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Organising successful overseas business travel.

Introduction

Business takes place in increasingly global markets, and managers are travelling abroad more than ever before. Travel may be infrequent for some, while for others it is a regular, established part of the job. Regardless of the size of the organisation, the number of overseas trips taken or the number of employees involved, a travel management policy is essential to ensure that people are in the right place at the right time, in a fit state to do business. An effective policy provides a coherent approach to overseas travel and can lead to cost savings. It also has the advantage of making the rules clear to all employees and demonstrating company support to those who travel on business.

National Occupational Standards for Management and Leadership

This checklist has relevance to the following standards:

B: Providing direction, units 5, 6, 7

Definition

A travel management policy describes:

* how travel is organised on an organisation-wide basis

* the controls the organisation wishes to impose

* the steps which are taken to ensure employee health and safety while abroad

* the support which is provided to employees to make the trip a success

* the management information which is required for monitoring and evaluation.

This checklist covers travel which is international and brief in duration. Expatriate postings are covered by Checklist 006 Planning Overseas Assignments.

Action checklist

1. Decide which approach will be most effective

Some organisations leave staff to make their own travel arrangements, but a coherent approach is only possible if the job is given to a full- or part-time travel coordinator or manager. An alternative is to outsource the work to a specialist business travel agent or travel management company. Consider the potential savings available through Internet travel sites and online booking services, but weigh these against the specialist knowledge, advice and customer service offered by traditional travel agents. However travel arrangements are handled, it is advisable to use and monitor the services of one travel agency for making bookings. This gives a dual benefit: it allows you to maximise your purchasing power, and the agency concerned becomes familiar with the needs and preferences of your organisation (and its individual managers)

2. Establish appropriate standards of travel and compensation

State the grade of travel which employees should use. This often depends on the journey length and the seniority of the person concerned. A similar statement relating to hotel accommodation should be included. Consider your policy on partners accompanying staff on work-related trips (would you allow one first class ticket to be swapped for two economy ones, for example) and decide whether benefits earned on frequent flyer programmes should be returned to the organisation or retained by the individual. Draw up approval guidelines for expenses. These should include advances of foreign currency, use of credit cards, clothing allowances for intemperate climates, and private telephone calls. Monitor cost-of-living indexes for various cities to enable you to control expenses. Compensation for weekends and bank holidays spent abroad must be agreed with staff and they must know how soon they are expected back at work after returning from their trip.

3. Check up on visa requirements

Make sure that you have up to date information on current visa, passport and travel documentation requirements in the countries your employees will be visiting and that all travel documents are current.

4. Take steps to ensure staff security abroad

If a group of senior managers is intending to travel together, insist that they do not take the same plane or boat. Ensure that all staff who travel abroad for the first time receive a briefing on personal safety issues, for example on a plane, in the street, in an hotel, when taking cabs or driving themselves, and about looking after money. Also offer advice on measures which staff can take to protect their home and family whilst away. When staff visit high risk areas of the world, check out any specific advice for these countries and cities and make sure it is kept up-to-date and passed on to employees.

5. Check insurance policies

The best insurance cover is all-year cover for all staff. Anything less could lead to employees making trips with inadequate cover or none at all, especially when last minute trips are arranged or someone who has never travelled abroad before on business is suddenly called upon to do so. Check carefully what the policy covers and what the small print excludes. Shop around and compare costs.

6. Ensure employees get the correct health information

Health issues are many and varied. A travel policy should ensure that the important issues are dealt with, most notably vaccinations and specific health risks in certain countries, and that advice is given to staff on matters such as dealing with jet lag, tummy bugs and the sun. Issue a first aid kit (containing disposable needles for use if injections become necessary) to travellers going to countries with unreliable medical services and an AIDS problem.

7. Provide appropriate cultural and language training

Depending on the budget, the time available, and the inclinations of the employee, offer formal language training or encourage the traveller to use language tapes well in advance of trips. The employee will also need to know something about the culture, customs and business practices of the country. Cultural mistakes can be costly in business as well as in personal terms. Keep up-to-date with useful publications and seminars.

8. Communicate the policy

A written copy of the policy should be sent to all travellers, their secretaries, their managers and the travel agency.

9. Monitor and evaluate the policy

Collect information such as travel patterns, the number of journeys and the companies used. This can be gathered from flight and hotel bookings, invoices, management information from travel agencies and the submission of expenses. Consult travellers for their opinions on the assistance provided through the policy and on whether they think the rules are fair. Make sure you amend the policy accordingly for the benefit of other travellers.

Managers should avoid:

* relying on employees to manage their own travel arrangements

* failing to provide clear guidelines

* neglecting to read the small print in insurance policies

* dealing with overseas travel on an ad hoc basis

* leaving arrangements until the last minute.

Additional resources

Books

Guide to surviving business travel

Staines: spacetostay, 2004

Survivors guide to business travel,Roger Collis

London: Kogan Page, 2000

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at: www.managers.org.uk/mic

Journal articles

Business travel supplement

Supply Management, 27 Apr 2006, vol 11 no 9, whole issue

Going places, Alex Blyth

Accountancy, Apr 2006, vol 137 no 1351, pp 40-41

This is a selection of journal articles available from the Management Information Centre. More information at: www.managers.org.uk/mic

Related checklist

Planning overseas assignments (006)

Internet resources

International Travel and Health: www.who.int/ith/en

WHO guide to travel-related health risks and vaccination requirements by country.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: www.fco.gov.uk

Includes a travel advice section covering a range of practical topics, including passport and visa requirements, health and safety when travelling and help available from consulates.

Business Travel Net: www.businesstravelnet.com

Portal site including travel news and directories of airlines, rail and ferry services, car rental and travel management companies.

Economist Cities Guide: www.economist.com/cities

Collection of guides to cities worldwide.
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Title Annotation:Checklist 025
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: People Management
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:1232
Previous Article:Planning overseas assignments.
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