It used to be that business travel was the domain of first class flights, top-tier hotels, five-star restaurants and lavish spending accounts. Although there are still companies where that’s the norm, many businesses have cut back considerably in the last few years. So the question is, how can you encourage your company’s business travelers to travel more modestly while still maintaining their high level of performance?
Business travelers can’t always choose where they’re traveling. After all, clients are based where clients are based. But when it comes to conferences and hub-style meetings, there’s more leeway in location. Choosing a less costly city like, say, Philadelphia over one like, say, NYC can save a bundle.
Help steer your travelers to less expensive cities. Check out our 2013 Expense IQ Report for the costs associated to hotel, dining, transportation and entertainment.
The biggest savings on airfare comes from businesses deciding on preferred providers and negotiating better rates. For smaller companies who have yet to establish a preferred provider, go beyond consumer online booking sites and search for airlines not featured on aggregate sites, like Virgin and Jet Blue.
Next, decide which class your travelers can travel on their flights. Most companies have travel policies that help travelers make the choice between when it’s okay to book first class, business economy and economy. It’s often based on whether the travel is international or domestic. This kind of upgrade can amount to a big expense for companies large and small.
Consider limiting upgrades to a certain percentage of flights. This way travelers must choose when the upgrade is important. Or, limit upgrades based on length of the flight – like over eight hours.
Hotels are the one location where business travelers are more likely to book outside of their corporate booking tool (over 40% according to a 2012 study by PhoCusWright).
The most obvious way to save on hotels is to steer away from the five-star palaces. But like airfare, costs for hotels can be significantly lessened by choosing a preferred provider and negotiating rates.
Work with your preferred provider to help get your business travelers breakfast (most important meal of the day!), Wi-Fi, or even parking. Communicate with your employees that these extras are waiting for them so they’ll know what to expect – and it will also help them better stick to your company travel policy.
Meals and Incidentals
Business travel, in the end, is about building relationships with people. So that might mean a little wining and dining is called for. Sometimes more expensive meals are called for. Seasoned business travelers don’t want to be taking an important client to a fast food joint. But not every meal needs to be lavish. Think about putting a cap on meal spending. Make spendy meals the exception, not the rule.
Also, incidentals can add up fast. Stricter guidelines on acceptable travel expenses can reduce things like in-room movies and mini-bars.
Every business should evaluate the ROI of their business travel plans. Most of the time, when you look at potential learning and profit gained from meetings, it far outweighs the cost of travel. Face-to-face relationship building is enormously important.
It never hurts to take a look at how travel can be done a bit more frugally for your business, large or small. The little things, as they say, can really add up.