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All You Need to Know to Become a Corporate Travel Manager

In recent years, the corporate travel industry has seen a significant transformation, sparking a growing interest in the field of corporate travel management. As business travel evolves, companies across various sizes are increasingly shifting from unmanaged to professionally managed travel systems. This change reflects a trend away from traditional models where travel arrangements were often an additional responsibility for HR staff or office managers. Today, the industry leans more towards employing specialized in-house travel managers and partnering with travel management companies (TMCs), such as BNW Travel. This modern approach not only streamlines the travel process but also contributes to substantial cost savings and enhanced efficiency in handling business travel needs.

Why the Shift to Managed Business Travel Matters

Managed business travel has proven to be a boon for companies, leading to significant cost reductions, freeing up time for other staff members, and improving the overall efficiency of the travel planning process.

The Growing Appeal of Corporate Travel Management

Corporate travel management is attracting attention, particularly for its financial rewards. According to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), corporate travel managers generally enjoy higher salaries than their leisure travel counterparts, often earning over $10,000 more annually.

What Does a Corporate Travel Manager Do?

The role of a corporate travel manager is integral to the efficient and cost-effective management of a company's travel needs. They are responsible for a wide range of tasks that ensure smooth, safe, and economical business travel. Here's a closer look at their key responsibilities:

  1. Developing and Implementing Travel Policies:One of the primary duties of a corporate travel manager is to develop a comprehensive travel policy tailored to the company's specific needs and goals. This involves setting guidelines for booking flights, accommodations, and other travel-related services, as well as determining spending limits and compliance measures. Implementing these policies effectively requires constant monitoring and adjustments to adapt to changing travel conditions and business objectives.
  2. Managing All Travel Arrangements:From booking flights and hotels to arranging ground transportation and meeting accommodations, corporate travel managers handle every aspect of travel logistics. They ensure that all travel arrangements align with the company's policies and employee preferences, while also seeking ways to optimize travel efficiency and comfort.
  3. Controlling the Travel Budget:A significant aspect of their role involves managing and optimizing the company’s travel budget. This includes negotiating contracts with airlines, hotels, and car rental companies to secure the best rates and value-added services. They also monitor travel expenses, ensuring that costs remain within budget and identifying opportunities for savings.
  4. Utilizing Data for Informed Decision-Making:Corporate travel managers rely heavily on data to inform their decisions. They analyze travel patterns, expenses, and supplier performance to assess the effectiveness of travel policies and identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach helps in fine-tuning travel strategies to better serve the company’s objectives and traveler needs.
  5. Handling Crises and Risk Management:Travel managers are also responsible for managing risks associated with corporate travel. This includes developing and implementing crisis response plans to address emergencies such as natural disasters, health crises, or political unrest. Ensuring the safety and well-being of traveling employees, often referred to as 'duty of care', is a critical component of this responsibility.

For those interested in delving deeper into this role, our detailed article on what to look for when hiring a corporate travel manager provides further insights into the skills, qualifications, and attributes that define a successful professional in this field.

How to Become a Corporate Travel Manager

1. Acquire the Right Education and Specialized Training

A strong educational foundation is crucial for aspiring corporate travel managers. A bachelor’s degree in tourism, travel, hospitality, or business administration provides a comprehensive understanding of industry basics, including customer service, business operations, and travel logistics.

However, in today’s competitive job market, further specialization can set you apart. Postgraduate degrees or certifications in travel management or related fields offer deeper insights into complex aspects of corporate travel, such as advanced booking systems, corporate travel policies, and international travel regulations. Moreover, specialized training programs from institutions like The Travel Institute or the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) are invaluable. They offer courses focusing on travel business administration, risk management, and international travel norms, which are imperative for a corporate travel manager’s role.

2. Master the Tools of the Trade: GDS and Beyond

The Global Distribution System (GDS) is the backbone of travel booking and management. Mastery of GDS systems like Amadeus, Sabre, or Galileo is essential for efficient travel arrangement and itinerary management. This knowledge is fundamental for booking flights, hotels, and car rentals, and for understanding pricing and availability.

However, the scope of necessary tools extends beyond GDS. Familiarity with corporate travel management software, such as Concur or Amadeus Corporate Traveler, is equally crucial. These platforms facilitate travel policy compliance, expense tracking, and data reporting. Additionally, skills in data analysis tools are beneficial. They enable a travel manager to analyze travel data for identifying cost-saving opportunities and enhancing travel efficiency, playing a critical role in strategic decision-making.

3. Cultivate Industry Experience

While classroom knowledge is essential, real-world experience in the travel industry is invaluable. Starting your career in roles such as a travel agent, reservation agent, or customer service representative in travel-related companies provides a practical understanding of the industry. These positions offer firsthand experience in dealing with travel bookings, customer inquiries, and problem-solving in real-time travel scenarios.

Internships in travel agencies or corporate travel departments are also advantageous. They provide a glimpse into the corporate travel world, offering experience in managing travel itineraries, negotiating with suppliers, and understanding corporate travel needs. Cross-functional roles, especially those involving event planning or logistics within the travel sector, can broaden your perspective and equip you with a diverse skill set relevant to a corporate travel manager’s responsibilities.

4. Build a Strong Professional Network

Effective networking extends far beyond attending industry conferences. It involves active engagement in professional associations like the GBTA or ASTA. Participating in their events, committees, or even volunteering offers opportunities to connect with industry leaders and peers. These connections can lead to mentorship opportunities, which are invaluable for career guidance and growth.

Building a robust professional network also means reaching out to established travel consultants and corporate travel managers. Platforms like LinkedIn are excellent for connecting with industry professionals. Engaging in meaningful conversations, seeking advice, and potentially shadowing experienced professionals can provide insights that go beyond theoretical knowledge.

5. Stay Abreast of Industry Trends and Innovations

The travel industry is rapidly evolving, and staying updated with the latest trends and innovations is crucial. Regularly reading industry journals, blogs, and news sites keeps you informed about new technologies, emerging travel destinations, and changing travel policies. Attending webinars and workshops is also beneficial. These platforms provide knowledge about new technologies, sustainability practices, and traveler wellbeing, keeping you at the forefront of industry advancements.

6. Develop Essential Soft Skills

Technical skills are vital, but so are soft skills. Effective communication is key in negotiating with suppliers, managing travel policies, and handling traveler inquiries. Problem-solving abilities are crucial when dealing with travel disruptions or itinerary changes. Additionally, adaptability and resilience are essential traits in an industry known for its unpredictability. These skills ensure you can handle challenges efficiently and maintain a high level of service.

7. Understand the Bigger Business Picture

A corporate travel manager’s role is not just about managing travel; it's about aligning travel policies with the company's broader business goals. This involves developing travel policies that support the company’s financial objectives and strategic plans. Incorporating sustainability into travel practices and ensuring duty of care are also integral to this role. Understanding these aspects shows your capability to contribute beyond just travel management, demonstrating your value as a strategic asset to the organization.

Essential Skills for a Corporate Travel Manager

The role of a corporate travel manager encompasses a blend of strategic planning, effective communication, and comprehensive industry knowledge. Here's an expanded view on each of these essential skills:

1. In-Depth Industry Knowledge

Staying at the forefront of industry trends is crucial for a corporate travel manager. This means continuously educating oneself about the latest developments in air travel, hotel accommodations, and ground transportation. It's essential to understand how global events, such as economic shifts or health crises, impact travel policies and prices. A corporate travel manager should also be adept at navigating the complexities of travel regulations and compliance issues in different regions. This depth of knowledge enables them to make informed decisions, anticipate challenges, and offer solutions that align with both the company's needs and the evolving travel landscape.

2. Exceptional Communication Skills

Communication lies at the heart of effective travel management. This skill is multifaceted; it involves clearly articulating travel policies to employees, negotiating with vendors and suppliers, and addressing any travel-related concerns from staff. In crisis situations, such as travel disruptions or emergencies, the ability to communicate quickly, clearly, and empathetically becomes even more critical. Beyond just conveying information, a corporate travel manager must be an active listener, understanding and addressing the concerns and needs of travelers, which is key to ensuring their safety and satisfaction.

3. Strategic Thinking:

A corporate travel manager must think strategically, using data and analytics to refine travel policies and practices. This involves analyzing travel spend, identifying trends in employee travel behavior, and leveraging this data to negotiate better rates with suppliers or to streamline travel processes. Strategic thinking also extends to risk management – anticipating potential risks and developing plans to mitigate them. This proactive approach not only optimizes the company's travel expenditure but also ensures a more efficient, safe, and satisfying travel experience for employees.

4. Organizational Skills:

Being organized is not just about keeping track of itineraries and receipts. It encompasses the ability to manage multiple tasks and priorities simultaneously, often under tight deadlines. This includes overseeing the entire travel planning process, from pre-trip approvals to post-trip expense reconciliations. Utilizing tools like VoyagePro by BNW Travel can be a game-changer, as such platforms offer streamlined booking processes, real-time updates, and comprehensive travel data management. These tools not only simplify the logistical aspects of travel management but also provide strategic insights, aiding in the continuous improvement of the travel program.

Conclusion

At BNW Travel, we understand the challenges and rewards of being a corporate travel manager. VoyagePro, our flagship corporate travel management solution, is designed to empower travel managers with tools for better control, visibility, and efficiency in managing corporate travel.

In conclusion, the role of corporate travel management is increasingly pivotal in today's business landscape. With the shift towards more structured and professional travel handling, companies are witnessing enhanced efficiency, cost savings, and streamlined processes. By integrating specialized in-house travel managers and collaborating with expert travel management companies like BNW Travel, businesses are not only elevating their travel experiences but also aligning them more effectively with their strategic objectives. This evolution marks a significant step in how companies approach and manage their travel needs in the modern corporate world.

Discover how VoyagePro can transform your role as a corporate travel manager and enhance your company's travel program. Visit BNW Travel's VoyagePro to learn more.

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