Traveling for business can be stressful and expensive, but a travel management system can solve all these problems and more. A TMS is a software solution that handles all aspects of business travel, like booking flights and hotels. This article discusses the most essential features of the travel management system.
Must-Have Features In A Travel Management System
Choosing a TMS is like selecting a co-pilot for your travelers. With the right TMS, travel becomes a strategic lever, not a cost center. Here are 12 essential features to look at in a Travel management system.
The essential feature of a travel management system is its ability to manage all types of travel bookings for employees. This includes:
- Flight booking – The system should be able to search and book flights from major airlines and travel booking websites. It should provide real-time availability and pricing for flights.
- Hotel booking – Employees should be able to search, compare and book hotel rooms through the system. It should integrate with major hotel chains and booking sites.
- Ground transportation- The system should allow booking transfers, shuttles, and rental cars through major providers.
- Multiple channels integration – The system should integrate with multiple travel booking channels like airline websites, travel agencies, GDS systems, and travel booking sites for the best options and pricing. Employees can search across all channels for the best available options.
Having a centralized booking tool that integrates with all major travel suppliers saves time spent searching and booking travel arrangements through different websites. Employees can manage most of their travel needs through a single system.
It must have an intuitive, easy-to-use interface for your travelers and admins to use and benefit from the travel management system. Look for a simple, streamlined TMS using familiar elements like tabs, search boxes, and forms. The interface should be mobile-responsive and guide tool tips. A well-designed user interface results in higher adoption rates, fewer training needs, and fewer support requests. In short, the interface is travelers’ and admins’ first impression of the TMS – so a user-friendly design can make all the difference in how effectively your organization can leverage the system.
For any business, being able to automatically route booking and expense requests through an approval workflow based on rules and roles is essential when managing travel. Look for a travel management system that offers customizable approval workflows with the following:
- Routing based on booking type, cost, traveler role, and destination ensures the right approver sees each request.
- Automatic escalation so requests are not stuck waiting for a single approver.
- Notifications that inform approvers of pending requests by email and within the TMS interface.
- Ability to approve or reject requests within the system, with comment fields to provide feedback.
- Flexible options to add or remove approvers, modify thresholds, and change the approval sequence – all from an intuitive configuration interface.
By automating routine approvals, customizable workflows save approvers’ time while providing visibility and control over travel bookings and expenses. With the right setup, approval workflows enable an efficient travel approval process aligned with your business policies.
Capturing and managing employee travel expenses is a key part of any travel management system. Look for a TMS that allows travelers to easily log expenses and submit expense reports while giving administrators tools to streamline approval workflows, enforce travel policies and integrate with your accounting systems.
Key elements of effective TMS include:
- Attach scanned receipts to expense items
- Categorize expenses correctly
- Submit reports in real-time or at scheduled intervals
- Customizable rules to flag non-compliant expenses
- Automatic routing of expense reports for approval
- Interfaces to import approved expenses into accounting and ERP systems for processing payroll reimbursements and paying suppliers.
Integrating expense management into the TMS reduces lost receipts and data entry errors, while enforcing travel policies helps contain costs. Connecting the TMS to your accounting systems eliminates manual re-keying of expenses and speeds up reimbursements. These capabilities give businesses real-time visibility and control over employee travel spending.
Reporting and Analytics
Robust reporting and analytics capabilities are essential for any travel management system. Look for a TMS that provides the following:
- Customizable reports – The ability to create custom reports based on booking details, expenses, traveler information, and other data. Reports should be exportable to PDF and spreadsheet formats.
- Standard reports – Pre-defined reports covering critical areas like spending by supplier, traveler and expense type, upcoming trips, and policy compliance.
- Real-time data – The system captures real-time travel data & analytics, providing up-to-date insights on spending, booking trends, and compliance
- Dashboards – Visual dashboards give executives and managers at-a-glance views of key travel metrics.
- Ad hoc data querying – The ability to query travel data on demand to answer specific business questions.
Together, these reporting and analytics features empower businesses to gain insights, track key performance indicators, identify savings opportunities, and optimize their travel programs based on solid data and analysis.
For on-the-go accessibility, look for a travel management system with a mobile app that allows travelers to manage their trips from any device. The app should enable travelers to book travel, submit expenses and view itineraries. The mobile app should also empower approvers to review and approve bookings and costs from their devices. This mobile functionality ensures travelers and approvers can access the TMS features they need anytime, anywhere.
Integration with Other Systems
Look for a travel management system that tightly integrates with your other business systems to streamline processes and improve efficiency. Seamless integration with HR systems enables synchronization of employee data, while integration with accounting platforms ensures approved expenses are automatically imported for reimbursement. This data sharing across platforms eliminates duplicate data entry, reduces errors, and speeds up processing – saving your business time and money through automated, streamlined travel workflows.
Travel Policy Compliance
Ensuring employees follow company travel policies is essential for a travel management company (TMC) while selecting a TMS. Look for a TMS that offers:
- Flexible policy configuration – The TMS allows the TMC to set various spending limits and rules based on traveler roles, destinations, suppliers, and expense types.
- Enforced booking restrictions – The system will only allow bookings that comply with set policies. It can block or flag non-compliant bookings for review.
- Real-time visibility – The TMS provides dashboards and reports that give the TMC real-time visibility into policy compliance, spending trends, and non-compliant bookings.
- Supplier recommendations – The system can promote preferred suppliers and contracts to encourage the use and maximize volume discounts for the TMC.
These features empower the TMC to quickly set up and adjust travel policies that balance compliance, cost control, and traveler convenience. Automating policy enforcement reduces manual effort while giving the TMC control and visibility into compliance.
For hassle-free booking and happy travelers, look for a travel management system that allows storing and automatically applying individual traveler preferences during reservations. The TMS should allow travelers to specify preferences like frequent flyer numbers, seating and room requirements, and loyalty account information. By correctly capturing and applying these personalized details, the TMS helps ensure travelers’ specific needs are met efficiently for every business trip.
For travel management companies with a global workforce, look for a travel management system that provides multilingual support. The TMS should allow configuring the user interface and all data – like supplier details, policies, and reports – in languages you require. Support for major languages ensures all users can manage their travel in their preferred language. With multilingual support, the TMS can serve the needs of a diverse, global employee base for optimized travel management worldwide.
Traveler Safety and Security
A travel management system should offer real-time trip monitoring and communication tools for traveler safety and security. It should allow setting up emergency contacts, customizing travel profiles with medical details, and tracking employee locations during trips. These features give travelers and administrators peace of mind.
Scalability and Customizability
For a future-proof travel management system, look for one scalable to meet growing demand and customizable to changing needs. The TMS should seamlessly integrate with other systems and offer intuitive customization capabilities so that non-technical staff can modify configurations, workflows, and reports. In short, scalability and customizability ensure the solution can adapt and evolve alongside your unique, expanding business requirements.
Choosing a scalable and customizable Travel management system from a vendor that understands your changing business is key to ensuring the solution continues meeting your evolving requirements over time. An effective TMS, configured to work the way you work, can help you maximize the value of business travel while minimizing risks for your travelers – driving true success for your organization’s travel program.