Based on the results of a survey of our customer base in May, most UK companies are already returning to pre-pandemic levels of business travel, and they plan to increase their business travel in the future.
Of the businesses surveyed, 40% answered that they travelled more in 2021 than in 2020 and a further 41% travelled at the same rate. Only 13% answered that they travelled less and 6% answered that they do not travel for meetings. Most promisingly, 57% answered that they will increase their business spend on travel in 2022. 36% intend to increase their travel budget by 20-50% and a further 15% plan on increasing it by 50-75%.
This all points to the return of business travel. Although videoconferencing has grown to the point that 42% of respondents answered that they believe that it has replaced face-to-face meetings, it doesn’t seem to have significantly reduced the appetite for business travel, even during a time when fuel prices are at record levels. It is possible that since the amount of time that employees spend in meetings is growing, businesses are using both videoconferencing and face-to-face meetings depending on what is appropriate to the situation.
Since it is likely that your business will be travelling more in the future, now may be the time to look at your policies and practices with an eye to improving them – especially since fuel and potentially other costs will be more expensive for the foreseeable future.
The first thing to note is that because of videoconferencing you have a choice about going to many face-to-face meetings, so there will be times when employees and the business in general will be able to save money by taking a meeting online. If what many respondents are saying is correct and the culture around meetings has changed then companies can be more flexible with meetings.
Secondly, it is worth tightening up the rules around business travel. This is especially the case with international travel – although 74% of companies surveyed do not travel internationally, 13% travelled more in 2021 than in 2020. Although restrictions around international travel have lifted in the UK and most of Europe, it is still possible for your employees to be denied entry into countries if they test positive for COVID-19 (such as the US currently), so plans need to be made for ensuring that you can get tickets refunded or substituting other employees if this happens.
You will also need to make sure that you are getting the best deals on travel – if your employees are booking tickets themselves then you may want to set budgets or mandate that they buy from specific suppliers. Larger companies may be able to assign administrators to shop around for the best travel deals or to establish a relationship with a business travel agency.
79% of respondents said that they have spent money on fuel for business travel in 2021, and if the number of businesses intending to travel more does increase then this figure will increase with it. Behind fuel, hotels are a significant expense (35%), followed by food (23%) and COVID testing (20%). There are a number of ways to reduce fuel spend, ranging from using electric vehicles (EVs) to carpooling where possible, but these won’t reduce spend on other business travel essentials and would still cause administrative headaches around lost receipts and unassigned expenses.
A combined fuel and expense card on the other hand would allow employees to put all of their business travel expenses on a company card as opposed to their own, cutting down on administration costs, allowing companies to set limits and review transactions online. Such cards also have all the benefits of a standard fuel card with cost savings on fuel and reduced driver route deviation for those travelling by road with access to the largest fuel network. Fuel is one of the biggest necessary costs for businesses and savings in this area is key in the current climate with businesses under increased pressure.
What’s more, modern day solutions are also further bolstered to streamline the process to make keeping track of travel spend simpler. All-in-one travel platforms, such as Roomex, are built for the mobile workforce and enable employees to book accommodation, manage expenses and consolidate spend into a single invoice. These platforms lodge combined fuel and expense cards in to enable weekly invoicing for all travel spend, including accommodation, meals, expenses and even train travel.
Given that many companies intend to increase their spend on travel this year and given that business travel is likely to be more expensive than it has been previously for at least the next few months, companies need to look at how they manage business travel and look into the options for consolidating all of their expenses into a single fuel and expenses solution.