How to create your own end-to-end business travel program to cut costs and get more for your money.
If your business has regular travel and flight expenses, it can be well worth making sure you’ve set up an organised business travel program. Many service providers offer discounts, rewards and benefits to attract business travellers, and the cornerstone of any corporate travel program is to take them up on their offers.
The right program can significantly reduce your travel and accommodation costs as well as help your business earn a range of additional rewards. Even if you’ve already set up your business travel program, you may want to re-examine it annually to make sure it’s up-to-date and to take advantage of the most useful programs and products.
It’s worth taking some time to consider each aspect individually and to compare the current options next to what you’re currently using.
Airline corporate travel programs
The nature of airline rewards programs means it can be a good idea to pick one airline and stick with it, or to fly with its points partners.
To maximise your points, you can also attach an appropriate business credit card. These points can go a long way to reducing the cost of other business expenses.
The main airline corporate travel programs in Australia are Qantas Business Rewards and Virgin Accelerate. They are very different from one another, and each one is more suitable for different types of businesses. Once you settle on one, you can look for ways to maximise your point earnings for that program. This can substantially reduce your business travel expenses.
While Qantas and Virgin Australia have some of Australia’s most prominent business travel programs, many other airlines operate their own:
- Jetstar Business Hub. A free program you can join to receive monthly travel reports and purchase FlexiBiz ticket packages. These cost extra, but travel times can be scheduled after purchase and also include some other benefits.
- Air New Zealand. This airline offers a range of business services, including a Travelcard to manage all your business’s airline bookings on one account, custom business travel agent services, a rewards scheme and loyalty discounts.
- Emirates. This airline’s business services focus on organisational services to help plan conferences or large events around the world. They also offer travel consultant services and operate a rewards program for small- and medium-sized businesses (SME).
- Etihad. The Etihad BusinessConnect program is for SMEs, letting your business earn its own frequent flyer points along with individual travellers.
- Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines offers separate programs for smaller and larger businesses. Both allow employees to earn KrisFlyer points, while the smaller program rewards HighFlyer business points topurchase employee tickets and the larger program offers discounted fares.
- AirAsia. The AirAsia GoCorporate program is for businesses that spend at least RM250,000 per year on travel (roughly AUD$75,000) per year. It lets travellers make last-minute changes to flight dates or times, gives discounted airfares and includes a 20kg baggage allowance and in-flight meals, not usually included by default.
Business travel insurance
The two primary travel insurance options for a business are complimentary credit card travel insurance or a group travel insurance policy.
Compared to standard consumer travel insurance or to taking out separate policies for every trip, both can be exceptionally good options. It’s a question of finding the one that better suits your business’s needs.
- Complimentary travel insurance. This can be a very cost-effective option for obvious reasons, but generally won’t match the cover provided through a business travel insurance policy and may be subject to other limitations.
- Group business travel insurance. This typically takes the form of an annually renewable travel insurance policy with a very high level of cover and specialised benefits for businesses.
The main advantage of complimentary travel insurance is that it’s “free”, while the main disadvantage of a business travel insurance policy is that it’s not. However, each has its corresponding benefits and limitations.
Benefits and features of corporate travel insurance
You can find business travel insurance policies with the following special features:
- Employer liability and extra-territorial workers compensation. This provides cover for the employer’s legal liability to pay compensation to injured workers overseas.
- Alternative staff. This covers the cost of sending out a replacement worker if the original traveller needs to return home or if something happens to the original traveller.
- Resumption of assignment expenses. This covers the cost of returning an employee overseas if they have to be repatriated due to injury or some other reason that is covered under the policy.
- Family cover. This provides cover for the families of employees who are travelling with them.
- Group cover. This pools the risk and makes it easier for employees with pre-existing medical conditions to find suitable travel insurance.
- Business and pleasure travel cover. This provides cover to employees for both business and pleasure travel as well as any purely recreational travel that takes place as part of a business trip.
Limitations of complimentary travel insurance
Complimentary travel insurance can carry a range of restrictions and limitations. It can vary between cards and policies, which might make a certain policy unsuitable for your business.
- Age limits or other restrictions. Age limits typically apply. Depending on the card and the situation, there might not be any cover for people over the age of 50. It might also exclude cover for certain pre-existing medical conditions, or it might apply other limitations. If you have a lot of different employees travelling, then each of them might end up with different cover, despite holding the same card.
- Exclusions or cover variations. Exclusions will always apply to insurance policies, and there can be significant variations in the cover available. You should make sure to read the complimentary travel insurance’s product disclosure statement as thoroughly as you would any other policy.
- Activation requirements. It’s usually not enough to simply hold the card. You will typically need to activate the travel insurance first, usually by meeting spending requirements.
- A less useful card. It’s generally not worth compromising the value for money or usefulness of a business credit card just to get complimentary travel insurance. You should only consider this feature after you’ve considered the more important things.
The benefits of flying business class
The main benefit of business class is comfort. There is more legroom along with reclining or flat seats as well as better food and more attentive service.
For business travel, the extra cost is often well worth it for the productivity benefits.
- Arriving refreshed. If you’re flying overnight, business class might be essential to ensure you arrive well rested.
- Working onboard. Extra power points, free Wi-Fi and more work space are fairly standard business class features. Some newer aircraft even have specially designed adjustable work areas letting you collaborate and conference in relative privacy on flights.
- Networking. Business class travel may offer valuable networking opportunities, while paying for (potential) clients to fly in business class can be money well spent.
The comfort of business class travel is nice, especially on long haul flights, but it can also be an exceptionally good use of resources, especially if you’re upgrading seats with points rather than buying them outright.
Unifying your chosen corporate rewards program can earn a lot of frequent flyer points very quickly, which can in turn make business class travel a lot more cost-effective.
Business travel management and organisation
A business with more extensive travel needs might benefit from a business travel agent.
In general, these experts will generally be able to provide end-to-end travel solutions, including the following services:
- Conference and event organisation
- Organising and confirming all required bookings
- Serving as a 24-hour contact point for employees travelling around the world, able to quickly make new arrangements or adjustments as needed
- Account management and regular reporting to help track travel spending
- Exclusive products
- A wide range of travel consultation services, from cost-benefit analyses to risk assessments to tips about the best thing to see and do in destinations around the world
For example, STA Travel operates a business travel service aimed at offering complete, end-to-end travel solutions for educational institutions and academic communities, handling volunteer programs, school group travel and everything else as needed.
Business travel agents might also help you manage multiple rewards programs, including airline business flyer programs, hotel loyalty rewards and others, such as rental car business programs.
Other business rewards to look for
Airline rewards programs and business frequent flyer cards are some of the more important business programs, but you can also find them wherever you look. Consider all your travel expenses, and look for rewards to help cut costs.
For example, the Hertz business rewards program includes:
- Discounts on car rentals
- Points that can be redeemed for free rentals, upgrades and other benefits
- A business members' portal with exclusive offers and easier reservation
What to look for in business travel accommodation
Have you looked at the business accommodation scene in the past year? There are a lot more options than there used to be. The number of business travellers finding accommodation on Airbnb tripled in 2016, largely thanks to features like “Business Ready” markers on listings.
This identifies listings that have the following criteria:
- Offer 24-hour check-in
- Have reliable Wi-Fi throughout the property
- Are non-shared
- Come with prepared workspaces
- Are stocked with all the essentials you can expect from any high-end hotel, like hair dryers and shampoo
- Have responsive and high-rated hosts
Meanwhile, hotels are always looking to expand their features. Some chains might offer additional services or benefits for business travellers, such as quick check-in and check-out, a 24-hour gym, a chauffeur service and more.
Unifying your business’s accommodation choice with the rest of your travel program is important. Many hotels operate their own rewards programs that interface with specific airlines, while many airline frequent flyer programs will also give you points when staying at certain hotels.
Lesser-known business travel and tax tips
Naturally, a lot of the usual business travel expenses, like hire cars for business purposes, are deductible expenses. But there are also some finer points you might want to consider. Note that the following is general information only, and you shouldn’t act of any of it without first consulting your accountant or tax adviser.
Do you know the following?
- Airport lounge membership fees. These are tax deductible expenses for employees as long as they contribute to earning assessable income. This stands regardless of whether the lounge membership is also used for personal and non-business purposes. Also, airport lounge membership provided to employees is exempt from fringe benefits tax.
- Travel allowances. Employees must declare any travel allowances they receive as income, while only the business-related components are deductible.
- Points for seats and dollars for taxes. You can write off the tax you pay for business travel on your Business Activity Statement, which may be preferable to later deductions. The seats and business class upgrades themselves, not including the tax, are typically more cost-effective to buy with reward points.