USA Corporate Travel IndexYear after year, as the average cost of a business trip is increasing, companies are spending big money on business-related travel. From meeting with current and prospective clients to attending industry expositions, there is never a shortage of reasons for employees to pack a suitcase and hit the road. But all the costs associated with these trips end up inevitably being paid out of the company coffers. So just how much does it cost? Well let’s take a look.

The average daily aggregate of land transportation, meals, and accommodations (known as the Corporate Travel Index) rose by 1.6% up to $262.41 in 2013 (source: Business Travel News). This is in no small part due to hotel rate increases (+6.6%), and stands in contrast to the cost of car rentals and meals having actually declined (-6% and -2.5% respectively). Furthermore, this overall trend of increase is very likely to continue through 2014, as Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) predicts.

Looking around the globe, CWT notes that Latin America is growing in popularity for business travels, with its rates rising right alongside the demand. Asia Pacific is another hot destination with a strong pull for business travel and conferences. And while the majority of Europe seems to be on a bit of a downswing, Russia and Germany are maintaining a small, yet steady growth. Still, no matter where you wind up travelling for business – it’s going to cost.

So what can you do to keep it all in budget? Here are a few tips on how to save money on your corporate travels:

  1. Reduce time spent on trips

    If you can, just make it a day-trip. The obvious benefit: less (or nothing) spent on a hotel room. The not-so-obvious benefits: less chances for personal spending, extra meals, ground transportation, and other incidental costs.

  1. Look for corporate discounts

    Quite often, hotels are willing to offer a reduced rate for corporate travellers, so just ask! Sometimes it doesn’t even matter how often you travel or how many potential travellers there are in your company because they just want your business.

  1. Consider alternative airports and other ways to commute

    Big international airports are great… and expensive. When flying to local airports, you can often end up with better rates. Another alternative can be renting a car or taking a train for closer trips. If you factor in the extra time spent commuting to and from the airport, going through security, and dealing with luggage and flight delays – that 1-2 hour flight easily becomes 4-6 hours spent traveling.

  1. Hire a travel agency

    Agencies very frequently have access to much better rates for accommodations and flights. Plus, they equip you with better cancellation fees, advanced booking rates, and solutions for complicated trips. If you have employees that travel a lot – get an agent to handle your details.

  1. Automate your expense reporting

    With the ability to immediately record any incurred corporate travel expenses, easily align credit card transactions and save images of receipts – you will never miss an expense and your employees will be reimbursed that much quicker. In addition, a streamlined approval process and automatically enforced corporate spending policies make it simple to control any charges.

The cost of business is always going up, and the cost of corporate travel will always climb with it. Even in our digital world, person-to-person interaction is still at the very core of doing business. Because of this fact, business trips will always be an important and unavoidable expense for any company. But with so many ways to stay within budget, it pays to travel smart. Bon voyage!