Business travel expenses look different now. Here’s how to manage them

Cindy Apt

With people returning to the skies for work travel, it’s time for businesses to ensure they are prepared for corporate travel, 2022 style.

As restrictions across the globe relax, travelling for work is back on the rise. The numbers don’t lie: data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) shows that passenger numbers in December 2021 had reached 47 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels, a significant increase from October 2021 (17 per cent), with numbers continuing the upward trajectory to 50 per cent in January 2022.

While the return to travel is welcome, there are a number of changes business leaders in charge of travel and expense management should know before taking off again, according to Fabian Calle, managing director for small and medium businesses (Australia and New Zealand), SAP® Concur®.

SAP Concur, which manages business, travel and invoice automation, recently surveyed corporate travellers who work at companies with fewer than 1000 staff and discovered the following trends:

1. Demand, demand, demand

SAP Concur’s research shows 95 per cent of travellers are willing to travel for business over the next 12 months, with 63 per cent saying they are very willing. Of these, 66 per cent say they’re the ones actively wanting to travel as opposed to their company insisting they do so.

With restricted flight numbers and increased public health protocols impacting travellers wanting to make a smooth journey, the airport experience itself says it all.

“On a recent return trip I took from Melbourne to Sydney, the line for security check— at both airports — was the longest I’ve ever witnessed,” Calle tells Startup Daily.

While we wait for a return to full flying schedules, Calle says companies can provide their staff with tools to make this period of heightened demand a little smoother.

“A travel tool such as TripIt, which is free for personal travellers, is one way to do this,” he suggests. “Companies can then use the same tools for their staff, who expect similar experiences technology-wise, both personally and professionally.”

The influx of demand will also require efficient management to ensure the business’s bottom line is not surprised by the inevitable spike in travel costs.

“SAP Concur captures travel and booking data no matter where it’s booked. This not only provides flexibility for staff booking or changing travel, it also lets the company leverage sophisticated reporting tools around travel and other expenses, and use the captured data to provide insights that can drive better business decisions,” Calle explains.

Global giant Serco is one example of a business that used SAP Concur to manage its travel spend and increase compliance with booking policies. Doing so saved the company $2.2 million (AUD) in efficiency savings in the first 12 months.

2. Flexibility is how we roll… or fly

Travellers’ demand for flexibility outweighed vaccination-related demands at 70 per cent versus 55 per cent in SAP Concur’s research. Calle says over two-thirds of respondents want their company to loosen restrictions to accommodate better, flexibility-oriented policies, if not a return to pre-COVID-19 travel policies.

In an increasingly mobile world, using software that lets staff make changes on their devices from anywhere, which can still be captured and retained for planning purposes regardless of location, is vital.

“Travel is a very personal thing and we all have our individual preferences, from aisle seat or window to exit row or back of the plane. Letting people choose their preferred way of flying and controlling policy-based options through technology goes a long way to not only create loyalty amongst staff by showing trust and duty of care, but also give businesses visibility into spend,” Calle advises.

Technology such as SAP Concur’s, lets staff easily access and use sophisticated tools and resources to do everything they might need, from changing reservations on the go and sharing consolidated itineraries, to finding up-to-date information about delays and travel disruptions.

Since this can all be completed on your mobile, it helps with other business expenses too – travellers can submit expense reports on the go, and automated approvals help managers respond quicker to review requests where they are.

3. Health and safety need to be first class

woman at airport with face mask on

Research shows business travellers see health and safety as paramount. Image: AdobeStock

Over half (53 per cent) of travellers surveyed said they would make changes if their company doesn’t provide measures to protect their health and safety.

This can range from keeping staff up to date with tips and insights around what to expect at the airport, through to information around COVID-19 protocols in the cities and countries teams are visiting.

“Each business is coming out of the COVID-19 era with very different options on what staff should or shouldn’t do. We have some customers who require staff to be fully vaccinated to enter their own offices, while others provide more flexibility around proof of negative tests,” Calle says.

“Our travel tools provide up-to-date information on certain conditions that need to be met at their destination. In some cases, through duty of care applications, travel ratings are also provided.”

Making this extra effort goes a long way to keeping staff wanting to travel for your business – especially in this current climate of talent shortage issues.

4. Save time – and the planet

The pandemic has highlighted the impact that travel has on the environment, and this has contributed to increased societal demand to take steps to reduce our global impact. Unsurprisingly, 60 per cent of the surveyed travellers expect to make changes that improve travel sustainability.

So, when booking and managing travel for work, businesses can improve their footprint by looking into the carbon cost of various travel choices, or even expense carbon offsets. These efforts can then be easily translated into marketable metrics to communicate a company’s green achievements.

On a day-to-day level, going paperless is a great start. For example, SAP Concur lets users lodge electronic receipts directly into expense reports, saving travellers time and eliminating errors from manual processes.

“COVID taught – or forced – us to work remotely and highlighted to many businesses that they had not kept up to date with the available technology which can truly connect their staff and business processes,” Calle concludes.

Get on top of your business travel and expenses now at concur.com.au.


This article is brought to you by Startup Daily and sponsored by SAP Concur.

Feature image: AdobeStock

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