After payroll, travel is the second largest controllable expense for businesses according to statistics from Jupiter Research. But it doesn’t just come down to money spent on transport and accommodation: badly-managed expense reports, inaccurate data and time spent dealing with travel admin also drive up costs. But they can be reduced – here’s how.
1. Have a strong travel policy in place
Many small businesses plan travel on an ad-hoc basis, dealing with trips as and when the need for them arises. But to effectively forecast travel costs you need to be clear on what can and cannot be claimed, and set parameters around allowable expenses. “Creating a clear policy helps to avoid confusion and sets a precedent for future travel,” says Chris England, director of regional SME network Herefordshire Rural Hub. “A template like this also helps to streamline the travel-planning process, saving valuable work hours.”
2. And then review it regularly
“Your company’s travel needs will evolve over time,” says Chris, “so review your policy regularly to make sure it still works for you – if not, you could be wasting money trying to adhere to unnecessarily restrictive guidelines.”
3. Plan ahead
According to research by Europcar, 44% of SME business travellers organise their travel plans just one week in advance, meaning they’re often missing out on the best deals. “Small businesses often leave individuals to book their own transport, and doing so at the last minute often means additional costs,” says SME Europcar director Sam Sterry. “Encourage staff to book as far in advance as possible.”
4. Maximise value
Internet connectivity, lunch, room service coffee…costs can quickly mount up. When it comes to choosing hotels or transport providers pay attention to amenities such as free Wi-Fi and included meals. A single price that includes these incidentals could save money and make it easier to forecast spend.
5. Consider alternatives
Accommodation can be expensive even with advance booking and corporate rates, and even more so in major cities. Look at services such as Airbnb instead of the usual hotels, particularly for longer-term stays or if there’s a group travelling together.
6. Maximise efficiency
Keep travel as streamlined as possible, says Marcus Franck, founder of Franck Energy: “Managing travel expenses effectively is rooted in solid logistical planning. To minimise costs associated with back and forth, we plan meetings with clients in similar geographical areas for the same day, or across a couple of days in the same week.”
7. Get precise mileages
Accurately monitoring mileage can be time-consuming and complicated, especially for SMEs where staff use their own vehicles. Penny Searles, CEO of Smartdriverclub, recommends using a car connectivity service such as ‘Business Miles’, where a small device plugged into the car allows both business and personal miles to be downloaded directly into an expense form.
8. Keep a close eye on currency
Don’t rely on employees making currency exchanges at the airport where fees and charges are highest. With FairFX’s Corporate Card and Expenses Platform you can benefit from great exchange rates and complete control and transparency over expenses. Top-up employee’s cards with the money they need, exactly when they need it, wherever in the UK or abroad.
9. File expense reports as soon as possible
Paying employee’s travel costs can significantly disrupt cash flow cycles if expense forms come in late, so implement a policy that stipulates a deadline for claims.
10. Let apps shoulder some of the burden
Christian Gleave, CEO of Review Travel, says his company has quickly recognised the benefit of business-focused travel apps. “Apps are convenient for storing itineraries and tickets in one place and can also approve expenses using photos taken on your phone, significantly reducing administrative time and expenditure.”
11. Cut costs in the right place
It may be tempting to book a cheaper hotel, but if its location necessitates a long taxi ride to and from your destination, you’re negating any savings. Equally, poor-quality accommodation can lead to a lack of motivation and productivity from staff, which incurs costs in the long run. Managing travel expenses well doesn’t always mean going for the cheapest deal.
12. Don’t forgo travel insurance
Travel insurance might seem like an unnecessary expense but if something goes wrong during a trip the resulting cost could be astronomical. A policy that covers your entire workforce for a year may seem like a large outlay but could save money (and time) compared to buying insurance ad-hoc.
13. Consider a travel management company
Managing business travel can be a big time drain for an SME that has limited manpower, so consider enlisting the services of a travel management company which takes care of every aspect of business travel for you. It’s an investment, but one that could save you money, not to mention time and effort, in the long run.
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