Travel is on the path to returning to pre-COVID levels. And while we’re not quite there just yet, with restrictions easing and more countries re-opening their borders, we can expect business travel to bounce back and face-to-face meetings to become a regular occurrence once again. Although it feels like we’re heading back to normality, the travel landscape has changed dramatically, and businesses now need to adapt in order to keep up with the change.
Employers need visibility over spend and clarity on when travelling is necessary, but more importantly, they need to provide an enhanced duty of care to their travelling employees.
Keeping up with travel plans and having a record of trip details, such as accommodation and flights, are becoming an expectation from employees when returning to travelling for work. On top of this, new research into business traveller sentiments shows that over two thirds of business travellers (69%) want their company to loosen restrictions, 35% want more flexible policies and 33% want to return to pre-covid travel policies (33%).
So, how can you be sure your business is ready to return to travel?
Keeping Travel Connected
The way we book travel as consumers is constantly being simplified, but this tends to create more challenges for those who need full visibility over business travel. And keeping all the aspects of a trip connected when bookings are taking place in multiple ways can be a challenge, not to mention ensuring employees are staying compliant and using preferred suppliers.
Concur TripLink enables businesses to regain control and enhance visibility into travel spend by bringing outside bookings back into the travel platform, meaning managers can see planned spending and deliver duty of care even on invisible bookings. With 34% of business travellers wanting to book directly with suppliers, it’s important to have a solution that allows you to gain visibility over all spend, even when made outside the corporate booking tool. On top of this, any policy rules and specially negotiated rates can be applied to supplier direct bookings to keep costs down and remain compliant.
This level of integration means that electronic booking receipts from airlines and hotels can be automatically imported into expense claims, leading to more efficient processing of approvals. ExpenseIt, a feature of the SAP Concur mobile app, captures a photo of a receipt and turns it into a categorised, itemised expense entry, which can be uploaded on-the-go.
Maintaining Control Over Travel Budgets
Businesses are now turning to travel and expense management solutions to ensure they are staying within travel budget. With tools like Concur Request and Budget, managers can ensure that spend remains compliant before it’s even happened. It notifies end-users if the trip they are attempting to book doesn’t comply with policy or sends the requested itinerary for approval before it’s booked.
Whether your business needs more budget for face-to-face meetings, or to see where aspects of travel can be cut back, the importance of flexibility is a key consideration when it comes to business travel. Gaining a granular view over your travel spend can help you shape your budget to fit the everchanging needs of the business.
Cautiously Planning the Return of Travel
Even with full visibility, how can you make sure employees are safe and the trip they’re going on is essential?
Last year, the trip itself was seen as the most stressful part of the process. This year, more than two in five UK business travellers (42%) say the step before the trip (as they seek approvals and make plans) is the most stressful stage, with 32% saying the post-trip expense processing is most stressful.
The way we travel has changed and there are many new deliberations for business travellers to consider: keeping employees safe and taking a step closer to sustainability, all while keeping costs down. But having the capability to capture all travel data and having your bookings in one location means businesses can maintain control over their travel programmes.
Keeping an eye out for what’s coming down the line, travel management companies (TMCs) believe that by 2030, predictive analytics could allow meetings that require travel to be booked by people just chatting to their smartphones or smart devices and the itinerary will start building itself.