The small business or start-up may not have a travel department or a manager dedicated to helping them plan international business travel. In spite of this, all sizes and types of companies can develop policies and adopt strategies to help their organizations achieve productive, cost-effective travel around the world.
In some cases, establishing a relationship with a local travel agency may benefit an SMB, especially if an organization’s members travel frequently, make last-minute reservation changes, or need assistance with detailed itineraries. Travel agents often work within corporate budget parameters, locating affordable travel options. If a company prefers to manage its own itineraries, online travel companies serve as valuable resources. The sites that deliver fare or lodging rate comparisons may save business owners time and money.
Businesses can prepare for travel by developing an overall budget for each trip and a daily budget for each team member. It is also advantageous to have an expense reimbursement program in place before travel begins. Companies will benefit from:
Airfare routinely ranks as the highest cost of overseas travel, with lodging and food expenses also needing to be carefully budgeted. Instead of paying an employee’s actual expenses, a company may decide to provide “Per diem,” an allowance for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses associated with travel. Companies will need to confer with their accountants on the IRS regulations related to paying per diem or travel expense reimbursements. An example of per diem rates is found in the U.S. State Department’s daily expense allowances for federal employees working within certain countries. (See a sample of government rates for Australia below.)
|Country Name||Post Name||Season||Max Lodging Rate||M & IE Rate||Max Per Diem Rate||Footnote||Effective Date|
|AUSTRALIA||Adelaide||01/01 - 12/31||156||128||284||N/A||02/01/2017|
|AUSTRALIA||Bendigo||01/01 - 12/31||274||129||403||N/A||02/01/2017|
|AUSTRALIA||Brisbane||01/01 - 12/31||167||104||271||N/A||02/01/2017|
Once businesses have a budget in place, they should make sure all travelers have the proper government documents, such as passports and visas, for reaching their specific destinations. Employers can confirm that travelers’ passports have not expired and will not expire within the time frame they might remain in a foreign country. The costs that employees incur for obtaining passports normally will fall on the individual, since these are personal documents. Some companies do offer reimbursement for the costs of travel visas that are required for entry into specific countries, such as China. Business owners and even employees must often weigh the costs and benefits of using a passport and visa expediting service versus spending valuable time in obtaining a new passport, renewing a passport, replacing a lost passport, or adding pages to a passport.
To reduce travel stress and avoid time-zapping airport lines, employees and business owners who are leaving the country regularly may wish to look into expedited clearance programs offered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration. The Global Entry program permits expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers when they arrive in the United States. Global Entry members automatically qualify for TSA PreCheck, which provides travelers with expedited security screenings. Program members who are departing for international destinations may be able to utilize the faster screening process at participating airports. There may be no need to remove light jackets, shoes, and belts or to have laptops examined with this system.
Virtual meetings are essential to success; however, there are times when the benefits of in-person business meetings cannot be ignored. In some cases, face-to-face meetings provide new clients, enhanced project control, and company growth. They may even directly offset the costs associated with overseas travel. International trips can be an investment that yields returns. Some companies have found there is often a link between profitability and travel for meetings, trainings, sales/marketing, and trade shows.
In 2009, Oxford Economics USA compiled a survey-based report in which executives and business travelers estimated that 28% of their current business would be lost if the company stopped in-person meetings. The report also documented that executives and business professionals estimated approximately 40% of their prospective customers became new customers following an in-person meeting, compared to 16% without this type of meeting.
Since virtual meeting participants are located in separate environments, they can become distracted from the topics of discussion. During in-person communications, meeting leaders can hold the full attention of their clients or associates. High-stakes meetings and international sales presentations are often more productive when professionals are able to manage the meeting and minimize distractions. In-person negotiations can also be facilitated by participants being able to pick up on one another’s behavioral cues and body language. When professionals are trying to convert a prospect into a customer or an investor, it can be advantageous to be able to shake hands or share a meal.
Face-to-face conferences can work in conjunction with supplemental virtual meetings for overall success. If a trip’s objective is to build relationships or close the sale for greater profits, travel delivers the in-person advantage. In some cases, travel overseas is a necessity, such as when a company must have oversight to protect its interests, plants, construction sites, or workplaces. In the case of a shipping problem or product quality issue, a trip may be a last-minute affair.
|U.S. Traveler Characteristics||Leisure & Visiting Friends/Relatives||Business & Convention|
|Number of Travelers||23,889,000||6,243,000|
|Advance Trip Decision Average||97.2 days||52.7 days|
|Advance Airline Reservation Average||65.4 days||32.9 days|
|Nights Outside U.S. Average||17.3||32.9 days|
As the chart above demonstrates, business travelers on average decide to go on international trips with fewer days left before takeoff, compared to the leisure traveler. They also generally make their airline reservations closer to the date of flight and spend more nights away from home. It is vital for companies to have travel policies and budgets in place in case they need to fly to another country for a meeting or an emergency situation.
Though there is always some level of stress with travel, business owners should try to track the valuable returns that face-to-face meetings, sales calls, and exhibition/conference participation can provide. International corporate travel is often a worthwhile investment in future earnings or expansion.
Today, there are a wide variety of digital tools and apps for international business travelers. These tools include apps for flight or hotel reservations and car rentals. To save money, travelers can use a website that allows them to compare rates and make bookings before taking their trip or even while on the road. Since transportation and lodging usually account for the largest expenditures in most international travel budgets, it makes sense to utilize comparison sites, such as Kayak, to find travel options. Insightful reviews of hotels and airlines are available through sources like TripAdvisor. Well-established coupon sites, such as Groupon, can be used to find restaurant or hotel deals internationally.
There are digital resources that are designed to save companies time and money, while delivering enhanced control over scheduling and expenses. We have outlined some categories of useful apps and digital solutions, with examples:
Fortunately, there are many online resources and tablet/phone tools that are free to users. However, affordable access to these solutions will require using Wi-Fi, buying a local SIM card, or working with the service providers. A basic guide book can provide back-up information when phone service is unavailable.
Before embarking on their journey, business travelers can easily perform online background research on the country to be visited. This preparation could lead to employees feeling more comfortable in the foreign country and better able to focus on trip objectives. If you’re a business owner or traveler:
A key part of travel preparation is having the proper documents.
Perhaps the first online resource you may turn to during trip planning will be PassportsandVisas.com, a registered passport expeditor.
There is an expiration date on every passport, and the authorities in each country want to ensure that you have a valid passport when traveling back to the United States. Country officials recognize that visits sometimes become extended unexpectedly, such as when someone becomes seriously ill. That’s why some destinations do not allow entry to visitors whose passports will expire in less than six months. To avoid issues, you should start thinking about renewal in the nine months prior to your passport’s expiration date. Though that’s often easier said than done!
This is where we save business pros time and effort. Our passport and visa service is a valuable resource for corporate travelers. We provide personalized service related to obtaining a passport or a visa. Of course, there are always those last-minute situations where business travelers realize they require a passport for a trip, their passports are expired, or the country they are visiting requires a visa. Maybe a passport name change is needed. We help individual employees, business owners, corporate travel managers, and travel agents. With the in-depth planning that must go into international business travel, it is no wonder that many companies and travelers rely on registered passport expeditor services.
The first step to a successful business trip is having your teams ready to go, with their passports and/or visas in hand. Then they can fully concentrate on the trip ahead. In some cases, we can help you get your passport in one day. Why not learn how an expeditor works now?