In previous times, “mandating business travel” might have been considered “dirty words” to some. Many companies certainly want to offer flexibility to their travelers while maintaining a free and open culture. But in today’s world, especially on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, mandating travel is essential for every organization that wants to ensure business traveler safety. The bonus is that you also save money when you do so.
“Mandating business travel, or what some may call consolidation of travel, is definitely becoming more popular post-pandemic,” said Allyson Cross, a Business Development Manager at Christopherson Business Travel. “In certain industries it was perhaps seen as scary or taboo to require business travelers to follow certain protocols when booking, but travel managers are talking more and more about mandating and the benefits are undeniable.”
What does it mean to mandate business travel?
When you partner with a travel management company (TMC) to help you manage your business travel program, you want to consider mandating. Mandating means you officially require your travelers to handle all their travel needs through your TMC and to use your organization’s approved booking channels for all reservations. In other words, it is mandatory that they use your newly-implemented and fully-integrated systems and services.
Why should you mandate business travel?
Travel managers have countless tools provided to them by their TMC, but they’re not useful if your business travelers are freely booking through various channels unknown to you. Here are four reasons every organization should mandate travel:
1. To Better Manage Risk
Everyone knows risk management is important, but until something happens you don’t realize how important it really is.
“Trying to maintain duty of care standards without total visibility is impossible,” Cross said.
Only a mandated, fully-managed business travel program provides that kind of visibility. Without it, you won’t always know where your travelers are. Here’s an example, recounted by Christopherson’s Manager of Implementations and Account Support Adelina Littler, of what happens when an unmandated travel program faces real-life risk:
2. To Save Money
Every organization, from non-profits to Fortune 500s, are focused on cost savings and smarter spending. To both account for and maximize every dollar spent on travel, you have to know exactly how and where you’re spending. This is only possible if you mandate travel.
When travelers book outside your approved channels, you miss out on vendor discounts, the ability to track and re-use the ticket if the trip isn’t taken, and the ability to ensure compliance with your travel policy. When business travelers stay within policy and book with preferred suppliers, companies can reduce the average cost per traveler by 14-25%.
Another way mandating travel not only saves you money, but could actually generate income, is that you can use one, dedicated credit card to pay for the entire organization’s travel. The kickback or rebates earned from your credit card usage then provide a source of revenue, meaning business travel doesn’t just have to be a cost-center anymore.
3. To Track and Manage Unused Tickets
A major part of generating cost savings is being able to track unused airline ticket credits. But successfully managing every unused ticket can only be done if all tickets are booked through your TMC, whether with online tools or with full-service advisors.
Every ticket booked through a managed, mandated travel program can be tracked. If the ticket goes unused, it is then stored and provided for re-used at a future date, ensuring that you don’t lose those funds. Christopherson even provides reports that show exactly how many credits your program has, who they were booked by, and when they’re expiring so you’re able to stay informed in real-time on the status of every dollar.
“Unmandated business travel programs will always lose money on unused tickets simply because they don’t know where those credits are or who booked them,” Littler explained. “If you mandate, you have the peace of mind that all your unused tickets are in one place and that all the work of tracking them, reporting on them, and ensuring their re-use is done for you.”
4. To Get Better Reporting & Vendor Contracts
One benefit of mandating travel that organizations might not think about as much is accurate reporting and how that affects their vendor negotiations. The ability to leverage robust data that provides a complete view of your entire travel spend means better vendor discounts and greater cost savings.
“Having accurate reporting of your total business travel program allows you to show vendors your full spend and thus get better discounts and contracts,” Littler said. “And travelers can’t get those discounts by going straight to Delta.com or AA.com. They’re only available and applied when you’ve booked through a TMC. Ensuring the ability to receive those discounts is a huge money saver.”
How do you mandate business travel?
The real value of a TMC is realized when all the TMC’s services and tools are used by everyone in the organization. From booking, to duty of care, to policy integration, to reporting–it all works together to maximize your spend and ensure the safety of your travelers.
If your goal is to enjoy the full benefits of your TMC, then mandating your travel program must be paramount. But doing so doesn’t have to come at the expense of your culture or traveler satisfaction. The key is to ensure buy-in from the top.
Every member of the C-suite wants to be good stewards of the company’s financial resources. Your TMC can help you gather the necessary reports so you’re equipped with data and talking points to get your leadership team involved and on-board.
Once you have buy-in from the top, you’ll then need to communicate the benefits of your managed travel program and newly-adopted policies to your travelers. You can even do so without ever using the word “mandated.” Keep in mind that travel policies don’t have to be rigid and unforgiving. Christopherson’s Account Managers help clients craft solid, traveler-friendly travel policies that still allow freedom and flexibility while guarding your financial resources and protecting traveler safety.
When travelers understand the following benefits, they are more likely to stay within your travel policy and adopt the newly-required program:
- That your organization’s discounts are only available and applied through your TMC
- That their safety and location tracking is tied to “in-channel” bookings
- That they have access to expert travel agents who can handle problems with the airlines or get them home quickly in an emergency
- That their frequent traveler memberships, travel preferences, and profile information are securely stored and applied to every booking
You can also find super users within your organization to champion the program and tools to their peers.
Finally, remember the importance of on-going training. Offer webinars or periodic quick tip communications to remind your travelers about certain aspects of policies or how to use certain tools and services. Include business travel training during the on-boarding process for new employees. For a mandated program to remain effectual, it has to be consistently encouraged.
The Dangers of Not Mandating
Patti Bragg, an Account Manager at Christopherson Business Travel, shared the following case study about the dangers of not mandating:
To learn more about the benefits of mandating business travel and how to roll out a mandated program for your organization, we invite you to speak with a Christopherson executive.