Thursday, July 26, 2012

Steps to Control Business Travel Expenses

In a globalized and increasingly competitive economy, business travel is imperative to success. For many companies, business travel is considered an operational necessity. In fact, even during a recessionary economic climate, companies are still spending on travel.

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE)’s Index shows that travel activity went up 17%, from 102 at the end of 2011 to 128 in the first quarter of 2012, with most of the growth coming from Asia-Pacific, Canada and the United States.  

Breaking the Index results into travel category, First Quarter 2012 hotel activity growth was up 34% (from 73.6 to 111 on the ACTE Index); air travel growth up 13% (113 to 128) and car rental activity grew 6% (101 to 107). While spending on travel has increased, businesses have become conscious about their spending, shows another survey.

According to the fifth annual American Express/CFO Research Global Business and Spending Monitor, a majority of senior finance executives (58%) say they'll spend the same or more on business travel over the next 12 months. That's down from last year, when 64% said they'd keep travel spending the same or boost it.

Control & Monitor
In an uncertain economic climate, controlling business travel expenses is inevitable. While business travel cannot be completely abolished, spending should be controlled to avoid cash problems in the future. The rising prices of fuel and hotel will ultimately affect the travel budget.
There are many ways companies can tighten controls. According to JP Morgan, recent trends include as much as 25% reduction in spending limits, and better training for personnel who approve expense reports. Some companies have also mined credit card data to identify policy violations or corporate credit card misuse.

Communication is very important in controlling travel expenses. Businesses should regularly communicate travel policy information to employees, especially if there are changes. There should also be strict enforcement of the policy.

Policies governing reimbursable business travel expenses should be tightened as padding corporate travel expense are very common. It is widely known that mealtime is often the right time to conduct business and close a deal.  It is also where the most abuse occurs. Thus, it is important to audit all expense reports that business travelers submit -- to check for instances of fraud, out-of-policy expenses and other potential.

A corporate card would provide the most accurate record of restaurant and other T&E charges incurred by business travelers. It provides the controls and tools necessary to simplify expense management and drive savings to the bottom-line.

While controlling card misuse and reducing cash advances are common practices today, businesses should also consider automating expense reporting and integrating card spend data into their accounting and information systems.

In Hong Kong, employees spend an inordinate amount of time – equal to about HK$1.2 billion (US$154 million) annually – wrestling with travel and entertainment (T&E) expense claims.

Shop & Negotiate
To get better airline deals, shop around to get the best deals, book ahead of time, or haggle with your travel agency. Many airlines allow online bookings, and most of the time, their online rates are much cheaper.  The airline industry, however, has a history of adding ancillary fees to increase revenue. Check with your airline before booking to make sure it does not charge a fee for Web booking.

Many alternatives to business travel have been promoted by technology vendors. These include video technologies such as telepresence. However, for most businesses, the latest technologies are a poor substitute for face-to-face business travel for current or future customers.

“Strategically managed business travel helps to sustain the growth and profitability of individual companies as well as the expansion of the global economy,” says HervĂ© Sedky, Senior Vice President and General Manager, American Express Global Business Travel.

When it comes to travel, nothing creates value like meeting with clients. So focus your company travels on meeting with customers that deliver clear returns.

By Melba Bernad |


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Manually reconciling and cleaning travel data - - 442,000 hours in staff time per year or $22.7 million wasted as per study.

Messy, Inaccurate, Confusing: Study Finds Corporate Travel Managers Waste Over 400,000 Hours Reconciling Travel Data

ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 17, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- GBTA Foundation Study Finds Travel Managers Lack Single Solution to Efficiently Manage Multiple Data Streams Costing Companies Millions
Effective Use of Travel Data Can Help Companies Control Travel Spend
Travel data can play a key role in helping travel managers control travel spend, increase compliance, negotiate with suppliers and manage safety and security risks - but data management systems need to be improved. Research released by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association, found that despite the demonstrated value of travel data, travel managers struggle to manage and process multiple travel data sources to realize their business goals.
The survey, The State of Expense Data Management and Consolidation in the Business Travel Industry, sponsored by Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), found that travel managers are not convinced they have a complete or accurate picture of the total cost of individual trips. Respondents struggle to reconcile data, spending 442,000 hours in staff time per year or $22.7 million manually reconciling and cleaning travel data.
"Corporate travel managers need accurate, timely and complete data to effectively manage the multitude of responsibilities they have within their companies, from ensuring travel dollars are being spent wisely to making sure travelers are safe on the road," said Joseph Bates, senior director of research at the GBTA Foundation. "From this study, we've learned that the data management industry needs to provide consolidated, clear data so travel managers can control spending, deal with compliance issues, and better leverage the plethora of data they currently receive."
The Data Deluge
There are many shortcomings with how travel managers currently receive and utilize their data. A full 82% of travel managers "strongly" or "somewhat" agree that they have to manage multiple data sources to answer questions from management about travel spending, and three-quarters (73%) say they have challenges reconciling differences in reports due to data formatting.
Six in ten (64%) do not trust that they have all the data they need, and nearly as many (58%) feel they spend too much time reconciling and cleaning what they do have to overcome inaccuracies. Only 37% of travel managers believe their data is completely accurate and 44% would like it to be more timely. Two-thirds (64%) do not trust that they have complete data to calculate the total cost of a trip.
Nearly three-quarters of travel managers surveyed (73%) felt a glut of information from multiple sources presents challenges when compiling and analyzing data. Additionally, 82% of respondents said that they have spent time managing multiple data sources. In fact, the report found that GBTA members overall spent 442,000 hours in staff time per year, or $22.7 million, manually reconciling and cleaning travel data.
The Future? Travel Data Consolidation
Travel managers who most effectively meet their business goals are significantly more likely to receive data from travel expense management systems than those who are not meeting their goals (65% of successful travel managers vs. 49% of less successful managers). Therefore, travel data consolidation, where disparate data sources are combined into a single system, may be able to solve many of the issues travel managers experience.
The problem is that only 15% of travel managers say that they consolidate all of their travel data sources into a single system today. The primary reason travel managers want to consolidate their data is to ensure it is accurate (47%), although some focus on getting richer data for analysis (27%) and less manual data reconciliation (19%).
"Capturing data is of the utmost importance for travel managers as they rely on that information to drive supplier negotiations," said Nick Vournakis, senior vice president, Global Product Marketing and Solutions Group, CWT. "Without an accurate picture of their overall spend its difficult to prove the benefit that strategic deals can offer to both suppliers and corporations, so it's extremely important for travel managers to work closely with their industry partners to improve and consolidate their data."
The full report is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org. Carlson Wagonlit Travel will also be hosting education panels during the GBTA Convention on July 22-25, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. For more information on the event, visit gbta.org/convention.
About the GBTA Foundation The GBTA Foundation is the education and research foundation of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world's premier business travel and corporate meetings organization.
Collectively, GBTA's 5,000-plus members manage over $340 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA provides its network of 17,000 business and government travel and meetings managers, as well as travel service providers, with networking events, news, education & professional development, research, and advocacy. The foundation was established in 1997 to support GBTA's members and the industry as a whole. As the leading education and research foundation in the business travel industry, the GBTA Foundation seeks to fund initiatives to advance the business travel profession. The GBTA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, see gbta.org and gbta.org/foundation.
About Carlson Wagonlit TravelCWT is a global leader specialized in managing business travel and meetings and events. CWT serves companies, government institutions and non-governmental organizations of all sizes in 150 countries and territories. By leveraging both the expertise of its people and leading-edge technology, CWT helps clients derive the greatest value from their travel program in terms of savings, service, security and sustainability. The company is also committed to providing best-in-class service and assistance to travelers. CWT services and solutions comprise Traveler & Transaction Services, Program Optimization, Safety & Security, Meetings & Events and Energy Services. In 2011, sales volume for wholly owned operations and joint ventures totaled US$28.0 billion. For more information about CWT, please visit our global website at www.carlsonwagonlit.com . Follow us on Twitter @CarlsonWagonlit.
SOURCE Global Business Travel Association
Article Source: Click Here

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tips on how to get the right room in the right hotel: Else the business trip could end up being a nightmare!

(CNN) -- We've all been there. At the end of a long flight, you get to your hotel and check in, only to find that your room is right next to an ice machine that sounds like it has a severe case of whooping cough, or it's the only one on the floor not occupied by members of a high school marching band practicing through the night for a major competition.

Yes, a bad hotel room can ruin anyone's trip, but when you're traveling on business, the stakes are even higher. If it's not up to par or presents too many distractions, you may not be able to finish that big presentation or you might not be rested enough for that important client meeting.

To help you avoid these pitfalls, we consulted with Doug Peckham, who, after an extensive career working in hotels and resorts from Philadelphia to Puerto Rico, now oversees the stately Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa in Dallas. Located just minutes from the offices of major corporations such as Cinemark, Merrill Lynch and Southwest Airlines, the historic Stoneleigh attracts a significant business clientele, and Peckham knows just what those travelers need.

"A failed business trip may result in no less than a threat to job security," said Peckham, "so it's important to do a bit of research prior to committing to your hotel selection."He shares his thoughts on how you can get the right room in the right hotel and avoid sabotaging your trip before it even starts:

As a general rule, what rooms in a hotel should business travelers avoid?

-- Rooms near an indoor pool, especially at hotels with rooms that surround an internal atrium. Unless you enjoy the permeating aroma of chlorine in your room, avoid this location.

-- Rooms near the elevator lobby on each floor. Not only is there a lot of guest traffic, room service delivery, etc., the noise from the elevator machinery itself can be constant and annoying.

-- Be careful about rooms assigned on the second floor or the floor just below the top floor of the hotel. If there are public or event rooms located immediately below or above you, you may find yourself "attending" a loud, late-night party lasting until the wee hours of the morning. It's not a great way to wake up refreshed and ready to accomplish the next day's business tasks.

Airline amenities: Eight bright spots

-- Smoking rooms. Although smoking rooms are becoming more rare, it can be annoying to find yourself in a smoking room if you check in late and they are the only rooms available. Another potential pitfall to avoid are rooms in a hotel recently converted to nonsmoking. The lingering smoke can permeate every fabric and is very difficult to eradicate. Be ready to point this out to the front desk staff and request an alternate room if available or have the hotel provide an air cleaner unit, which many hotels have on hand unbeknownst to guests.

-- Beware of hotels that allow pets. Although it is trendy for high-end and boutique hotels to accommodate travelers with pets, the wear and tear on furnishings, as well as the pet dander and pet accidents, can quickly destroy a room. And you don't want to attend your next business meeting in a suit covered with pet hair.

What questions should a business traveler ask to getting the best room?

-- Are there any conferences or conventions taking place at the same time as my stay? Groups that take up a large portion of the hotel typically overwhelm the facilities and reduce the quality and levels of service for the individual traveler.

14 outstanding airport amenities

-- Do you have rooms available on higher floors? The upper floors of a hotel are typically reserved for individual travelers or members of the hotel's frequent-stay program and are usually quieter, being farthest from street noise, late-night bar or restaurant activity and large groups with three to four guests occupying each room, especially on weekends.

-- Does the hotel feature rooms with special configurations or amenities designed to enhance the guests' stay?

These room types offered at some hotels include:

Clean air or PURE rooms. These rooms have special filtering devices installed to maintain very low levels of pollutants, pollen, dust and eye irritants to which some travelers are sensitive.

Fitness rooms. Some brand and boutique hotels offer fitness equipment in some of their guestrooms, making it convenient and also offering privacy for the guest's daily workout routine.

"Outfitted for business" rooms. Many hotels are configuring a portion of their guestrooms with specific "high-productivity" arrangements such as multiline speaker/conference phones, fax/copy machines, secure Internet access for high security (government employees frequently require this) and expanded workspaces. Connectivity dataports that allow plug-and-play functionality to flat-screen monitors and TVs using laptops and iPads to review or display presentations and other media in-room are also often available.

Amazing first-class air cabins

What about security?

-- A room on the first floor, if offered, is not always the best choice when considering safety, as unwanted access from the exterior street level outweighs the advantage of a speedy exit.

-- Google's Street View feature allows you to get a 360-degree view of the hotel at street level, which may provide a stark and daunting contrast of the actual surroundings versus a pretty website photo of the hotel entrance alone.

-- Ask the hotel if they have 24/7 security officers touring the building. If the hotel has surveillance cameras but no one is monitoring them, they're only good for reviewing recordings of crimes already committed. Also ask if the security force is made up of hotel employees or an outside service.

In almost every case, you're more secure in a hotel with its own security officers, as the "rented" officers are rarely motivated to truly care for the hotel guest in the same way as a professional employed directly by the hotel. This becomes less significant outside of city-center locations, but even suburban hotels have vandalism and crime issues.

-- Research whether the hotel has in-room safes, which today accommodate laptops and several other items with ease.

-- Female business travelers should consider booking a room at the growing number of hotels with a women's only floor. Rooms on these floors are typically accessed via a special keycard and sometimes even have added security.

Which rooms do you try to book or avoid? Do you have a story of a hotel room gone wrong? Share your tips and stories below.

By Jill Becker, Special to CNN
 
Click for the CNN article

Friday, July 6, 2012

Travel and Expense Management Automation Would Help Better Manage The Spend

The Royal Family Releases Travel Expense Data

The Telegraph reports that the Royal Family's travel expenses total at $9,500,000 from 2011 through 2012. The money was paid for by taxpayer funds. In fact, the article says, "The Queen's official expenditure increased by £200,000 (0.6 per cent) from £32.1 million in 2010/11 to £32.3 million in 2011/12, according to the royal public finances annual report." While the Royal Family cut expenses regarding the running of the Press Office at Buckingham Palace, deffering on property maintainence, and pay freezes, "the taxpayer funds used to pay for official air and rail travel at home and abroad for members of the Royal Family increased by £100,000 from £6 million in 2010/11 to £6.1 million in 2011/12."


Travelers Today | | By Carly Okyle

Click for the full Article