Business Travel for SMEs: No-sweat hacks to get it right
JOHANNESBURG – A lot goes into planning the perfect business trip. From chasing flights and finding hotels to juggling expenses and schedules – it’s not always a walk in the park. Yet, work trips can do wonders for your team and your business. So, how can you make the process less of a chore?
It’s all about having a business travel plan in place. No matter the size of your business, a good plan can transform your travel management from a hassle to a breeze. It gives you clear oversight, a strategic edge, and even a checklist to tick off, like booking early, researching your destination, planning your itinerary, and sorting out your travel documents. A well-constructed business travel plan is your ticket to seamless travel.
For Corporate Traveller’s Customer Success Manager Zay Ferguson-Nair (an absolute authority on business travel planning for SMEs!), you need to think about the following:
1. Your Travel Policy
At the top of your list? Your business travel plan must reflect your travel policy. Every flight or hotel booked should be on-policy and within budget. And when it comes to mixing business and pleasure, be crystal clear about who’s managing what and who’s footing the bill!
Thanks to the magic of online booking tools, planning business travel is less of a headache these days. But with so many tools available, choosing one can be tricky. A travel management company (TMC) could help you find the best fit – or even design a custom tool for your needs. The right platform can help you track your bookings and spending, and manage post-trip expenses which means total control at your fingertips!
Plus, travel alerts, reminders, and traveller profile fields make life even easier. Your business travel plan should include your go-to tech tools, like nifty apps (such as Corporate Traveller’s Sam, suggests Ferguson-Nair) that let you manage itineraries and get instant travel alerts.).
As an SME, last-minute business trips are unavoidable. After all, when opportunity knocks, you answer! Unfortunately, last-minute trips are also costly.
According to Ferguson-Nair, planning at least 7+ days ahead can help you secure more cost-effective options and it allows for more wiggle room when it comes to changes. Plus, you’ve got a better shot at availability during peak travel periods. If planning ahead is out of the question, your best bet is a TMC, who’ll use their connections and clout to secure the best possible flights, fares, and rates (even when the clock’s ticking!).
4. Duty of Care and Traveller Wellness
Did you know that duty of care is part of your company’s legal obligation? In other words, it’s up to you to ensure duty of care and traveller wellness are included in your business travel planning so you can keep your travellers safe during their trip.
This includes providing adequate travel insurance for local, regional and international travel; educating your staff about the risks associated with their destination; and explaining the steps they should take in the event of a travel emergency (including who they should call and how they should keep in touch!).
Full marks if your travel management platform allows for traveller tracking! If it doesn’t (and it really should), make sure all your traveller’s details are up to date (including cell number, email address and ICE details) and easily accessible. Your plan should also include your TMC or travel agent’s details and an after-hours travel support hotline.
And don’t forget about traveller wellness. Think sociable flight times (avoiding 3am wake up calls where you can!), hotel amenities, and food options. Consider everything that contributes to a comfortable and stress-free trip.
5. Documents and Details
When it comes to business travel planning, the devil is in the details. Make sure you know exactly what is required in terms of your travel documents (passport and visas); entry requirements (including vaccinations like hepatitis A, hepatitis B and yellow fever); and itinerary information like rental cars, check-in times and payment expectations (for example, is it payment in advance, on check-out or ‘bill back’ to your TMC?).
According to Ferguson-Nair, these are some of the things to consider – and to remind your travellers about before they jet off:
• Flights: Go for flexible tickets and inform the airline about any special needs (including excess baggage or special cargo).
• Car rental: Pay attention to daily mileage limits, inspections, fuel policies, additional drivers, and insurance coverage (things which are often forgotten about when travellers pick up their rental cars).
• Hotels: Ask for early check-in and baggage storage – especially if your travellers are arriving on an early more flight. For late arrivals, make sure the hotel has adequate dining options and 24-hour room service.
• Passports: Ensure you have 6-months validity and the required number of blank pages.
• Documentation and vaccination certificates: Check processing times for both visas and vaccinations – and ensure the traveller’s details match the passport information.
• Travel insurance: Understand your coverage and include it in your travel plan.
• Credit card: Notify your bank about international travel.
• Mobile phone: Switch off roaming to avoid charges. Use Wi-Fi instead.
• Universal plug: Pack one for charging your devices on the go.
Even seasoned travellers can make the odd mistake (like assuming you’re flying into Heathrow instead of Gatwick!). For Ferguson-Nair, this is where a travel plan – and the help of a travel expert – is invaluable.
“A modern TMC like Corporate Travellers has access to online booking platforms designed to be user-friendly and come with a range of features for clients,” says Ferguson-Nair. “Simplifying your company’s travel arrangements by choosing a single travel partner or TMC is still the best way to save money, benefit from negotiated rates, keep a handle on costs, access game-changing tech and receive expert travel support – including making sure you’ve thought of everything!”
For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Bonnie Smith, call Dorine Reinstein on 083 278 8994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.