With travel being such an important and large expenditure for higher education institutions, it’s a good idea to perform a yearly audit to ensure that the travel program is delivering a return on investment and positive results in three core areas: process efficiency, savings, and travel risk management. Here are a few ways to look at those areas to compare your program with best practices:
How much time does your faculty and staff spend booking travel reservations? Of all areas in a travel program, process efficiency is often overlooked, as it’s not equated to hard dollar savings, but there is a cost associated with employee time. There are a few ways to consider time spent booking travel. First, if your institution is not partnered with a travel management company (TMC), your travelers are likely perusing several travel supplier websites and leisure travel websites before making a purchase. On average, travelers are reported to spend between 30 and 60 minutes comparing suppliers and pricing before booking their travel. When you consider the amount of travel booked across a higher education institution over the course of a year, the costs associated with the time spent booking travel can add up quickly.
A simpler and faster way to book travel is through a TMC’s travel advisor or one of their online booking tools configured specifically for your school. Making travel reservations with a TMC’s travel advisor usually takes five minutes or less, while booking through an online reservation tool usually takes no more than 5-10 minutes. So, it’s quite easy to see that having faculty and staff book their travel on leisure and supplier websites wastes a tremendous amount of time every year compared with booking through a TMC. Another advantage of booking through a TMC is that they can integrate your travel policy into the booking process while providing your travelers with access to their discounted supplier rates, as well as any contracted supplier rates that your school may have negotiated.
One of the key functions of a higher education travel program is to help save on travel costs. Two of the main ways this occurs is by providing faculty and staff access to the TMC’s discounted air, car, hotel rates and by leveraging the institution’s travel volume with key suppliers to secure additional negotiated rates. By simply making reservations with a TMC’s travel advisor or with their online booking tool, travelers can take advantage of these rates, realizing significant savings for their schools. Furthermore, top TMCs employ rate check technologies that can drive additional savings. Rate check technology scans reservations after they were initially made to detect if that rate is subsequently lowered by the travel supplier. If the rate decreases, the technology can rebook the reservation at the lower rate.
It can be unnerving for a school’s finance department to think about their travelers booking on leisure travel and supplier sites and not taking advantage of these discounted rates. Educating travelers about these cost-savings advantages of making reservations through an approved channel (TMC) goes a long way toward increasing the return on investment (ROI) of your school’s travel program.
Travel Risk Management
On any given day, there can be numerous faculty, staff, and students traveling all over the world. How would a school’s risk department know if one of its travelers was affected by a serious incident like terrorism, extreme weather or political unrest? If a traveler made their reservation on a supplier or leisure travel website it’s likely that no one from their school would know if they suddenly found themselves in a precarious situation needing assistance. So, what are some ways a school can keep track of its travelers?
Travel location reports are a simple way to know where your travelers are based on their booked itineraries. TMCs can provide these reports to their higher education clients daily, weekly, or on any schedule needed. There are also travel risk management technology platforms now available that automatically notify travelers and their risk departments when travelers are in the vicinity of a serious incident. Furthermore, these platforms provide a two-way communication component that allows for travelers and their risk department to exchange information quickly. This is one of the more advanced ways to approach travel risk management and it provides the most peace of mind for higher education institutions and their travelers.
While there are many different areas of travel programs that can be audited, the three mentioned above are a great place to start. If you find that you’ve fallen behind in terms of process efficiencies, savings and travel risk management, it may be time to alter your course to get back on track. For assistance, contact Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited.