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Is it Time to Dust Off your Corporate Travel Policy?

Boost compliance and savings by keeping your corporate travel policy current

By Michele Sponagle

Is it time to dust off your corporate travel policy? “Yes!” say experts, especially if you haven’t taken a fresh look at it in the past six months to a year. The pace of change in travel, from new airline fees to continuing advances in technology, dictates that businesses keep tweaking their policies on a regular basis.

The cost of complacency is significant. “It used to be that a company could set their corporate travel policy and not look at it for five years,” says David Reilly, manager, account management, Egencia Canada. “You can’t do that now. New innovations, like mobile bookings, are driving the constant need for change.”

Businesses that are a bit slow off the mark will likely experience problems with compliance. “A good corporate travel policy is rooted in reality,” says Reilly. “It needs to reflect current rates for things like hotels, meals and per diems. It should be simple, as short and sweet as possible. Three to five pages should suffice.”

While updating a policy, a collaborative approach works best in driving savings and controlling costs. It’s important to talk to the company road warriors. Don’t leave it only to procurement or you risk what Reilly calls “an ivory tower policy”—one that’s great if all you’re doing is staying in the office. Bring in your IT and accounting departments, too, to discuss your travel policy as a group.

Don’t forget about ancillary fees. They can be sneaky ones, from advance seat selection on flights to hotel charges for Internet use and tolls incurred by rental cars. The Global Business Travel Association (gbta.org) compiled a handbook for travel managers that lists more than 40 sneaky charges from hotels, airlines and car rental agencies.

Think, too, about security. Dirk Baerts, managing director, Egencia Canada, points to duty of care as something that needs to be addressed. A company may blacklist airlines in certain countries and restrict travellers from going into areas without mobile coverage. Also, ensure there’s travel insurance in place. That may mean consulting with human resources to see if there’s an umbrella policy or whether one needs to be purchased separately to cover things like medical emergencies or flight delays and cancellations.

Got it covered?
Your corporate travel policy checklist:

❏ preferred hotels, airlines and rental car companies, along with class of seat (business versus economy), type of accommodation and vehicle size allowed, and charges such as meals and headsets on flights or hotel mini-bar items

❏ acceptable advance booking window

❏ allowable meals and business entertainment expenses

❏ approvals for expenses and for costs that fall outside of the policy

❏ per diem for meals, tips, ground transportation, parking and incidentals

❏ roaming charges and travel phone plans

❏ timely submission of receipts (preferred over credit card statements)

❏ a requirement to submit a detailed itinerary (including meeting times, flights and hotel phone numbers) before departure

❏ what the company won’t cover, including items like alcohol

❏ duration of trip, expected return to work and whether trips may be extended for personal travel

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