What makes a successful travel manager in 2022?
As the demand for corporate travel grows year after year and companies eschew working with travel agencies, the role of the corporate travel manager has begun to take shape. But being a travel manager isn’t for the faint of heart. Not only are they under immense pressure to keep employees safe while traveling, but they also have to oversee all aspects of corporate travel.
From setting travel policies to optimizing travel spend to managing costs, negotiating, and communicating policies—being a travel manager is far from easy. You’re an accountant, a master negotiator, a customer service rep, and a policymaker, all wrapped into one.
As such, good travel managers need to have certain traits and characteristics. In this guide, we’ll discuss the qualities and habits of successful travel managers. But first, a quick primer on travel managers and their roles.
What Is a Travel Manager?
A travel manager is responsible for managing all aspects of business travel in an organization. They help design a company’s travel policy, manage travel arrangements, ensure compliance with relevant travel policies, and assist in all travel-related matters.
Post-trip, corporate travel managers are responsible for collecting data and analyzing it to improve future travels.
Most startups prefer to outsource the role to a travel agency. But medium and large enterprises bring in a dedicated travel manager who oversees all aspects of business travel. In this piece, we’ll focus on corporate or in-house travel managers.
What Does a Corporate Travel Manager Do?
A corporate travel manager’s duty may vary. In general, they’re responsible for managing a company’s travel services. They usually develop, administer, and monitor travel policies and guidelines to ensure efficient and risk-free travel.
Here’s a rundown of the key duties and responsibilities of a travel manager.
- Creating, optimizing, and monitoring travel policies and programs
- Arranging travel accommodation for business visitors
- Processing and managing all travel-related documentation, including payments, visas, itineraries, medical, etc.
- Planning travel accommodation, flight bookings, ground transportation, and coordinating activities
- Maintaining trustworthy relationships with vendors of direct travel, such as mobility companies, airlines, hotels, etc.
- Managing expenses and travel budget
- Analyzing and preparing travel budgets and reports
- Negotiating contracts with travel service providers
- Staying ahead of the technology curve
Qualities of a Successful Corporate Travel Manager
To be a successful corporate travel manager, you should have a strong working knowledge of the travel and hospitality industry. Aside from the working knowledge of the industry, a good travel manager should possess the following skills and traits.
They Have Impeccable Communication Skills
The catalyst for success or failure of a travel manager depends on their interpersonal skills.
Communication and negotiation skills, in particular, are a must-have for any aspiring travel manager. In their line of work, travel managers come across people from diverse backgrounds. A good travel manager must know how to communicate with them all.
They also have to develop fruitful relations with airlines, hotels, and other vendors, which requires excellent interpersonal skills. Plus, travel managers have to keep everyone informed of the new processes and travel frameworks, which require good communication skills.
They Keep the Corporate Travel Policy Updated
As a travel manager, it’s your duty to create and manage the company’s travel policies. This can be challenging as costs, procedures, and preferences are always changing.
Your policies and procedures need to be updated regularly to adapt to industry trends and best practices. It should contain the most up-to-date information regarding:
- Price changes for hotels, transportation, and other expenses
- Expense reimbursements
- Changing travel rules and regulations
- Company credit cards
- Car rental details
- Vendors the company prefers to work with
- Company-approved booking tools
If your company policies are updated frequently and easily understood, fewer people will come to you for answers.
They Possess Deep Industry Knowledge
In a role as complex and diverse as a travel manager’s, the breadth of challenges facing them means they must have vast industry knowledge to remain competitive.
Having deep knowledge of the industry dynamics, including the best tools to use and processes to adopt, will allow them to better overcome challenges, improve the efficiency of their policies, and increase the safety of their corporate travelers.
And owing to the changing nature of the hotel and tourism industry, staying ahead of the technology curve can give the company a competitive advantage.
They Possess Leadership Skills
As a travel manager, you hold a supervisory position.
As such, you should have a reasonable amount of leadership experience to better perform your duties and make decisions to improve the travel docket. Your junior staff and even senior executives need to count on you when they encounter any travel-related obstacles.
Successful travel managers know how to lead by example.
They know how to build rapport quickly and effectively to develop strong relationships with others—whether peers or key stakeholders.
They Don’t Micromanage
Who likes being micromanaged? Hardly anyone. A survey conducted by Trinity Solutions showed that 79% of employees had experienced micromanagement. Of these, 69% said they considered changing jobs because of micromanagement. Travel managers should never micromanage. Micromanaging employees will have a negative impact on the business and the company’s travel culture. Instead of breathing down each traveler’s neck, successful managers give their employees autonomy when booking trips. However, managers should also be vigilant as too much autonomy can increase the chances of off-policy bookings, leading to policy violations and increased costs.
They are Tech Savvy
With the changing world of online travel bookings, travel managers need to be tech-savvy. Successful travel managers stay abreast of the latest travel technology to give corporate travelers the best experience from booking to ground transportation. Speaking of ground transportation, savvy travel managers leverage mobility services, like HQ Corporate Shuttle services, that integrate with expensing apps while giving employees access to advanced features like secure Wi-Fi and USB charging ports. Corporate shuttle services provide a safe and secure way to get to and from your company for employees, eliminating the need for public transportation.
There you have what we believe are the key qualities and habits of successful travel managers. The travel manager role is very demanding. It requires the candidate to have certain skills unique to the industry. Successful travel managers are master communicators, born leaders, tech-savvy, and analytical decision-makers.
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