Streamlining Business Travel Booking Management Using Technology and Automation
Business travel booking management platforms provide a streamlined platform for employees to book and manage their business trips. Such platforms allow users to quickly check availability and prices, book flights and hotels, manage payments, and access analytics to better understand travel-related trends. Business travel booking management systems also enable companies to monitor employee spending more closely, and to centralize itineraries and receipts. This allows them to better control budgets and allocate resources efficiently.
>> Related: 10 Shifts In Business Travel Expenses <<
The Challenges of Traditional Business Travel Booking
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) reported that one in five (19 percent) expense reports contain errors or missing information. Further, the GBTA noted, “Companies process an average of 51,000 expense reports each year, meaning companies around the globe spend, on average, approximately half a million dollars and nearly 3,000 hours correcting errors in expense reports annually.”
If your company isn’t using an automated travel booking platform, chances are you’re contending with:
Time-consuming manual processes
- Employees are personally researching their own flights and hotels. When they book travel, they have to manually create expense reports, often multiple reports for the same trip as large expenses (like flights) pop up long before travel dates.
- Cost approvals are sought over email, clogging managers inboxes and risking flights will be filled or prices will change.
- Every month, the Finance team hand-builds spreadsheets across teams and departments to track expenses.
Lack of visibility into expenses and spending
- Some employees will be savvy and price-hunt. Others will book the first flight they see. Managers don’t have visibility to coach travelers to be conscientious with the travel budget.
- When many employees are traveling to same place for onsites or office visits, the company has no visibility into the scale of travel, and they can’t negotiate group pricing.
>> Related: Best Practices for Booking Group Travel <<
The Benefits of Technology and Automation
Business travel booking management systems are designed to help companies avoid these problems:
- Their automated processes make it easier to provide accurate, up-to-date information about flights, hotels, and other bookings.
- Businesses can set preferred suppliers and budget limits for travelers to ensure they stay within guidelines. With this level of oversight, businesses can ensure all trips are booked according to their rules.
- Such systems track changes over time in order to identify trends or opportunities for savings. By taking advantage of advanced analytics, businesses can optimize their operations even further by proactively managing costs associated with business travel.
- Travel costs are more transparent, and Finance, managers, and employees can consider the value vs. costs of each trip.
Increased efficiency and productivity
Probably the most tantalizing benefit of a travel booking platform is reducing employee, manager, and accountant time spent on manual tasks and data entry.
- With a travel booking platform, employees can select flights, hotels, and rental cars with a few clicks, and immediately submit receipts.
- Companies can pre-set parameters, budgets, and approvals so employees can take control of their own travel within policy, and skip manual approvals all together.
Sample travel management automation
Improved accuracy and consistency in booking information
By integrating flights, hotels, and expense reports, travel booking software significantly reduces the risk of human errors and omissions during expense reporting.
Similarly, Accounting and Finance departments can tabulate most expenses automatically, without scrutinizing every receipt or hand entering totals into the general ledger.
Enhanced visibility into expenses and spend
A travel booking platform is as much a boon for Finance and Accounting as it is for road warriors.
- Businesses also have access to detailed reports containing data on flight, hotel, and other costs which helps identify areas where they could be saving money or optimizing processes.
- Automated notifications can be set up for when employees exceed pre-set budget limits, ensuring managers can intervene early.
- You can see exactly how much teams are spending with real-time insights, not monthly audits.
- All travel and expense information is easily accessible through pre-formatted dashboard and reports, providing teams with greater visibility into spending habits and remaining budget.
- Finance can sync any corporate card and track each transaction status. You’ll know whether transactions have been submitted, approved, or reimbursed.
>> Related: How to Effectively Leverage Travel Spend Data<<
Selecting a Travel Booking and Management Solution
If you’re evaluating business travel management vendors, look for the following features:
- Does the platform integrate with your human resources information system? Can you invite employees automatically after they’re hired? Is there a built-in onboarding flow, or do you have to train new employees manually?
- Are there automated alerts and notifications for employees, managers, HR, and Finance?
- Are approved expense reports automatically synced to the general ledger?
- How long does it take to process and disburse expenses?
- Can employees easily gather receipts and submit expense reports on their phone?
- Does the platform offer OCR (Optical Character Recognition) so that employees and accountants do not have to hand-enter receipt costs?
- Are hotels and flights booked through the platform automatically added to draft expense reports?
- What security protocols are in place to protect credit card numbers, passport numbers, and employee PII (Personal Identifiable Information)?
- Simply put, travel plans often go awry. How easy is it to change a flight or hotel reservation? How easy is it to leverage canceled flight credits? Who can an employee call/text when they need immediate support on the road?
Simply put, business travel management tools save time and money, reduce errors, and simplify monthly/quarterly reporting. It’s estimated that, “a TMC can help save organizations anywhere from 5% to 50% of its travel spend,” and as travel is often a company’s second largest expense, even companies that spend as little as $250,000 a year can see significant savings.