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Travel Program Audit During COVID-19

If your organization’s travel program was an afterthought before the COVID-19 Pandemic, that has likely changed over the past several weeks, as employee travel has been thrust into the spotlight. Corporate travel managers, risk departments and executive teams have all been focused on locating and getting travelers home, navigating supplier cancellation policies and thinking about the best way to manage all of their unused tickets to ensure they are utilized when travel picks up again. Many companies are also using this time of decreased travel to audit their travel programs to shore up gaps that were exposed during the past weeks. Of course, travel risk management, duty of care and “on-the-grid” travel are getting the most attention.

 

“On-the-grid” travel has taken on a new level of importance due to COVID-19. When an organization’s travelers book their travel through the approved channel, i.e., their travel management company (TMC) partner, that travel is “on the grid” which makes it quite simple to determine which employees are currently traveling and review future itineraries, as the TMC can easily produce a report listing those reservations. This facilitates getting travelers home, ensuring airline waivers are utilized and managing unused tickets. Employees that make travel reservations via leisure travel aggregator sites and supplier sites or “off-the-grid” make it nearly impossible to determine current and future travel reservations. Therefore, the advantages of booking “on-the-grid” are non-existent, which can lead to problems with emergency response. So, organizations may want to consult with their TMC and begin thinking about ways to increase “on-the-grid” travel.

 

The COVID-19 Pandemic has also forced organizations to reassess their duty-of-care obligation. In corporate travel, duty-of-care refers to an organization’s obligation to care for its traveling employees. As this situation has unfolded over the last several weeks, organizations had to make decisions about allowing future travel and also about getting travelers home, which involved weighing the advantages of waiting on learning about airline cancellation policies versus booking one way tickets immediately to get travelers home as soon as possible. Companies responded to this situation in both ways, which was a reflection of their duty-of-care stance. Regardless of your stance, now is a good time to be honest about if the right choice was made and if you would make that same choice in the future or not.

 

Another important area to audit is how your organization mitigates and manages travel risks. Is this done internally within your organization or have you partnered with a third-party solution to do it for you? Travel risk management technology platforms now exist that can advise travelers pre-trip if they’ve booked travel to unsafe locations and warn them of risks during their trips. These platforms can also include communication tools allowing for seamless communication between the travelers and their organization’s risk department during an emergency. As we experience situations like COVID-19, more and more organizations are realizing how important it is to have a comprehensive travel risk management solution in place to help them manage situations like this.

 

If you’re like most organizations, employee travel has likely been reduced significantly during the Pandemic which means corporate travel managers may finally have a little extra time in their schedules to audit their travel programs and fill in the gaps that have been exposed during the Pandemic. It’s best to consult with a TMC when auditing your travel program, as they are experts in assessing the efficacy of various travel systems and they also have a variety of solutions for each of your travel program areas, such as those discussed above, as well as booking and expense management, supplier discounts, spend visibility, and more. Reach out to Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited for expert advice on optimizing your entire travel program.