. Therefore, when you’re promoting a corporate travel program be sure to offer demonstrations of how to use it, share the guide, and be on hand to answer questions, especially in the first few months.
As well as tailoring your promotion to the different challenges that employees may have previously faced with corporate travel, it’s also a good idea to lead with the benefits. Let employees know how much time they can save by using the program, the perks that your providers offer to business travellers, the risk assessments and insurance policies that cover their trip, and the systems that make it easier to access trip information.
6 Ways to Grow Your Program
If you’re responsible for managing a corporate travel program, your next step after implementing it is to grow it. Here are six tactics that can help with this.
The more variety you can offer employees in terms of where they can stay and how they can travel for business, the more interest your program is likely to get. As well as partnering with hotels or classic corporate travel booking systems, consider whether you can offer remote working options with self-catering accommodation or access to coworking spaces that allow for more flexibility during the trip.
Develop an App
We’ve already talked about the usefulness of software and digital platforms to help organise corporate travel information, and you can take this one step further by offering employees an app where all of this information can be accessed. Some platforms have a mobile version of their tools, or you might consider building one for your company if the corporate travel program really takes off.
Set up User Support
The more your corporate travel services are used, the more support you’ll potentially need to offer employees as they get to grips with the system. Consider developing an FAQ hub based on common problems that users have, or designate a member of the team to answer questions or develop different user guides.
Invest in Automation
Automation is one of the best ways that you can make your corporate travel program more efficient. Whether you do this through investing in automation software or setting up processes yourself that can easily be automated, this is a great way to grow your travel program by saving time that can then be spent on pursuing new options and building out your services.
Share Success Stories
A great way to grow a system is to share success stories that will attract more attention to it. Ask employees that have already used your program to write a short review of the experience and then use this to promote it to others and hopefully gain more interest and engagement.
Deliver Performance Reports
Finally, if you want to grow your travel for business program then you need to provide evidence of why you deserve the support or investment to do so. Collect data that indicates how the program has already saved time and money or led to greater employee satisfaction with business travel, and then create reports that illustrate how valuable the program is.
No two corporate travel programs are the same, and as a travel planner or manager this is actually really exciting, as you get the chance to personalise your services based on what employees really want. When it comes to growth, remember that feedback is your best indication of how to improve what you’re offering, so be sure to examine previous experiences and ask for reviews to help point you in the right direction.
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