Business Travel Management
7 Lessons for the Modern Corporate Travel Planner

7 Lessons for the Modern Corporate Travel Planner

Samantha Shankman

12 Feb 2024
7 minute read

In recent years, the role of corporate travel planners has shifted from booking facilitators to strategic architects of business travel. This transformation reflects the broader changes in the corporate ecosystem and travel agency landscape, where technology and globalization have revamped how companies approach corporate travel planning and business travel management.

The Evolving Landscape of Corporate Travel Management

Corporate travel management has transcended its traditional state by integrating sophisticated digital solutions that streamline travel arrangements, policy enforcement, group travel, and cost management. Today, in-house corporate travel planners stand at the forefront of a sea of change. They must navigate a complex matrix of responsibilities that extend well beyond travel planning.

Modern travel managers liaise with teams across HR, finance, procurement, and executive leadership; in addition, they wield significant influence over technology adoption, software selection, and policy development. Corporate travel planners are also responsible for balancing cost savings with quality travel experiences and employing strategic negotiations and data analytics to optimize travel budgets.

Leveraging Technology for Enhanced Travel Management

The advent of cloud-based travel and expense (T&E) platforms has revolutionized the role of corporate travel planners by shifting their focus from booking and logistics toward enhancing the traveler experience while achieving cost savings. Here’s how a modern travel management company streamlines travel program management:

  • Data-driven cost savings: Comprehensive data analysis identifies opportunities to streamline travel expenses and achieve cost savings.
  • Customized user experiences: Personalizing the booking experience encourages platform adoption by catering to individual traveler preferences.
  • Incentivizing platform use: Creative strategies, such as rewards and gamification, drive corporate travel platform adoption, which enhances data collection and policy adherence.
  • Comprehensive support resources: A repository of online tutorials, FAQs, and guides to support employees in navigating the travel platform confidently.
  • Integration with other corporate cystems: Seamless integration with HR and finance software creates a cohesive ecosystem that simplifies compliance and expense reporting.
  • Customizable travel policies: Platforms that allow for the customization of travel policies ensure that bookings comply with company policy, which reduces manual checks.
  • Real-time budget monitoring: Tools that offer real-time visibility into travel budgets help prevent overspending by suggesting more cost-effective alternatives.

The Strategic Impact of Corporate Travel Planners

In 2024, the role of corporate travel planners is pivotal in shaping the strategic direction of corporate travel programs. The expertise of these planners enhances the employee travel experience and contributes significantly to the company’s bottom line through policy development and cost management.

The significance of adept corporate travel management cannot be overstated. As businesses navigate the months ahead, it becomes increasingly clear that corporate travel planners are indispensable in sculpting the strategic trajectory of corporate travel programs. Their profound expertise does more than just elevate the travel experience for employees; it directly influences the company’s financial health through meticulous policy development and judicious cost management.

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Adopting Smart Technology for Enhanced Travel Management

Digital transformation within the corporate travel sector underscores the need for adopting smart technology and sophisticated platforms. Management tools and booking apps have become fundamental in streamlining travel arrangements, which encompass everything from airfare and hotel reservations to car rentals and ground transportation.

These technologies not only simplify travel booking but also provide real-time data and insights, thereby enabling corporate travel planners to make informed decisions swiftly, which is especially important when handling last-minute changes.

Corporate travel managers are welcoming this technology — which can include expense management tools as well — with open arms. 

The State of Corporate Travel and Expense Report 2024 found that 66% of travel and expense managers would be either “very” or “somewhat” interested in an all-in-one T&E solution. Additionally, among those “very” interested in an all-in-one option, the survey saw a big increase from the year before: 21% to 29%.

These modern corporate travel management solutions offer integrated software that addresses all travel needs and contributes to a seamless experience for business travelers. By harnessing the power of these platforms, travel managers can effectively manage travel policies, oversee travel expenses, and ensure compliance, thereby enhancing the overall efficiency of the travel program.

How Navan Travel Supports Corporate Travel Planners

Navan is the end-to-end business travel solution that enables companies to scale travel programs. Here are some of the benefits.

  • Ease of booking: Select from an unrivaled inventory of travel options and book in minutes with an intuitive user interface that returns personalized results.

  • Guest and group travel: Easily book and manage travel for guests and plan group travel and offsites for up to 50 employees.

  • 24/7 support: Access a global network of expert travel agents or self-serve with Ava, Navan’s AI assistant.

  • Spend policies that work: Build custom travel and expense policies into the platform and drive compliance at scale with tools that dynamically adjust spend limits.

  • Reporting with data insights: Gain real-time visibility into bookings and spend with customizable dashboards.

  • Sustainability management: Track and reduce carbon emissions with robust sustainability tools.

Book a demo today.

A Well-Rounded Approach to Travel Planning

Today’s corporate travel planners recognize the importance of a holistic approach to travel planning — one that balances employee satisfaction with safety and cost-efficiency.

This comprehensive strategy involves developing a corporate travel policy that accommodates the diverse needs of business travelers while adhering to budget constraints and ensures duty of care.

A well-crafted travel policy not only delineates the guidelines for travel bookings and arrangements but also outlines the procedures for reimbursement, thereby streamlining the process of managing travel expenses.

A focus on the travel experience is key for planners seeking to offer personalized travel services that cater to traveler’s individual preferences and requirements. This attention to detail ensures that employees feel supported throughout their business trips, from booking flights and making hotel reservations to securing ground transportation and accessing 24/7 travel support.

Leveraging Data Analytics for Policy Improvements and Cost Savings

The role of data analytics in corporate travel management has become more crucial than ever.

By analyzing travel data, corporate travel planners can uncover insights into travel spending patterns, identify areas for cost savings, and evaluate the effectiveness of travel policies. This data-driven approach allows for the optimization of their travel budget and helps ensure that companies are maximizing their return on investment in corporate travel. By integrating corporate travel management software with expense management solutions, company leaders gain even more insights into spend and how to curb it.

Data analytics also plays a key role in negotiating with suppliers, such as airlines and hotels, to secure competitive pricing and cost-effective travel arrangements. Furthermore, insights from travel data enable planners to forecast future travel needs and trends for proactive travel program adjustments.

7 Key Tips for Modern Travel Managers

Today’s corporate travel agents can adopt smart technology and platforms that help them navigate the travel industry’s intricacies in a previously impossible way. Here’s how thy can take advantage.

1. Embrace Smart Technology and Integrated Platforms

The adoption of advanced booking tools and apps is crucial for streamlining travel booking processes, from airfare and hotel reservations to car rentals and ground transportation. These technologies offer real-time updates, facilitate last-minute changes, and ensure a seamless travel experience.

Implement management tools that provide a comprehensive overview of travel arrangements, expenses, and compliance with travel policies. This not only improves operational efficiency but also enhances the travel experience for employees.

2. Adopt a Holistic Approach to Travel Planning

Developing a corporate travel policy that balances cost-effectiveness with  quality travel experiences requires the consideration of factors such as travel frequency, preferred airlines and accommodations, and ground transportation options.

Incorporate flexibility into travel policies to accommodate diverse travel needs and preferences, thus promoting higher employee satisfaction and adherence to the travel program.

3. Leverage Data Analytics for Strategic Decision-Making

Lean on data analytics to gain insights into travel spending patterns, identify opportunities for cost savings, and assess the effectiveness of the current travel policy. This leads to informed decision-making that can lead to significant improvements in cost management.

Employ data-driven strategies to anticipate future travel needs and trends to empower proactive adjustments to the travel program that align with the company’s evolving requirements.

4. Foster Strong Relationships with Suppliers

Build and maintain positive relationships with airlines, hotels, and other travel service providers in order to secure exclusive deals, discounts, and amenities. The effort results in a better experience for travelers. Modern travel management solutions will often manage these relationships on your behalf and leverage their buying power for discounts.

5. Promote Travel Policy Compliance and Adoption

Implementing educational initiatives and communication strategies ensures that all employees are aware of and understand the corporate travel policy. This includes training sessions, informational resources, and regular updates on policy changes.

Encourage compliance and adoption through user-friendly booking platforms that align with the company’s travel policy. This makes it easier for employees to make travel arrangements that meet policy guidelines.

6. Enhance the Traveler’s Experience

Prioritizing the traveler experience by selecting travel services and accommodations that meet the needs and preferences of business travelers leads to their comfort and satisfaction.

Offer support throughout the travel journey, from pre-trip planning to post-trip follow-up, in order to address any issues or concerns and reinforce the company’s commitment to its employees.

7. Measure Travel Program Performance

Regularly review and report on the performance of the travel program, including cost savings achieved, compliance rates, and employee satisfaction. This enables continuous improvement and demonstrates the value of the travel program to the organization.

The role of corporate travel planners has evolved into a critical strategic function within organizations. By leveraging technology, fostering cross-departmental collaboration, and focusing on data-driven decision-making, planners are poised to deliver exceptional value in the corporate travel ecosystem of 2024.

Discover how Navan can transform your corporate travel program while enhancing efficiency and employee satisfaction. Watch a demo today.

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