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How to Create a Corporate Travel Policy & Implement it Correctly

A strong corporate travel policy is the unsung hero in business travel.

A corporate travel policy is a company’s comprehensive set of guidelines to manage business travel. It covers travel costs, meal expenses, business travel accommodation, and ground transportation. The primary goal is to streamline travel arrangements, control expenses, and ensure employee safety during business trips. A well-defined corporate travel policy benefits both employees and the organization by providing clear guidelines on travel expenses, booking processes, and reimbursement procedures.

Business travel managers play a pivotal role in implementing these travel policiesthey ensure compliance with the company’s travel policy, manage costs effectively, and oversee the entire travel program. It is a nuanced role that involves negotiating with preferred suppliers, handling emergencies, and keeping abreast of cultural differences in various locations. But, following a few tips can make a big difference in supporting company culture and ensuring business travelers' safety, productivity, and comfort.

Why Having a Corporate Travel Policy is Essential

A corporate travel policy is essential for all types of business travel for several reasons. Firstly, it sets clear guidelines for employees, detailing what is covered under travel expenses and helping them select air travel, a rental car, and hotel accommodations. This clarity helps manage corporate travel more efficiently and prevents confusion regarding expense claims.

For the organization, a corporate travel policy helps control costs and ensures that employees use company money judiciously. It also facilitates compliance with a finance team and other documentation requirements, like submitting expenses within a set time frame or adhering to daily allowances. Additionally, such policies are crucial for managing risks associated with business travel. The approach keeps employees safe during their travels by defining travel insurance requirements, emergency contacts, and procedures for different situations.

A corporate travel policy is much more than a documentit’s a crucial tool for managing business travel effectively, keeping employees safe, and controlling travel-related expenses. 

Benefits for Your Company

The 2023 Corporate Travel Study from Deloitte Insights found that about half of respondents report that employees’ expectations of luxury services and the need for flexible or last-minute bookings are pushing costs up in 2023. Implementing a corporate travel policy helps manage and control travel costs effectively. It ensures employees follow set guidelines for expenses like air travel, accommodation, and ground transportation, leading to significant savings. Here are more of the benefits that a travel policy provides:

  • Risk Management: A well-defined travel policy includes corporate travel risk management software, which minimizes risks associated with business trips and keeps company assets safe.
  • Policy Compliance: A corporate travel policy improves compliance with internal and external company rules, reducing the likelihood of legal or financial issues and points travelers to certain suppliers.
  • Streamlined Processes: Clear travel policies streamline the booking process, expense reporting, and reimbursement process, making managing corporate travel more efficient.
  • Employee Safety: Ensures employee safety during travel through guidelines on travel insurance, emergency contacts, and medical expenses.
  • Enhanced Travel Program Management: Allows travel managers to work closely with preferred suppliers, negotiate better rates, and manage the overall travel program more effectively.
  • Consistency Across Locations: Ensures consistency in travel arrangements and policies across different locations, fostering a unified company culture.
  • Data and Reporting: Facilitates accurate tracking and reporting of travel expenses, helping the finance team budget and forecast.

Benefits for Your Employees

With a well-defined travel policy, employees understand what expenses are covered, such as business class flights, rental cars, and meal expenses, leading to fewer misunderstandings and disputes. Employees can make travel arrangements within the policy framework, offering them a sense of autonomy. Business travel has many benefits, from professional development and entertaining clients to cultural exposure, and a fair and well-managed travel policy opens the door to all of these opportunities, increasing employee loyalty and reflecting the company’s commitment to their well-being.

The travel policy also includes provisions for comfortable travel arrangements, like corporate housing, and accounts for their safety with emergency contacts and travel insurance provisions ensuring their safety and peace of mind while traveling.

Key Elements of a Thorough Corporate Travel Policy

Incorporating these elements into your corporate travel policy will clarify the travel process and business purpose and ensure compliance and efficiency in managing business travel. By addressing these key areas, businesses can create a travel policy that meets their specific needs and objectives while keeping their employees informed and prepared for their business trips.

A Clearly Defined Purpose Statement 

The purpose statement establishes the overall objectives and goals of the corporate travel policy. It communicates the company’s approach towards business travel. This statement is a reference point for all policy decisions, ensuring they align with the company’s values and travel objectives.

Examples:

  • To ensure safe, cost-effective, and efficient travel arrangements for all employees.
  • To align travel practices with the company’s ethical standards and sustainability goals.
  • To provide clear guidelines on allowable expenses and travel procedures.

Process For Gaining Permissions & Booking Trips

The travel policy outlines employees' steps to approve their business trips, ensuring transparency and consistency in the decision-making process. It provides specific directives on how far in advance employees should book their trips, what booking tools to use, and the preferred suppliers.

Examples:

  • Employees must submit travel requests via the company’s booking tool at least two weeks in advance.
  • Approval from direct supervisors and the travel manager is required for all international travel.
  • Use of preferred suppliers for booking flights, accommodations, and ground transportation

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Accommodation Booking Guidelines 

The travel policy establishes what procedures to follow when booking accommodations for business travel, including the use of preferred suppliers, a booking window that falls at least two weeks in advance to secure the best rates and availability, and adherence within the allocated budget for accommodation, considering factors like location, safety, and amenities.

Examples:

  • Use the company’s booking tool for all hotel reservations.
  • Choose corporate housing options that meet the company’s safety and quality standards.
  • Prioritize accommodations that offer essential amenities for business travelers.

Use of Alternative Transportation

The Deloitte study found that four in 10 European companies and a third of US companies say they need to reduce travel per employee by more than 20% to meet their 2030 sustainability targets. But it doesn't have to be that way: Corporate travel policies can optimize sustainable decision-making, encourage business travelers to select electric rental cars, and consider carbon emissions when choosing a flight. Of course, they'll need to keep cost and safety in mind.

Examples:

  • Opt for rail travel, which is more economical or efficient than air travel.
  • Use ride-sharing services for short distances instead of renting cars.
  • Employ eco-friendly transportation options, such as bicycles or electric scooters, for short commutes.

Expense Guidelines 

The corporate travel policy outlines specific per diem costs and allowances for items such as food and lodging. A per diem sets a daily allowance that covers meal expenses, with adjustments based on the cost of living in the travel location, and includes minor, necessary expenses such as tips and public transportation fees. The all-in-one travel and expense management platform Navan highlights how having a modern expense management tool can streamline these processes and make the policy accessible at the time of swipe.

Examples:

  • Allocating a daily meal allowance based on the city or country of travel.
  • Capping hotel expenses at a predetermined rate per night.
  • Reimbursing for minor, incidental expenses with proper documentation.

Guidelines for Travel Safety 

For travel safety, the policy should include specific guidelines for employees traveling alone, focusing on staying in secure locations and maintaining regular contact with the company, and clear instructions for handling emergencies, including contact details for local embassies and medical facilities.

Examples:

  • Mandatory safety briefings for solo travelers.
  • Providing a list of emergency contacts and medical facilities in the travel destination.
  • Choosing AltoVita accommodations that meet rigorous safety standards.

Reimbursement Procedures 

To claim and get company money reimbursed for business travel expenses, employees should submit expense reports within a specified time frame after the completion of the trip and provide all necessary receipts and documentation for expenses incurred during the trip. Expense claims must be approved, often involving the direct supervisor and the finance team.

Examples:

  • Using a designated expense reporting tool to file all claims.
  • Keeping all meal, lodging, and transportation receipts for submission.
  • Adhering to the company’s guidelines on the maximum limits for various expense categories.

How to Implement Your Corporate Travel Policy

Implementing a corporate travel policy effectively involves several key strategies, each designed to ensure that the policy is not only understood and accepted but also adhered to by all employees. 

  • Communication Strategy: Keep employees informed of any policy updates or changes. Considering that corporate travel spend is projected to surpass half of 2019 levels in the first half of 2023, it's vital to keep everyone updated on the evolving travel landscape​​. Leverage various communication platforms like emails, intranet, and meetings to reach all employees effectively.
  • Policy Documentation and Accessibility: Ensure the travel policy is accessible to all employees. With international trips growing and accounting for a significant share of travel costs, having a readily accessible policy is crucial for informing employees about international travel guidelines​​. Create a user-friendly policy document clearly outlining corporate travel's do's and don'ts.
  • Approval Workflows: Develop a transparent and efficient process for travel approvals. This is important as about half of the companies report increasing costs due to the need for flexible or last-minute bookings​​. Implement digital tools for quicker and more transparent approval workflows.
  • Employee Support and Assistance: Offer support services, such as a 24/7 helpline, especially for international travel, which is increasing in frequency​​. Conduct training sessions to educate employees about travel policies, focusing on areas like sustainable travel, a growing concern for many businesses​​.
  • Monitoring and Enforcement: Continuously monitor travel activities to ensure adherence to the policy. Almost half, or 45%, of companies, limit travel frequency to control costs, indicating the importance of monitoring to manage expenses​​. It shouldn’t be this way! Establish clear consequences for non-compliance to maintain the integrity of the travel policy.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Regularly collect employee feedback to understand their needs and challenges. This is crucial as employees’ expectations of services and flexible bookings influence travel costs​​. Use the feedback to refine and improve the travel policy continually.

Best Practices for Business Travel Managers: A Checklist

Follow this checklist of best practices to enhance your business-class corporate travel policy's effectiveness significantly: 

Regularly Update and Review the Policy

Travel managers must ensure that the company’s corporate travel policy stays current and reflects the ever-changing business travel landscape, which includes adapting to new travel trends, regulatory changes, and company needs. A regular review schedule is crucial.

  • Review Frequency: Conduct semi-annual or annual reviews of the travel policy.
  • Stay Informed: Keep abreast of industry changes, such as new travel technologies or shifts in travel costs.
  • Engage Stakeholders: Involve various departments in the review process, such as finance, HR, and operations, to get diverse perspectives.

Use Clear Communication

Transparent communication is vital when implementing policy changes. Travel managers should use clear, concise language and diverse channels to ensure all employees understand the travel policy.

  • Multi-Channel Communication: Use emails, company intranet, meetings, and newsletters to communicate changes.
  • Feedback Mechanism: Encourage feedback from employees to gauge understanding and gather suggestions.
  • Regular Reminders: Send out periodic reminders about critical aspects of the travel policy.

Create Employee Awareness

Educating employees about the travel policy is as important as the policy itself. Travel managers should develop strategies to ensure employees understand the travel policy best practices well.

  • Training Sessions: Organize regular training sessions to walk employees through the travel policy.
  • Informational Materials: Develop easy-to-understand guides, FAQs, and policy summaries.
  • Accessibility: Ensure the travel policy is accessible to all employees, possibly through the company’s internal portal.

Nurture Supplier Relationships

Building strong relationships with travel suppliers can lead to better deals, enhanced service, and a more personalized travel experience. This aspect ties back to AltoVita’s emphasis on customer support and personalization for business travelers.

  • Regular Communication: Keep in constant touch with suppliers to stay updated on new offerings and negotiate better terms.
  • Feedback and Improvement: Share input from employees with suppliers to improve the services offered.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Look for opportunities to turn suppliers into strategic partners, aligning their services with your company’s travel needs.

Adapting Travel Policies to Industry-Specific Legal Requirements

Corporate travel policies must align with stringent legal and regulatory requirements for industries like finance and healthcare. Many businesses in these sectors face unique compliance challenges, making an effective travel policy their best friend. Here’s a complete guide to navigating these complexities:

  • Address Specific Compliance Challenges: Some industries require employees to follow different rules, especially during business trips. A corporate travel policy document should clearly articulate these requirements. For instance, in finance, the policy should address handling sensitive information on a business trip, while healthcare might focus on transporting medical equipment.
  • Customized Policy Elements: Travel policies in these sectors should include elements that address these unique requirements. For instance, finance companies might need guidelines for handling confidential client information on the go. In contrast, healthcare organizations might need to consider the transport of medical equipment or samples.
  • International and Industry-Specific Requirements: It makes sense to include clear communication of international legal requirements in your company travel policy. Traveling to other locations might involve additional expenses, such as specific insurance or vaccinations. Industry-specific legal requirements should also be a crucial part of your business travel policy, requiring employees to adhere to specific guidelines when they fly business class or use rental cars.
  • Documenting and Reporting: To meet audit and regulatory requirements, implement thorough documentation and reporting procedures for travel-related expenses. This might include detailed expense reports and the necessity to use certain approved suppliers.

 

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Key Takeaway

For effective travel policy compliance, it’s essential to consider the unique needs of your business. This includes everything from managing costs of business expenses, like entertainment expenses and alcoholic beverages, to ensuring that all travel expense policy elements are in place. An expense report should be easy to submit, and the booking process for flights and car rentals should align with your expense policy. 

A well-communicated and thoroughly understood corporate travel policy is not just a document — it’s a tool to improve travel policy compliance across many businesses, making company travel a smoother and more enjoyable experience for every business traveler.




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