Updating Your Travel Policy for the Upcoming Year

Many risks await the organization that doesn't regularly audit its travel policy. Out-of-date guidance leaves travellers guessing at processes and procedures. This confusion could introduce unnecessary costs and compromise data capture. Meanwhile, off-policy bookings could inhibit productivity and even put travellers in harm's way, eliminating your company’s ability to quickly identify them in the event of an emergency.

As you prepare for what's on the horizon, make sure your company's policy addresses any program changes and provides clear guidance to your travellers, while supporting your overall business objectives. 

Ensure your travel policy addresses all program technology

Adopt virtual cards? Introduce a new mobile app? When your travel program technology changes, your policy needs to change with it. As travellers are introduced to each new piece of technology, they should also be able to look to their travel policy for guidance and direction.

For example, if you’ve recently integrated a new online booking tool (OBT), your travel policy should outline when travellers should use the tool – vs. booking with a travel advisor – and how to use it. Your policy should provide direction for accessing training materials, guides, and FAQs, while also identifying key contacts who can provide more information, including technical support. If employees attempt to use the OBT and fail to understand how it operates, they may opt to use an unapproved consumer-grade tool if they don’t know where to turn for troubleshooting resources.

Provide more than a list of rules in your travel policy

A complete travel policy includes not only the services offered by your TMC, but also the travel-related procedures employees are expected to follow and resources they have available. Most notably, your travel policy should clearly define your approved booking channels, such as your full-service travel advisor team, after-hours and emergency support, and online booking tool.

Travellers book outside approved channels for many reasons. Therefore, it’s important to identify why they may be doing so and help them understand why their policy compliance is essential. They may want accommodations closer to their meeting or conference, or maybe they're looking to stay at a hotel that gives them loyalty rewards. Whatever the reason, off-policy booking increases the financial and legal risk taken on by your organization.

For example, if an employee books their business trip using an online travel site instead of the approved channels, it becomes much harder to identify them should an incident occur – completely undermining the risk management provisions your organization has in place.

Treat your travel policy as a useful aid that helps travellers make smart booking decisions, instead of simply presenting a list of rules. If you are launching your first travel policy or making significant changes to an existing policy, do  not  be  unreasonably  restrictive.  This  can  make  it  difficult  for  employees  to  accept  and  adapt  to  a  new  system.  Instead, implement logical policies and procedures and use regular feedback to evolve your policy as time goes on. Involving leaders from HR and legal will also help ensure that the policy is complete.

As another best practice, keep track of frequently asked questions from your travellers and use that to make future policy updates. If one traveller has a question, others may as well.

Most importantly, policy verbiage needs to be clear, concise, and easy for travellers to understand. 

Review compliance metrics before updating your policy

Policy compliance metrics make it easier for stakeholders to understand where leakage occurs. As such, it’s important to review them before any policy update so you can develop a strategic plan for increasing compliance.

Let's say that your reporting identifies that approximately 10 percent of your organization's travellers book air outside of the allowed class – that could have a significant impact on your travel budget. Use this information to find out why these bookings occur. When you understand why these travellers book off policy, whether intentionally or through ignorance, you can take steps to address the issue in your travel policy.

Measuring compliance can also help you fine-tune your trip approval processes. A travel policy can be interpreted in multiple ways, and travellers may get confused about when they can and cannot book with specific vendors. These metrics may identify a need to clarify language within your policy – or introduce alternative trip approval tools – to reduce the number of off-policy bookings. 

More resources for updating your travel policy

Updating your company's travel policy requires a clear understanding of many moving parts, including unpredictable industry trends. Check out our comprehensive travel policy workbook to ensure you haven't missed anything.