How To Determine If You Need a Travel Management Company

Those responsible for arranging business travel for small to mid-sized organizations can be accustomed to running their company’s travel program on their own. Often, organizing travel is merely one of their many areas of responsibility. As business needs evolve and grow, a trusted travel partner can help streamline travel management.

Team members in this position may have considered working with a travel management company (TMC) before, but they might still be uncertain about what a TMC does and whether a managed travel program is a smart choice for their organization.

Below are the questions a travel manager should ask themselves to determine if their business would benefit from partnering with a travel management company.

Does my organization have a defined travel policy?

The team member managing travel should begin by examining their company’s existing travel policy. If the policy is unclear (or non-existent), the travel program can suffer from a lack of planning or attention to detail. Employees may not know how to follow the rules, or worse, might attempt to take advantage of lax guidelines.

For smaller-sized businesses experiencing this lack of consistency in their existing travel program, a TMC can assist in building a stronger policy that is well-defined and easily accessible for employees. Travel management companies even help foster a more positive work environment by crafting a policy that values employee wellness and offers a holistic approach to traveler support.

Beyond assisting the travelers themselves, a TMC also supports the company’s strategic goals and bottom line by saving the business time and money.

How are trip itineraries authorized and managed?

Travel programs without a clear trip approval process in place may experience issues like last minute authorizations, or no authorizations at all. Travelers might have sole control over their expenses or rely on third-party websites to book their own travel, which can negatively impact the company’s bottom line. Managers may not have access to clear data, which means they cannot make informed decisions about fare approvals.

Partnering with a travel management company helps simplify the trip approval process. The TMC can implement a system that returns denied authorization requests to the employee who is responsible for booking the itinerary, and they can adjust the requests accordingly. Travelers also get access to a custom booking tool and preferred suppliers so that trip arrangements are booked within policy. For more complex itineraries like C-suite travel, the TMC can also provide a designated agent team to assist further. This ensures even the most intricate requests still adhere to the travel policy.

Does my organization encourage policy compliance?

Trips booked out of policy can put both the traveler and the organization at risk. As previously mentioned, travelers can not only negatively affect supplier relationships if they lean on third-party sites for their bookings, but they also take on the burden alone if they need to make any adjustments to their itinerary. There is no straightforward way to capture data from trips booked outside of the company’s booking system, which increases the risk of inaccurate expense reporting.

Policy compliance is largely automated in a managed travel program. A travel management company can be a trusted resource and help double check details like trip pricing and approval status. Data collection is also automated, which means details regarding trips booked in policy are accurately captured for reporting and easy to view within the company portal.

Do travelers know what to do in an emergency?

When an organization does not have a robust travel program backed by vetted policies and travel experts, travelers can be unprepared for security or health risks at their destination. But even in the likely case that no emergency occurs, sometimes travel plans need to be adjusted. If these changes are not authorized or documented, the responsibility will fall solely on the traveler.

A travel management company becomes the “eye in the sky” and supports travelers throughout their entire trip, providing duty of care and stepping in if there is a trip disruption. This can be as simple as reducing costs incurred by unavoidable travel changes, or as complex as security monitoring for travelers in potentially unsafe destinations. At Direct Travel, our team helps those who manage travel monitor threats and keep their team informed and safe with access to Crisis24 risk management platform.

How are payments and travel expenses managed?

Payment issues can be common in unmanaged travel programs. Without clear guidelines in place for how to submit expenses, travelers might have a difficult time adhering to the policy. There may be confusion on what can be expensed on a trip versus what is prohibited, paper receipts might get lost, and expenses can be submitted late or not at all. Those responsible for arranging travel in this situation can struggle to predict and manage cash flow. They may find they spend unnecessary time tracking down travelers’ receipts and editing expense reports.

In a managed travel program, a TMC will help automate the expense management process, which saves time for both the travel manager and their employees. Travelers can easily upload receipts directly into the managed system, approved trip expenses are properly documented and digitally organized, and reimbursements happen automatically through payroll. A TMC can help set up an automated system to confirm trip details, which leads to improved reporting, better tracking, and secured data for both the traveler and the company.

Does my program have reliable financial reporting?

Companies struggling with unreliable reporting in their travel program may have missing employee expense receipts, different departments coding expenses in different ways, or discrepancies with suppliers. There might be confusion over what reimbursements are allowed, and there is often a lack of data to accurately measure ROI.

A TMC can help simplify the reporting process by capturing necessary data and making it easily accessible. This allows the team member who is arranging the trip to see if there are any operational inefficiencies and make improvements accordingly. Meanwhile, travelers have clear direction on how to submit receipts, which expenses can be reimbursed, and how to book within policy.

How can my travel program evolve from here?

The transition from running an unmanaged travel program in-house to working with a travel management company is not as daunting an adjustment as it may appear. Employees who manage their company’s travel often wear many hats, and the right TMC becomes a trusted partner that makes travel management more manageable.

At Direct Travel, we take the time to learn about each new client. Our team provides you with solutions tailored specifically for your business, because we understand that every organization has unique challenges, goals, and values. We work with you to put the right procedures, suppliers, and tools into place so that your travel program continues to grow and evolve as your travel demands increase.

When your company is ready to make the switch to managed travel, here are our tips for transitioning to a new TMC.