Whether you are a small business owner or run an MNC, your business trips can be made more efficient and effective with a corporate travel policy.
A well-designed corporate travel policy does not only help to maintain order throughout the entire travel process, from the booking of hotels and air tickets to how employees should file their claims at the end of a trip. It also promotes compliance, saves the company money, improves travellers’ safety, and prevents fraud.
To that end, travel managers need to consider not just the needs and wants of the organisation, but of its employees as well.
A travel manager’s checklist
For modern-day employees, convenience is the key to business travel happiness. A recent study revealed that Asian business travellers, for instance, prioritise convenience and practicality above all. Research on US business travellers yielded similar findings.
That means today’s business traveller will likely take convenient hotel locations and flight times over breakfast buffets and business class tickets.
By considering employees’ travel needs and preferences, you can more likely produce a travel policy that boosts compliance rates. In turn, compliance will help the company reduce business travel costs and make sure employees are safe while they are travelling on business.
And by boosting convenience and safety during the trip, you can bet that your business travellers will be able to better focus on representing your company and achieving their goals for the trip.
To make a corporate travel policy that meets both the organisation’s and employees’ needs, keep in mind the following aspects:
In general, employees want to adhere to policies. When they don’t, it’s often because they don't clearly understand the rules.
To improve compliance, your policy should provide a clear outline of your goals and how business trips can help achieve them.
You also need to train those who oversee the corporate travel processes, such as admin staff, to make sure they know your corporate travel policy by heart. Train them and your travellers in using your travel booking tools, too.
Clarity in communication
Define key phrases, requirements, and rules that may confuse. If there are any penalties for non-compliance, explain these clearly.
Reduce room for error by making the reimbursement process clear, user-friendly, and easy to navigate. Finally, make sure the policy is easily accessible so that employees can refer to it at any time.
Think of innovative ways to make policy compliance more attractive to travellers. For instance, when employees stay at a hotel or select an airline from an approved list, they could be allowed to keep the loyalty points or credits for their personal use.
When you roll out and test your corporate travel policy, you must welcome opportunities for improvement. Make it easy for employees to provide feedback about the rules, requirements, and processes.
When you understand your employees’ experiences during business trips, you can improve their entire travel and booking experience. That can translate to a higher compliance rate, greater job and travel satisfaction, and less travel-related stress—without the need to incur additional costs. Everyone’s happy.
Duty of care
Look into new and emerging technologies that allow you to locate employees while they are away. Make sure their contact and emergency contact details are available on your travel management platform.
Where possible, inform employees about potential risks or dangers in various locales prior to travel, and provide relevant information on resources and support that they can access in case of an emergency.
An annual review of your corporate travel policy will allow you to remove aspects that have become irrelevant or obsolete. It’s also an opportunity to refine policies as you take into account new travel trends, such as the rise of the sharing economy.
A corporate travel policy template
Here is an outline of essential items to include in corporate travel policy.
This is your opportunity to provide a brief and concise explanation about the goals of the corporate travel policy (e.g., save money, ensure traveller safety, streamline the travel booking and reimbursement process).
This is also where you explain how business trips help the company achieve its goals and mission. In this way, you’re letting your travellers know just how important their roles are.
A table of contents helps readers locate the relevant sections of the corporate travel policy.
Given the company’s duty of care, it’s important to:
- Remind travellers to provide emergency contacts and submit details of their itinerary prior to travel
- Provide information about the company’s travel insurance policy or where to access it
- Supply employees with a point of contact in case of emergency
- Explain what procedures travellers should follow in the event of an accident, emergency, or serious illness
Travel expenses include transportation, lodging, meals, and entertainment. An entertainment expense may consist of taking the client out to dinner or to a basketball game.
Be clear whether it’s mandatory to book from the list of preferred vendors or if employees should find the lowest-cost option where possible.
The various expenses can be separated into distinct categories for easier reference:
- Transportation: air and ground transport
- Mobile phone and internet
- Non-reimbursable expenses (provide examples, such as toiletries)
🛩 Air travel
This section should answer questions like:
- Do you have a preferred website or online booking tool?
- When do air tickets need to be purchased prior to travel?
- Should all airline tickets be economy class or are there situations where booking business class is an option?
- Can employees use frequent flyer benefits?
🚕 Ground transport (personal car, rental car, rail, cab, ride-sharing)
- Is there a preferred mode of transport? Be clear on how much flexibility employees have when choosing their transport.
- Is there a maximum per diem rate?
- If employees drive their personal car or rent one, is the cost of petrol reimbursable?
- What about parking fees and tolls?
- Should employees always book from a list of preferred vendors? If so, what if the preferred vendor is fully booked?
- What types of hotel rooms are acceptable?
- Is there a maximum budget per night?
- If employees decide to extend their booking and/or have a family member travelling with them, what is reimbursable and what is not?
- Does the accommodation need to be within a certain distance from the main area of travel, such as an exhibition centre?
- Are travellers free to book any accommodation as long as they stick within a given budget?
- Can travellers choose Airbnb instead?
- Will the company reimburse for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
📱 Mobile phone and internet
- Are mobile phone charges claimable?
- Should travellers purchase local SIM cards or pocket WiFi?
🎭 Entertainment expenses
Indicate what is considered a reasonable entertainment expense.
Specify which entertainment expenses require pre-approval and which do not.
💊 Medical expenses
Is a visit to the doctor claimable with a receipt?
🚫 Non-reimbursable expenses
- Identify the items that cannot be reimbursed, such as toiletries.
- Explain situations when exceptions apply. For instance, if the airline loses the traveller’s luggage, he or she will have to purchase some toiletries and clothes.
Reporting and reimbursement procedures
This is where you can provide employees with the necessary information to apply for a refund for their travel expenses. Here are a few points to include:
- Remind travellers that they need to fill out an expense report
- Be clear about the information they need to provide—e.g. receipts, names of vendors, the purpose of the trip
- Layout deadlines for submission of reimbursement claims
- Let employees know how long Accounts takes to approve (and deny) claims
Better yet, if you use an app or platform for digitising receipts and automating reimbursement claims, explain the process with screenshots or a video
Explain how employees can give feedback on the policy. State the consequences of non-compliance, if any.
Identify a good travel management platform that will allow you to streamline your corporate travel procedures and automatically apply aspects of your travel policy. With a travel policy that’s built into your travel management tool, employees will no longer need to second-guess themselves when making travel-booking decisions.
With a travel management platform, you can also consolidate all the essential information on business travellers (such as their travel itinerary, contact details, and emergency contacts) to maximise traveller safety. The risk for fraudulent expense reporting will be minimised by having expense reporting built-in and by configuring the various expense categories in the system, removing any ambiguity in the process.
Start writing your corporate travel policy
If you don’t have a corporate travel policy yet, or if you haven’t updated it in a while, it’s time to do so. Use this template as a starting point. Remember, make your policy clear, straightforward, visual, and understandable. Your business trips will be all the better for it.