What does a corporate travel manager do?
A corporate travel manager is a specific person within the company whose role is to coordinate the corporate travel policy, ensure it is applied, plan, analyse and make improvements to it as needed. They play a central role in ensuring that the corporate travel policy is efficient and properly implemented. A good travel manager is crucial to a company’s success as they ensure that travel plans are made in a timely, cost-effective and fair way and that managers and other employees are comfortable and safe when they need to travel for work.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the roles of corporate travel managers and the skills and experience they need to carry out their job effectively.
Travel managers and the business travel policy
The corporate travel manager enables the smooth and cost-effective operation of any business. While we may automatically think of tourism when we think of travel managers, the corporate travel manager plays a much wider role. Their overarching aim is to balance the obligations of the business travel policy with the needs of employees while ensuring costs are optimised in the company’s interests. They may work alone or may sit within the HR team.
Obviously, the precise role of a travel manager (who might sometimes be called “mobility manager”) will vary, depending on the company’s travel policy.
The travel policy sets out the main rules governing travel bookings, travel expenses, modes of transport and expense claims. The corporate travel manager ensures the policy is up-to-date and is implemented on a daily basis.
They are also responsible for ensuring that the travel policy reflects the current needs and the future ambitions of the company and its employees. The travel manager may well be the first person employees turn to if they are unhappy with a particular mode of transport, feel unsafe travelling late at night, or need help when they realise their hotel is on the wrong side of town from their meeting. They need to be responsive, work towards improving procedures and ensure that feedback from employees is applied to company policies.
Making travel bookings and other reservations
This is really the core role of the travel manager. They are responsible for the logistical side of employees’ travel: making transport and accommodation reservations.
This is not always a straightforward task – there will often be multiple ways to get to a destination, and the travel manager has to take into account cost, convenience (departure and arrival time, comfort, business class, etc), environmental considerations, frequent traveller benefits, the schedules of other travellers from the same company and many other variables.
Companies whose employees travel often may negotiate special rates with transport companies and accommodation providers. They may have a partnership with a chain of hotels which they always use, rather than looking around for the best deal for each journey. The travel manager is responsible for keeping these partnerships active and ensuring the company’s interests are being served.
They may also have to manage frequent flyer or traveller benefits, such as air miles, on behalf of employees.
As well as coordinating the logistics of business trips, travel managers are also responsible for ensuring claims for travel expenses are filed in a correct and timely manner. This may involve chasing up receipts, reminding colleagues to fill in claim forms and checking that claims are accurate and eligible.
Finally, the travel manager will often be the first port of call when employees encounter difficulties – when a train is delayed or a flight is cancelled, they have to respond at short notice and find solutions using the skills and contacts they have available.
What skills does a travel manager need?
A travel manager needs a very specific set of skills to enable them to successfully carry out this varied and demanding job. The role is very much people-focused, whether it be negotiating deals with travel companies and hotels, talking to employees about their travel preferences, or responding to travel emergencies when things go wrong. Great communication skills are, therefore, an absolute must.
A good communicator
This also extends to communicating within the company itself. Travel managers are in regular contact with employees, who may have specific travel needs (employees with disabilities, employees with special dietary requirements, etc.) that have to be taken into account. The travel manager needs to be approachable and understanding. They also need to be able to communicate with senior management and may be required to participate in meetings with senior managers to discuss the travel policy and the travel budget.
The logistical side of the travel manager’s job also involves outstanding organisational skills. They need to be able to compare deals, take into account discounts, special offers and frequent traveller benefits, optimising costs for the company while not compromising on employee comfort and safety.
To do so, they need to master the latest technology. Making online travel bookings, managing apps to track mileage and expenses, and analysing data on costs and employee feedback are all key tasks. Depending on the size of the company and the volume of travel its employees do, there may be special in-house software used to track reservations and expenses. The travel manager is responsible for ensuring that employees know how to use the software and that they apply the travel policy when making their own bookings. This may involve training staff and being the point of contact for any issues relating to the software. Staying up to date with the latest developments in travel management technology is essential and a good travel manager will be open to exploring new solutions.
Travel managers also need good analytical skills. As well as being comfortable working with numbers (finding the best deals, negotiating with partners), a travel manager also needs to be able to analyse the company’s travel expenses and ensure costs are being optimised. They need to be able to weigh up the pros and cons of different travel options and must take into account variables such as employee safety and comfort, insurance and loyalty to partners as well as simply costs. In larger companies, the travel manager will often also hold reporting duties, as the travel budget can represent a significant proportion of a company’s outgoings.
Are you a travel manager interested in finding out the best way of managing your company’s business travel? Want to find easier ways to record, track and reimburse your employees’ business travel expenses? Get in touch to see how Mooncard can help optimise your travel needs. A no-strings-attached demo is available.