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Crucial Travel Policy Changes to Save Time and Money

Five leading ways companies can tweak or enforce travel policy to recoup dollars or time.

With an eye on the bottom line and the very health of your organization at stake, everyone’s doing more with less to save a few bucks on travel costs. Here are five proven ways.

1. Make your mandate stick

 “The things we’re doing now in corporate travel management are the same things we’ve been doing for five or six years, but now it’s coming down to demand management and the word ‘mandate’ is coming into the picture,” says Annemarie Reininger, a consultant with The Bottom Line Group, Toronto, and Canadian regional board member of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. In her recent role managing global supplier relationships at MDS Inc., Toronto, Reininger helped refine the travel policy.

“We tightened the language: Instead of ‘we recommend,’ and ‘we suggest’, it’s now ‘you must’, ‘you are responsible,’ ‘you are accountable’," says Reininger. "In this economy, people have a much greater acceptance, if not willingness, to comply.”

2. Try self-serve

As a line item in overall travel costs, transaction fees may represent a tiny slice of 2% to 3%. But when dollars make a difference, self-booking tools can trim these fees by at least half within a managed corporate travel program, says Ian Race, vice-president of client services in the Ontario office of Vision 2000. Plus, there’s an even bigger payoff when self-serve tools – such as Sabre’s Get There, ResX and Concur’s CliqBook – are customized to support your travel policies and preferred vendors.

“In and of themselves, self-booking tools won’t always work for more complicated travel plans,” says Race, “but when you can use them in a managed travel environment, it can be very effective.”

3. Rally the troops

Even with a strong travel policy in place, austere times may call for extra effort from your away team. Your travellers can be your best cost-saving allies, if you can lead the charge. For instance, in the face of looming layoffs, employees of CBC/Radio Canada helped bring overall travel spending down some 20%, since management made a strong plea to make every dollar count and trim discretionary travel, according to Claude Laroche, Montreal-based senior director, Supply Management.

“We’ve stepped up communications with an awareness campaign on our internal websites. It’s around a ‘Did you know?’ theme, reminding employees of things like fees associated with changing tickets at the last minute, how much you can save by pre-booking, and other practical business travel tips,” he says.

 4. Stay ahead on airfares

As airlines tighten the slack in negotiated rates, corporate travel management policies are key to savings. According to Carlson Wagonlit Travel, travellers who book seven to 14 days in advance will save 50% on average over tickets booked less than a week out.

Even if your corporate travel policy addresses this, the firm suggests more savings are attainable by requiring travellers to book 14-21 days out, or to require pre-trip approval for bookings made less than seven days in advance “to ensure the reason for the trip is worth the higher ticket price,” says the company.

5. Don't treat your agency as just an order-taker

Revamping travel policy to better use the resources of a corporate travel management company can save money and reshape traveller behaviour.

“We’ve made an effort to have our corporate travel management company guide our travellers’ decisions and make more cost-effective choices,” says René Nieuwesteeg, director, Corporate Services with Hatch Ltd., an 8,000 employee consulting engineering firm with operations worldwide. Travellers used to book for a specified date or time, no questions asked: now, lower-cost alternatives are always recommended around flexible dates or routes.

- Julie Charles, Ignite

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