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Which approval process is best for your organisation's business travel?

In recent years, organisations have become increasingly conscious of the need to manage risk and promote sustainable travel practices in addition to cost considerations. As a result, some organisations have implemented stricter approval processes for business travel.

A 2023 GBTA Business Travel Outlook Poll asked how many company travel policies required employees to obtain manual pre-trip approvals for business travel. Of those that participated:

  • 27% said pre-trip approval is required most if not all the time for domestic travel
  • 34% said pre-trip approval is always required for international travel
  • An additional 20% said pre-trip approval was required some of the time for domestic or international travel.

But what is the risk to the business if the travel is not approved in time? Will this add to lost savings? On the other hand, some organisations decentralise the approval process allowing staff to book their own business travel; automating the approval process for those bookings within policy to keep travelers on the move, but are they paying attention to the reason for travel?

What is clear is there is still a level of oversight organisations need to ensure that travel is booked in-policy and the cost centre and purpose of the trip can be specifically monitored. Further, with the turnover of staff across many industries in recent years, there is a risk that the purpose and requirements of these approval processes may no longer be understood. As such, organisations need to communicate their travel policies and approval procedures to all employees to ensure compliance and minimise misunderstandings.

Centralised versus decentralisation approval processes for business travel

A traditional centralised booking process places the power to book and approve travel requests in the hands of selected administrative staff or Travel Bookers. This approach can be favoured by businesses as it allows for high levels of control and oversight over travel bookings, policy, and budget.

In contrast, a decentralised approach gives travellers the ability to make their business travel bookings. With the improvements in policy controls within booking technology, many organisations with a younger or predominately remote and hybrid workforce, who are used to booking things themselves, favour this approach.

Should you choose to follow a decentralised booking approach it’s important to assess what approval process is best for your business, be it no approvals or an active pre-trip or passive approval system that can be specifically configured based on company travel policy.

Configure approval system to policy requirements

When implementing a decentralised booking process, your chosen corporate online booking tool should still support your company’s varying business travel policy requirements to make bookings and approval simple; for example role type, the purpose/reason for travel, country pair, supplier choice, fare class and ‘days in advance’ booking policy, each producing a variety of triggers. The online tool can be configured to either restrict any out-of-policy behaviour or provide some room for movement.

Active approval

Active (pre-trip) approvals still require direct approval from the travel or line manager for the booking to be ticketed. This notification is sent via email to the approver and the approver can approve or decline by simply clicking the link within the email; no need to log-in.

With active approval there is a reliance on the approver to act within the ticketing time limit, this can be as short as the same day. If this is missed the lowest prices can be lost and bookings need to be requested again. To help combat this, a reminder email notification is also sent to the approver to remind them of travel requests before the ticketing window closes, helping to ensure that the best fares are not lost due to oversight.

Passive approval

With a lean toward a decentralised booking approach, many companies are recognising the benefits of a passive approval model for their travel bookings.

A passive approval process can save time for approvers and bookers while ensuring that the best fares and urgent bookings are not lost. Due to the highly configurable nature of the Corporate Travel Management’s (CTM’s) Lightning online booking tool, with a passive approval process, companies can choose to allow all in-policy bookings to be automatically approved, safe in the knowledge that these bookings are within the company’s travel policy. To maintain oversight, notifications of bookings can be sent to the selected “approver” once bookings are made, ensuring all required facets of the business remain informed.

Approvals in booking technology

At CTM our commitment to innovation and providing a return on investment for customers means we are continuously driven to provide speed, accessibility, and ultimately peace of mind. CTM’s Lightning online booking tool offers the following features and more to address several pain points in the approvals process:

  • Multi-tier approvals
  • Policy by country
  • Reallocate approver
  • Days in Advance (DIA)
  • Approval based on role type

With the right technology implemented, a decentralised travel booking approach with an appropriate approval process can simplify the booking process for business travelers, while continuing to ensure in-policy bookings and policy adherence.

Are you looking for a tailored approval process for your business travel?

Contact our expert team today.