Why and how to engage your employees to make savings on travel

Travel costs will take off over the next year. The Global Business Travel Association[1] has predicted that prices across all sectors, including airfares and hotels, will rise 3% – though a 0.6% increase in ground transport costs isn’t as costly as first feared.

These price hikes may be bad news for your next vacation, but if your company foots the bill for business travel, it won’t impact employees. Without a company-wide travel policy, there isn’t much to stop staff from taking a big bite out of your corporate travel budget, especially if a last-minute meeting comes up across the country.

The tendency not to plan ahead for booking hotels and airfares can prove costly. But there are ways to ensure everyone is on board with a streamlined spending plan.

By enforcing company procedures and setting financial goals, you can encourage your employees to get behind your corporate travel policy – and even reward the most diligent workers.

Setting booking limits
One way to tighten up a travel policy is by looking at how employees make their bookings.

Employees who arrange their own travel arrangements will not have the proper in-house resources or know-how to pick the best deal for the company. Without the means to centralize this process, you won’t have a handle on how much is being spent, or when. This may result in last-minute bookings made in a hurry, where no care is being taken to compare prices or find cost efficiencies, like choosing a later or earlier flight.

By using a travel management suite to make travel bookings, it’s usually possible to set limits that are flagged up when breached – whether it costs too much, takes too long or even gets cancelled. You can then follow up on the booking inquiry to suggest changes and arrive at an agreed level of spend. Either way, it’s possible to access the incoming data and see if there are changes to the policy which can be made to create further efficiencies.

Preferred partner booking
Save money by picking preferred vendors. With them, the service can be much cheaper or based on an incentivized deal which you’ve previously arranged. This way you can pick a designated carrier to provide for all flights along a certain path, avoiding the need to spend elsewhere and saving money in the long run if a cumulative discount has been struck with that carrier.

Another example comes from the accommodation which your employees book for a business trip. Whether it’s arranged through your travel management provider or an especially savvy employee, you may be able to arrange discounts on travel if you reach a certain level of bookings. The more stays you book, the more overall savings you could make. So along with setting your per-night limits, it may also be possible to encourage travelers to stay at certain locations in return for money off the cost.

These spending incentives can stretch even further – from ground transport to restaurants for entertaining clients. Do your research and find out if you can haggle for block-booking your business.

Reward programs
If you’re struggling to show employees what a positive effect their diligence can have on your company’s bottom line, why not use some of the savings to reward your biggest winners?

Employees who understand the merits of a larger buy-in towards your travel policy are the ones most aware of your organized approach to travel. They can serve as great examples of a continued drive for cost efficiency.

A continuous cents-on-the-dollar scheme or one-off bonus payment can help colleagues and employees to realize the true relative value of what they’re saving the business, by seeking out savings and getting more organized when it comes to travel. Alternatively, the growth of ‘bleisure’ trips[2] – combining work and play on the same stay – is something worth considering for your company. The employees who are demonstrating the best understanding of how your money is being spent could perhaps be rewarded with more time in that location. (This will, of course, work better in some destinations than others.)

When your corporate travel policy is in place, raise employees’ stake in optimizing it as much as they can by offering benefits and incentives. The competitive element can be a great morale booster, and the whole company stands to gain from the savings.