Have you been charged with making travel arrangements for your boss? It can be a stressful task, but with the right information at your fingertips, you could just become the office travel superhero.
“Anyone organising a company’s travel requirements is likely to be juggling a great number of responsibilities. The CFO will insist you stay within budget, while the HR manager will urge you to keep different travellers’ preferences and happiness top of mind,” says Oz Desai, General Manager Corporate Traveller, a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group.
“Travel arrangers are not simply ticket bookers, they are strategic partners who need to grasp the purpose of the trip in order to make it a success,” Desai explains. “They need to be like professional chess players, planning thoroughly and always thinking one step ahead of the game.”
Here’s how Desai suggests travel arrangers go about it:
- Gather all the information you can find
There are few things more frustrating than finding the right price for a flight, but not able to lock it in because you don’t have the necessary documentation to finalise the booking.
Make sure you have a cheat sheet for every traveller, complete with the following information:
- Full name (as it appears on driver’s licence or ID)
- Email address
- ID/driver’s licence number
- Phone number
- Credit card number and expiration date
- Keep the CFO smiling
Determine the total budget for the trip before making travel arrangements. To make sure you stay within the budget – and keep the CFO smiling – it’s a good idea to break it down into different components: airfare, ground transport, accommodation, restaurants, etc.
There are various ways to keep costs down. For example, according to Corporate Traveller’s data, the cheapest time to book domestic travel is between one and two months in advance, whereas the cheapest time to book African travel is between one and three days before travelling.
Although the company’s travel policy will outline most booking guidelines, when dealing with the CEO’s travel requirements, it’s important to keep in mind that VIPs often bypass certain requirements. Travelling is not always black and white, and for an important executive, you might consider going over budget if there are compelling reasons to do so.
- Pre-empt as many challenges as possible
Have you checked that the traveller’s passport is valid and will not be expiring in the near future? Do you know if the country to which the executive is travelling requires a vaccination form or a visa? Have you arranged travel insurance?
Often employees don’t realise that booking travel with a credit card may not offer them sufficient cover in case of an emergency. Ensure that your travellers are covered for minor travel risks like missing luggage, but that they also have enough medical and specific security coverage.
Besides the nitty gritty of travel arrangement, the business dealings also need to be considered. If the executive will be attending a conference, make sure to reserve his or her seat as early as possible.
- Two is company
Find out if the traveller will be joined by colleagues, staff, or family at any point during the trip. Consider what steps should be taken to accommodate additional travellers and check with the executive if he or she would like to sit next to anyone in particular on the plane.
- Stick to the schedule
“By failing to plan you are planning to fail,” Benjamin Franklin once said, and he is often proven right. Make sure you plan ahead and stay on top of your boss’s schedule.
A good idea is to make a list with the dates and times that your boss is scheduled to be at each destination, from the start of the trip until the time he or she gets back home. It’s important to be accurate and confirm the exact locations and times. This will go a long way towards booking the right transport and accommodation.
Knowing where the company executives are – and how to reach them – is also a simple yet effective risk mitigating strategy, which will go a long way in providing them with the duty of care they deserve.
- Window or aisle?
Would the CEO prefer the front of the plane or doesn’t he mind sitting in the back? Is she keen to gaze out of the window or would she rather be able to stretch her legs in the aisle?
Make a comprehensive list of the traveller’s flight preferences, from top airline choice down to seating preferences and meal selections. Are there any non-negotiable ancillaries to include, such as in-flight Wi-Fi or extra luggage? Make sure you are as prepared as possible to answer these questions.
- Train, bus or private chauffeur?
Does your CEO like to have the freedom of a rental car, or is she more inclined to opt for a limousine transfer with a private chauffeur? From Uber, to car rentals and transfers, ground transportation has evolved dramatically and the options are endless.
While you are organising the ground transport arrangements, make sure to remember to take care of the ride home from the airport once your traveller arrives back home.
- Choose the best hotel for the occasion
When it comes to choosing a hotel, find out where the executives’ priorities lie. Do they want to stay close to the meeting venue, or is an airport hotel the best option? Would they prefer the convenience of a hotel or the homely feel of a guesthouse?
Although it can be tempting to book the closest accommodation to the conference or meeting venue, if budget is a consideration, broadening the location radius can result in considerable savings. When looking at a trip to Cape Town, for example, opting for accommodation outside the Cape Town CBD can impact the cost of the room per night by up to 46 percent.
- Install a mobile travel chatbot on your boss’s phone
Because you can’t possibly be at all places at all times to assist your boss with handy information, reach out to the digital world for help.
Corporate Traveller’s travel chatbot, Sam:], is programmed to keep travellers updated at all times, from weather updates at the destination to information on the traveller’s departure gate, flight time changes and where to collect baggage. The app also suggests which restaurants and attractions to visit, alerts travellers about traffic delays and will soon be able to connect travellers with a consultant via a live text or phone chat if the need arises.
For more tips and pointers on how to navigate the complex landscape of business travel, Corporate Traveller has compiled the ultimate playbook for travel bookers that will help you stand out and become the office travel hero.