Corporate travel policies

Every company employing more than ten or so frequent travellers should have a travel policy to which all staff should adhere, whether they are arranging journeys or actually taking trips away from the office. Generally the policy guidelines are:

By Graeme Payne
  • recognised reporting lines and approval procedure
  • maximum expenditure on items, i.e. laundry, parking, hotels and meals
  • preferred airlines to certain destinations
  • preferred hotels in frequently visited locations
  • class of travel or fare type according to the length of a journey
  • use of loyalty cards
  • ground transportation at home and abroad
  • which travel agent or travel management company to book through
  • the maximum expenditure permitted on-line when booking direct

Once the company travel policy is in place, all staff that travel should receive a copy by email or on paper and should sign to say that it has been read and understood. The travel booker should then be in a position to warn travellers when their requests are flouting the policy.

One person within a division or organisation should be responsible for monitoring travel bookings and ensuring that all the guidelines are followed. The travel management company will also keep travel arrangers advised of deviations to the policy in order that problems are avoided before problems arise. More often than not deviations to a policy are unintentional.

Should a member of staff wish to travel ‘outside the policy’, especially if it means spending more than is permitted, there should be a means of securing authorisation from a nominated signatory. Many exceptions are valid and will be fully understood, as the policy has to support the needs of the business and the morale of the staff.

Safety remains a priority and the lives and well-being of staff and their families should not be jeopardised for the sake of saving a few pounds, especially when long distances are to be driven after night flights.

When overseas, staff must be fully alert, competent, and businesslike. Efficiently made travel arrangements, built around a realistic policy, should help to facilitate this. Travelling on a more expensive flight in order to secure more loyalty card points, however, may well be out of order.

Sometimes it is cheaper and more efficient to book and pay for flights overseas, especially when low-cost airlines are involved. Clearly there needs to be a clause, in the policy, that allows for this.

Travellers will sometimes try to deviate from the policy and the reasons for doing so must be explained.

Typical reasons for deviating from the policy are:

  • the traveller dislikes the preferred airline
  • preferred departure airport is not convenient
  • frequent-flyer or stay points need to be collected
  • cheaper fares are available from other airlines and sources
  • travellers want hotels near the nightlife, away from the business centre

Every company travel policy is designed to respect the needs of the organisation AND its staff. It is therefore important to ‘sell’ the concept to frequent travellers tactfully in order that they buy into it.

Simple procedures for booking travel on a company-wide form, whether online or on paper, will ensure that everyone follows the same rules. When checking the traveller’s expenses and invoices from the travel agent it is a good idea to compare these with the initial authorisation form.

Co-operation between management, travel arrangers and those actually out on the road is encouraged when an effective, properly managed policy is in place.

Graeme Payne has trained on travel related subjects in over 60 countries around the world and has worked with hundreds of major companies, airlines and government departments to ensure that they manage their travel effectively. He currently writes for a number of travel magazines in UK and USA and is author of the annual International Luxury Travel Market catalogue. In 2004 he is working in India, Thailand, Morocco, Spain and Canada, researching leisure and business travel for a number of guides used by travel agents and corporations.

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