On the road again: planning for a return to travel and expense management

Published: Sep 2023

As companies restart their travel programmes, their priority will be making business travel a safe and positive experience for employees. So, what should they do?

Business travel is firmly back on the corporate agenda.

In fact, there’s so much enthusiasm for travel that a survey of travel managers by Deloitte projects that corporate spend on travel will increase to 55% of 2019 levels by the end of 2022. Furthermore, research by Mastercard has found that an estimated 1.5 billion more passengers globally will fly in 2022, compared with last year, with people travelling for both business and leisure.

As more employees hit the road, or take to trains or the skies, companies will naturally want to make their travel experience as safe, comfortable and convenient as possible. So, what should they prioritise?

Review travel policies. Factors that should be considered include acceptable travel frequency and distance, budgets and cost-effectiveness, restrictions to specific countries or regions, approval processes, requirements for how travel is booked, health and hygiene, and overall employee satisfaction.

Communication to employees. Once policies have been reviewed, companies should communicate them clearly and promptly to employees, highlighting any significant changes. A good way to do this is through a corporate travel page on the company’s website.

Agility. While it makes business sense for many companies to encourage corporate travel again, the COVID-19 health crisis is not completely over. So, companies should be mindful of the risk that a dangerous variant of the virus may suddenly emerge in another region and have a plan for rapidly bringing about the safe return of any employees who may have travelled to that destination.

Travel partners. Reliable, trusted travel partners are key to an effective and safe travel programme that meets the expectations of both the company and its employees.

Corporate card providers. In addition to partners that can assist with booking transport and accommodation, companies are likely to need the support of corporate card providers.

This may require employees to:

  • Update the card information that is stored in their mobile wallets.
  • Set up automatic fraud alert notifications.
  • Use the lock and unlock feature of the mobile app so they can lock their corporate card while they’re not using it.
  • Use the PIN check tool on the mobile app so that if they forget their PIN while traveling, they can go into the app and either request or change their PIN.

Employee preferences. Companies should take their employees’ concerns, preferences and health circumstances into account when asking them to travel, as well as thinking about how they should travel.

A mixed picture

While we’re certainly seeing the return of corporate travel, it’s not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels before the end of 2023, according to Deloitte.

Other factors – including the economic climate and concerns around sustainability – are also likely to have an impact on companies’ investment in corporate travel in the near future. For example, Deloitte’s research found that travel managers expect sustainability to cause an 11% – 25% reduction in travel budgets by 2025.

Keep an eye out for next month’s Thought for the Month.

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