Business travel can be a double-edged sword for entrepreneurs -- they need it to exponentially grow their business -- whether to find cheaper overseas suppliers or finalize deals with potential clients; but it can also be a huge drain on finances, as the costs associated with a business trip is a sunk cost that impacts cashflow almost immediately.
Often SMEs organize their travel on an ad hoc basis, only to find out at the end of their fiscal year that their travel expenses have ballooned. To manage your business travel costs, planning is key. Here are our top five industry tips to help slash your costs:
Online booking doesn't always mean cheaper
If you think you're getting better deals online, think again. While you may find cheap rates, doing your own online searches and bookings comes at the cost of administrative time and resources. Online rates also often come with inflexible terms and conditions which could get costly if your schedule changes or if you have to cancel your flights. If you spend $10,000 annually for business travel, consider working with a travel management company. We can often secure discounts of 3 to 15 per cent off retail rates.
Loyalty has its own rewards
Review your travel requirements and take advantage of loyalty programs available to you. Some airlines offer corporate memberships that grant instant status based on annual travel commitments or allow pooling of miles so the company can decide how they want to use the benefits. Certain hotel loyalty programs let you earn points for purchases in partner establishments, bringing you that much closer to the penthouse suite upgrade.
Avoid foreign transaction fees
Be mindful of hidden costs that add to your expenses. If you travel Stateside often, sign up for a US dollar credit card to avoid foreign transaction charges and take advantage of real time exchange rates. If you travel internationally, look for a card that minimizes these charges or offsets them through a travel rewards points program.
Stay connected without breaking the bank
Be sure to set up an international data and calling plan from your provider BEFORE you travel. Anticipate the volume of minutes and data you will require and sign up for the next tier up. The last thing you want is to have to negotiate your phone plan top up while you're already on the road. If you travel often, consider an international provider like Wireless Traveler, which offers international phones and SIM cards that work in over 200 countries, at highly discounted calling rates of up to 80 per cent lower than regular roaming fees.
Mobile solutions can reduce surprise costs
Missed flights, transfers and appointments can result in unexpected fees and additional transport costs. Some of the world's most expensive cities for airport transfers can set you back anywhere from $150 (Oslo Gardermoen Airport to downtown) to $400 (Tokyo Narita Airport to downtown) if you missed your train/pick up schedule. An app such as our Vision Assure app provides real time updates and reminders for corporate travellers to make sure that you are on top of your schedule all the time. It also connects you directly with Vision Travel customer service in case you need assistance in managing changes to your travel plans while you're on the go.
MORE ON HUFFPOST: