The golden days of business travel are over. According to the Global Business Travel Association, business travel costs will continue to rise in 2013, and you’re more likely to find a charge for Wi-Fi on your hotel bill than a mint on your pillow.
Business travel may have lost its shine, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. PROFIT asked three travel insiders to share their top tips for managing the cost of business travel.
Book flights early. Generally, seat prices increase weekly. The best advance deals come three weeks before domestic flights and 15 days on U.S.-bound routes.
Leverage your loyalty. Whichever loyalty program you belong to, use it consistently and cash in the rewards. “Most businesses could save 10-20% on their travel budget just by tracking loyalty points,” says Bryson Forbes, Best Western Canada’s travel blogger and a partner in Mississauga, Ont.-based Uniglobe Travel Innovations.
Also, don’t forget to use any affinity programs offered by business associations to which you belong, and take advantage of rewards offered by many credit card companies.
Play by the rules. A legislated approach to travel expense management will help you save big. “Companies without travel policies will spend at least 25% more annually, and that’s at least,” says Tom Osovitzki, CEO of Toronto-based corporate travel consultancy CTMS. Establish guidelines on which days to fly (Wednesday is cheapest), the minimum length of a business class flight, which expenses aren’t covered by the company, and which chains offer your company preferred pricing. Assign one staff member to monitor adherence to the policy and track your loyalty rewards.
Buy in bulk. For small companies without negotiated flight pricing, most airlines offer bundled tickets for travel from one region to another at 25-50% off regular prices. “The initial pre-paid cost tends to turn SMBs off,” says Forbes, but flight passes can help you lock in the cost per flight in advance, save money on changes and book last-minute flights without the last-minute prices.
Watch for pricey extras. Whether you’re making car, hotel or flight reservations, ask what’s included in the base price. “Airline and hotel spends make up the majority of company travel expenses, but focusing on ancillary fees can help reduce them,” says Kathleen Kennelly, vice president of traveller and transaction services with Carson Wagonlit Travel in Toronto. Tally extra costs like breakfasts, baggage, mileage and parking before deciding you’re getting a good deal.