Article | December 10, 2020
As every department is going through digital transformation in travel companies, finance processes are no exception. The advancements in technology are influencing how travel expense management is evolving. Technology is widely affecting how travel expenses are captured, submitted, audited, processed, and reimbursed. The automated travel expense management is helping most of the corporate travel companies with inclusion of the latest travel management and expense management tools.
In 2016, the share of corporate travel expense management was US$1.3 trillion; therefore, by 2023, it is predicted to hit US$1.6 trillion. Companies today are rethinking modern travel expense management policy and developing corporate travel expense management system including expense management best practices. They are actively using travel management and expense management tools to create a smoother workflow.
Looking at these developments in expense management policy, it’s important to understand what companies were facing before implementation of automated version of expense management system.
Main Hurdles While Managing Travel and Expense
Multiple layers of forms
Delayed submission of expense reports by employees
Increased processing cost
Lack of visibility into the process
Heaps of productive hours were wasted because of the manual processes involved in the expense management policy. Managing the excel reports and cross-verification for policy compliance resulted in increased costs. Delayed submission of expense reports caused late input tax credit claims, which affected businesses to generate revenue. Consequently, to minimize the hurdles of managing travel expenses, an automated travel expense management system, and some best practices for travel expense management were the need of the hour.
An Overview: Modern Travel Expense Management
Modern travel and expense management systems and its practices help employees manage the financial process in real and measurable ways. The system governs how the finance team spends company money on corporate travel and other related expenses. It includes an automated expense management process, which has drawn attention to seamless receipt generation, auditing, reimbursing, submission of finance reports, and cost savings.
To implement modern travel expense management, some best practices for travel expense management are suggested to help build a consistent workflow. Many corporate travel companies have included it to automate the expense management process but are little aware of practices that can enhance their workflow. In this scenario, it's important to know the importance of including the best practices for travel expense management.
Why Talk about Best Practices for Travel Expense Management?
In the finance department, various types of frauds such as multiple reimbursements, overstated expenses, fictitious expenses, and more always stay at the top of the mind for most CFO’s. A well-controlled travel expense management system helps prevent misuse of company assets and prohibits misconduct from dealing with such situations.
According to the Aberdeen group’s research, 43% of top travel companies and their CMOs consider T&E management a critical strategy for their company to handle travel expenses. In comparison, 48% of them say they “need to reduce expense processing costs,” which is why they implemented best practices for travel expense management.
Whether large or small, companies realize the potential benefits of a well-managed travel spend mechanism that had best practices for travel expense management to automate the expense management process. They invested heavily in expense management software, which helped them frame a consolidated expense management policy.
In the end, corporate travel policy best practices need to be tailored specifically to employees to create best-in-class expense management and improve performance. By following expense management best practices, you can also define and implement an accurate policy and ensure your employees implement potential tools to automate the expense management process. This will create an efficient finance process that will lead to a friction-free travel and expense management system. If you are updating your finance functions, this small expense management guide to the best practices for travel expense management will help you far to reach your goals.
Best Practices for Travel Expense Management
Create Ownership of the Policy
Before you start implementing T&E management as a critical strategy, defining ownership of the policy clearly is crucial. Ideally, your finance team needs to understand it thoroughly while using the best expense management software. Creating ownership of the policy will benefit as follows:
First: You will have clear ownership that will ensure that your finance team tracks the policy accurately and makes necessary changes to cater to corporate travelers and their requirements.
Second: Your employees will be able to address queries and concerns related to corporate travel a defined way. This way it will become easier for them to handle multiple queries at a time and cater to possible services.
Include Simple Policies
Your expense management policy should outline what it is accurately. It can only be practiced if you keep policies simple based on the company’s culture and its budget. Using the right travel management and expense management tools, your company’s travel expense management mechanism will be quick and easy for employees to work on expenses claimed by corporate travelers, submit, and audit them. Including simple policies will help employees track receipts through mobile applications and even upload them immediately. This entire process will help minimize errors and lessen receipt loss possibilities.
Accurate Expense Reporting
To include accurate expense management reporting is considered one of the most successful best practices for travel expense management. Around 30% of CFOs believe that to review expenses reporting for policy violation is the biggest pain point. As you automate the expense management process, the mechanism of expense reporting and expense claim management also gets smarter. There are multiple benefits to have a sound reporting system.
It gives budget creators a better understanding of how a specific travel expense budget is consumed.
Finance teams get a proper structure and create a defined spending pattern to identify transactions so that there are no fraud possibilities in the management system.
The reports under expense reporting become accountable because the total spends are available to senior management for a broad review.
Expense Payments Are Timely Processed
The right expense management software usage can help your employees process expense payments on time and faster to reduce errors. By implementing this expense management best practice, your employees can present expense reports timely to managers. An automated expense management system eliminates the tedious job of manually checking expense payment violations and encourages initiating flawless expense payment processing.
To keep accountability in expense management is vital for a finance manager. The automated travel and expense management system creates an opportunity to enable accountability option for your company’s expense plan so that managers are made aware of the transactions, submission of reports, expense claims, reimbursements, and more that are taking place. In order to gain high accountability in these areas, the new travel expense management process provides easy access to review and gives appropriate reports. You can easily implement this corporate travel policy best practice to your system and keep a check using expense management software that provides access via mobile applications. Practicing this will give your finance team more power and guide them to generate better revenue annually.
Conduct Regular Audits
By implementing this as best practices for your travel and expense management, you can efficiently conduct regular audits of the travel expense. Many CMOs have followed it and attained success while implementing it. Similarly, a regular audit also identifies areas of improvement and can point variances that could generate exemplary revenue. Practicing this in your finance process will also help uncover expense fraud. In this case, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) reveals, 20% of small businesses and 13% of larger firms reported fraudulent expense reimbursements in 2019. The activities that were highlighted as
Multiple reimbursements for the same expense
After putting your time and effort into recreating a new travel and expense management system and inculcating best practices for travel expense management in your company, it is crucial to choose the right ways to enforce it. Consistent use of best practices for travel expense management will let you save costs, and there will be no adverse impact on your company's budget. You can make effective decisions for your business as it eradicates your finance team's hurdles that were before.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a travel and expense policy?
A travel and expense policy is a set of rules that covers the process of reimbursement and claims for expenses that are incurred by employees on corporate travel plans. This policy outlines how a company’s employees should set procedures for corporate travel.
What is business travel management?
Business travel management includes policies that set a company’s function in a strategic way. It includes various types of contracts made with airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, and other business travel related management services.
What is expense management?
Expense management works according to two key elements—how a business pays for employee-initiated expenses and how to track all employee-initiated spending. In this, management of costs is included mainly for corporate travel, accommodation, meals, flights, and car rentals.
What is expense management automation?
Expense management automation encourages services like collection, storage, submission, reporting to function automatically. It implies the use of analytical tools to help companies maintain accountability and compliance through accurate tracking and reporting process.
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Article | December 10, 2020
As COVID-19 wreaks havoc across the globe, tourism-dependent regions are suffering exponentially. The continent of Africa is one glaring example, with South Africa propelled into the global top 10 for coronavirus infections, reportedly now surpassing the United Kingdom in cases. For its part, the tourism and industrial sectors in North Africa will likely be hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the African Development Bank’s 2020 edition North Africa Economic Outlook report.
Even as Africa contends with pandemic concerns, there are still throngs of travelers who are keen to visit the region in the near future. Many are doing diligence to discern if, when and how to go about scheduling a trip to this tourism hotspot.
To help spotlight some top-line issues, I turned to entrepreneur and philanthropist Jay Cameron, Executive Director of Maximum Impact Travel. As one of the leading global experts on Africa travel and commerce, Cameron’s insights are invaluable as travelers deal with this tumultuous situation, helping ensure they plan smartly in the post-pandemic era.
MK: What are the key do’s and don’ts when traveling to Africa amid COVID-19?
JC: Surprisingly, some African countries have escaped the devastating impacts COVID-19 has caused globally. While other countries around the world have experienced often overwhelming consequences as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, much of Africa appears to have been spared. Even so, the statistics do not suggest the citizens of the countries of Africa have not felt its impact. The fact is, many countries in Africa are seeing regular increases in the numbers of those infected by the novel coronavirus, while much of the world is experiencing a decline in infections.
Around the world, experts warn outbreaks of COVID-19 in Africa may continue, resulting in a higher rate of deaths due to the limited local health services available. With coronavirus worries come fears of potential famine due to the virus threat, in combination with existing drought conditions and ongoing conflicts.
With this in mind, should you intend to travel to the continent now, or post-COVID-19, you should be prepared. Some good preparedness ideas include researching virus statistics in the country you wish to visit that, for one, you can review at AfricaNews.com. It is also advisable to learn if said country has any travel restrictions, which is information that is accessible online via at CDC.gov. Of course, maintaining a healthy lifestyle to boost immunity before and during your visit is also key.
MK: Should travelers be ready to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, either before departing or upon arrival?
JC: African countries are now opening for foreign travelers, but this does not indicate the belief that they have won the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Most African countries are still battling with COVID-19 outbreaks, as the number of infected cases continues to rise daily in nearly every African country. To this end, stringent efforts are in place to ensure individuals arriving on the continent and entering various countries are free of the virus.
With this in mind, you should be prepared to present proof of negative COVID-19 status before entering the country to which you are traveling. This measure is being implemented around the globe and the countries of Africa are no exception.
In the same vein, departing any African country will require the same proof of negative COVID-19 status. Both mandates are in place to protect your fellow travelers on the flight as well as the residents of the country to which you are traveling. As things ebb and flow, you can check the status of this mandate online at AfricaTravelInc.com.
MK: What would you suggest about localized regulations?
JC: Travelers must research the localized regulations and requirements with respect to hotel and resorts, airports, ground transportation, public spaces and such for both their own country and their destination.. It is necessary that you understand departure rules from your country of origin, and even more important that you understand your destination country’s prevailing laws for foreign travelers regarding COVID-19. Some African countries like Tanzania and Zambia, for example, have mandated the use of face masks in public places with punishment for the contravention of such laws. Some hotels and resorts also have taken stringent measures and issued their own strict requirements for travelers arriving from foreign countries. For example, at this time, hotel bars in Rwanda are closed but the hotels themselves remain open.
Researching and understanding these laws before traveling enables you to stay safe during your visit and steer clear of legal issues with the local authorities. A helpful resource for staying up-to-date on laws that might affect travel to Africa can be found at Travel.State.gov.
MK: What about the airlines, specifically?
JC: Investigate the requirements for your airline as each carrier has varied responses to COVID-19. As a result of the pandemic, most airlines have adopted measures to keep their passengers and their staff safe. While some airlines like Delta require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding your flight, others provide testing before your flight and attach the result to your ticket. Therefore, to ensure you are able to fly when scheduled, it is your responsibility to know the requirements of your airline before the flight to avoid any issues. A good resource for this is Go2Africa.com.
MK: Should tourists be prepared for temperature screenings and COVID-19 tests upon arrival and departure?
JC: As pointed out earlier, many African countries are still battling the pandemic, so to keep the residents of their countries safe post-COVID-19, airports have been mandated to request test results or test passengers on-site. Therefore, when traveling, you should be prepared for a coronavirus test upon arrival or departure from any African country. If you refuse to allow this, you will not be able to fly.
MK: What about a potential 14-day quarantine upon arrival—is that only for travelers who show signs of COVID-19?
JC: Apart from testing, be prepared for a 14-day quarantine if you show signs of the virus or test positive during a test given at the airport. African countries are determined to ensure the pandemic is eliminated completely from their countries. If you show symptoms of the virus upon your arrival in any country in Africa, you will likely be quarantined for 14 days. This can even entail having to stay in the country instead of returning to the U.S.
MK: Would you say that travel insurance is an imperative?
JC: Make sure your travel insurance company offers COVID-19 coverage and arrange for COVID-19 travel insurance requirements from airlines. You will want to be insured by your travel insurance company for COVID-19 coverage before traveling to any African country. Check with your travel insurance company to ensure COVID-19 is covered under their insurance policy, in the event you need to change your travel plans due to the pandemic. Such coverage policy can protect you by covering expenses related to unexpected changes and/or medical care in the event of illness.
MK: With any trip, but especially now, there can be unforeseen circumstances. Any insights on that front?
JC: DO NOT travel without extra funds and the ability to extend your trip in the event of a quarantine. With the points mentioned above, there is a great likelihood you will be required to spend more time and money in the country to which you are traveling if your COVID-19 test is positive. As a result, it is advisable to travel only if you are prepared with time and financial contingency plans. However, African countries are not barring U.S. travelers at the same rate as other countries, meaning you can potentially realize your dream safari vacation or other adventure across the continent’s beaches, jungles and deserts.
As the world contends with COVID-19 issues, African countries will endeavor to stay open for tourism, business and much more. Preparing for, and abiding by, the region’s travel requirements will make your journey and overall stay in the country more enjoyable and safer for all.