With the holiday season upon us, business travel is getting a little more complicated. Time-off requests and a high demand for airline tickets could take a bite out of your end-of-year productivity or make business travel financially difficult.
To stay in control and keep your employees happy this holiday season, here are four tips for managing employee travel during this joyous (and hectic) time of year.
1. Plan for coverage and ticket costs in advance: Compared to seven years ago, American employees are taking more vacation time, according to research from Project Time Off. In 2017, the average American worker took one more vacation day, compared with figures from 2014. Around the end of the year, it’s likely that your organization will have fewer employees available to travel for work. If your organization may schedule client visits or plans to participate in an upcoming conference, it’s best to consider coverage, as your go-to employees may be hard to pin down.
If your preferred travelers aren’t around for a trip, consider postponing it until after the new year. Alternatively, you can ask your employees to stagger or reschedule their vacation time to accommodate, perhaps offering them extra paid time off if they do.
Regardless, if business travel around the holidays is unavoidable because of your industry, remember to build that into your travel budget. Demand for airline tickets increases around holidays. This year U.S. airlines expect a 5.2 percent increase in air travel during the Christmas and New Year’s break. Higher demand means higher pricing. Typically fares start rising in October leading up to Thanksgiving, and then peak for last-minute bookings in December.
2. Add bleisure days to employee trips: Combining business and leisure within the same trip, bleisure travel has grown in popularity in recent years. According to SAP Concur, between 2016 and 2017, bleisure travel increased by 20 percent. Today, 10 percent of business trips are considered bleisure.
Giving your employees the option to add on leisure days to a trip can improve traveler satisfaction, break up big blocks of requested vacation time and help teams squeeze in short client visits that would be impossible otherwise this time of year. Again, if employees would have to adjust time-off requests they already made, consider incentivizing them to change. Before making any announcements, make sure that your travel policy includes a clear direction on business & leisure trip combination.
3. Utilize your TMC’s help line: Duty of care cannot be ignored over the holidays. If there’s no one at the home office to support travelers, consider leveraging your travel management company’s 24/7 helpline. Your year-end travelers may still need assistance booking a flight, locating a hotel reservation or navigating an uncertain situation, all of which can happen around the busy holidays.
The best TMCs provide support at any time of the day, even on holidays. But if travelers don’t know this option exists, it doesn’t do them much good. Therefore, you should make time to explain helpline procedures with travelers ahead of any December and early January business travel.
4. Stay connected with travelers through technology: An itinerary tells travel managers and other stakeholders where their traveling employees are, but it is far from the best way to manage road warriors. Mobile apps and tracking technology can provide real-time intelligence on traveler location. If your organization is struggling to locate employees on the go, an assessment of your technology suite could be beneficial. A TMC may be able to suggest tracking and communication tools that reduce duty of care risks.