Five smart ways to keep your business travel budget down

AFP/File/ludovic MARIN

Last-minute business trips not only put the business traveller under stress, but they can also really drive up costs.

Business travel has been rated one of the five most significant expenses for businesses of any size. However, Andrew Grunewald, Brand Leader at Flight Centre Business Travel (FCBT), warns against slashing budgets to make travel-budget ends meet.

“A knee-jerk reaction to cut down on travel cost often sees companies limit employees to unreasonable per diems or put them up in more affordable accommodation,” he said.

“Not only will this alienate your best employees, but it is also unlikely to generate the savings you are looking for. A cheap hotel might put your employee at risk. Or the amount you save per night could be eaten up in transport costs because it’s far from any convention centre or business district.”

Instead, Grunewald has suggested five ways companies can keep travel budgets down while still growing their business:

1. Offer your travellers value-for-money perks

It might sound counterproductive, but, offering your travellers perks and luxuries could, in fact, save you money.

Value-adds don’t always have to be at the expense of a company.

“You can proactively offer your employees perks while staying within budget,” said Grunewald. “FCBT’s SmartSTAY programme is designed to afford corporate travellers some luxuries. Perks vary from free breakfast to early check-in and free upgrades, which go a long way towards making travellers more productive when on the road.”

2. Make the most of loyalty programmes

Loyalty programmes are a great way to keep your employees happy, while at the same time allowing the company to keep the budget down.

In fact, many international airlines have frequent flyer programmes designed to benefit not just the traveller but also the company, from free upgrades to lounge access and fast check-in. Similarly, large hotel chains have loyalty programmes that allow subscribers to collect points for each booking. Points may be exchanged for discounts and even free nights, meaning further savings for your business as well as increasing your travellers’ enjoyment.

By including hotel and airline loyalty programmes on the travel policy, you ensure your travellers enjoy added benefits while your company wracks up free flights and more.

3. Discourage last-minute trips

Last-minute business trips not only put the business traveller under stress, but they can also really drive up costs. According to FCBT research, business travellers can pay up to 200% more for airfares purchased one day out from travel. Simply by booking flights in advance, companies can save up to 21% of their travel spend.

A professional Travel Management Company (TMC) like Flight Centre Business Travel provides invaluable information on all the intricacies of travel bookings, which can help a company to save. A travel consultant will, for example, tell you that opting for semi-flexible fares will save on the change and cancellation fees you would have incurred when booking fixed fares. They will also advise that return fares offer better value than one-way tickets and that it is possible to save by booking different cabins for various legs of the journey.

4. Explore interest-free credit facilities

Why put your business’ cash flow under pressure unnecessarily? Opting for an interest-free bill back service is a straightforward way to help save money and avoid having your travellers pay with their personal credit cards.

Instead of receiving receipts from all angles, or the business traveller paying with their card, the accounts department will receive one invoice showing the total travel spend.

5. Remember that time is money

You may think booking on your own cuts costs, but have you considered what the wasted hours trolling the internet for the best price is costing you?

On average, recent surveys suggest business travellers spend 20 minutes reading hotel reviews before they book.

Travel is an essential component of growing any growing business, he concluded.

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