So What Does A Travel Manager Do Anyway?
No two companies take the same exact approach to the role of travel manager. Some companies may want more of a manager — someone who keeps things moving forward and who can put out fires when needed. Some companies may want more of a strategic thinker — someone who sets new directions and incorporates new ideas.
In reality, though, it’s best for a travel manager to excel at both management and strategy. And, within management and strategy, there are a series of sub-responsibilities that must be addressed for a travel manager to enjoy ultimate success — and for a company to get what it wants out of business travel.
Here’s a look at a travel manager’s primary activities, as well as how a travel management company (TMC) can help provide support and fill gaps when needed.
A Travel Manager’s Primary Activities
As noted above, almost all of a travel manager’s responsibilities can fit in one of two broad categories: 1) strategy, and 2) management.
Here’s a look at sub-responsibilities within the strategy category:
- Understanding Supply Chain: Travel managers must gain an understanding of the travel supply chain so that they can assess what is needed and where to find services that meet those needs.
- Creating Standards: Measuring the success of corporate travel is incredibly important. To measure success, travel managers must first create standards related to cost, risk, satisfaction, safety, efficiency and other key metrics.
- Developing Policy: Travel managers are doomed to fail without a clearly articulated, openly shared travel policy. We’ve written in the past about creating travel policies when companies have been operating without them.
- Evaluating TMCs: If you decide you need support from a TMC (more on this in a moment), you’ll need to be able to evaluate different options and choose the one that best meets your needs.
- Setting Budgets: Only a travel manager has a clear enough view into past travel trends and future travel needs to set a reasonable budget that executives will sign off on.
And here’s a look at sub-responsibilities within the management category:
- Procuring Services: Travel managers can use their knowledge of the industry supply chain to procure the right services, including TMCs, online booking platforms, expense-filing technology, preferred airline, hotel and car providers, etc.
- Managing Suppliers: Travel managers must constantly manage relationships with suppliers, ensuring that they are living up to their promises and making changes if and when needed.
- Streamlining Activities: It falls on travel managers to make the travel process as efficient as possible, which means streamlining activities like approvals, bookings, expense filings, reimbursements, etc.
- Troubleshooting Problems: The unexpected often occurs in business travel. Travel managers must be adept at troubleshooting unexpected problems and reaching satisfactory solutions as quickly as possible.
- Monitoring Budgets: Once the budget is set, it must be monitored. If travel managers fail to monitor budgets during quarters, it’s easy to see budget overruns at the end of the year.
Do the sheer number of responsibilities outlined above look and feel overwhelming? That’s perfectly understandable, especially at companies whose team members travel a great deal. In almost all cases, TMCs provide services in the areas where travel managers need help the most.
Where Do Travel Management Companies Fit In?
We’ve written before about how to find the perfect TMC for your business. In short, you want a TMC that can provide a la carte services that fill the gaps in what you can accomplish in-house, or that provides a full solution when you have no resources at all.
Not all companies need help from a TMC. Travel managers at small companies or travel managers at companies that rarely send team members on the road may be able to handle the many responsibilities listed above without feeling overwhelmed. But, in cases where outside help is essential, check out our guide to choosing the perfect TMC.
Find a Complete TMC Solution at JTB
At JTB Business Travel, we work each day with companies around the world, offering services that fill gaps in internal resources as well as offering complete solutions for companies that need them. Behind everything we do is a common sense approach to business travel.