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T&E Management 2007

Streamlining processing, increasing control, best practices.

July 12, 2007
by Jim Glab

Spending on business travel is one of a corporation’s largest controllable expenses. How do you control those expenses most effectively, while keeping your traveling employees productive and satisfied?

Managing, tracking, regulating, and reimbursing corporate travel costs, once a hodgepodge affair, is being changed by technology. As automated booking systems and data mining replace paper trails; travel management companies with worldwide reach take over from local agencies; the Internet comes to dominate travel transactions; and companies adopt Web-based techniques for expense reporting and reimbursement. These techno-tools give financial executives new ways to see where their travel dollars are going.

The improved technology is much needed as business travel and spending skyrockets. American Express reports the average airfare paid by corporate travelers in 2006 increased 7.2 percent for domestic flights and 5.8 percent for international. The National Business Travel Association’s latest survey of member companies found that “the vast majority” expect air and hotel spending to increase again this year. Sixty-six percent said employees will take more trips in 2007 than 2006.

What can your company do to save on business travel?

  • Use a single travel management company. According to a new research report from Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s CWT Travel Management Institute, multinational firms that consolidate their business with a single travel management firm cut travel costs an average of 20 percent.
  • Give your travelers access to an Internet-based self-booking system that’s integrated with your travel management company’s reservations processing. Sabre, a leading travel booking company, predicts corporate reservations will continue shifting to the Internet at a rate of 20 percent a year.  You’ll want those transactions to conform to policy, and you’ll need to capture that data.
  • Make sure all travelers use the same corporate card.  Besides providing standardized tracking of travel spending, card vendors now provide increasing amounts of “Level 3” or “e-folio” data from travel suppliers -- showing not just the traveler’s total invoice amount for a hotel stay or car rental, but detailed itemizations, which can help fine-tune travel policies, and also identify the kinds of amenities and services favored by travelers that might be negotiated from preferred suppliers.
  • Outsource T&E expense reporting, reimbursement and management. According to The Hackett Group, a typical billion-dollar corporation handles almost 15,000 expense reports a year — and 10 percent have errors. Companies like Gelco and Concur Technologies have amazing Web-based software that automates expense reports, filing and reimbursement for employees as well as vendor payments. Hi-tech reporting programs let managers and CFOs see spending details at a glance from customized “dashboards” on their desktops; and then help them drill down for more detail.  

Jim Glab is a business travel specialist and frequent contributor to various consumer, trade and online publications.