How to Navigate the Biggest Challenges in Business Travel Management

The Biggest Challenges Facing Business Travel Management

Business travel is a critical part of running a global enterprise, and after a downturn during the pandemic, business travel is on the up again. But managing business travel today presents a number of new challenges for travel managers and finance teams.

So, let’s dig into those issues — and how your business can begin to tackle them.

What Is Business Travel Management?

Business travel management is managing employee travel — from arrangements in advance of a trip until the employee returns home and is reimbursed for any out-of-pocket work expenses. It includes the entire process of booking flights or other travel arrangements, hotels, cabs or rideshare services, employee meals and other incidentals, as well as approvals, expense tracking and reporting procedures, and the implementation and enforcement of a corporate travel policy.

Critically, businesses must ensure that expenses stay in line with the expense policies in place so that spending doesn’t get out of control. As such, there must be a process in place to make payments, track them, and, if necessary, reimburse employees for expenses they incurred while traveling.

The biggest travel management facing businesses can be broken down into three categories:

  • The Employee Experience
  • Managing Services and Providers
  • Staying in Control

Let’s look at the challenges involved in each category: 

The Employee Experience

Letting employees book their own travel

Most employees are used to booking personal travel, and want to be able to choose business travel options on their own. But giving employees free reign to book business trips makes it difficult for travel and finance managers to get visibility and ensure that the travel and expense policies are being followed.

Ensuring employee safety

As with any sort of trip, employees can be exposed to certain risks when traveling for business. Employers have a duty of care, meaning they must take appropriate measures to ensure employee safety. For instance if an employee is injured in a car accident while traveling it’s important for the business to ensure they have access to proper medical care and other services. 

Reimbursement and expense reporting challenges

Many companies still require employees to pay for expenses upfront while traveling, then reimburse them afterwards. This can lead to hassles for employees such as having to keep track of multiple paper receipts or being stuck with out of pocket expenses while waiting for reimbursement. This is not only annoying for employees, but it also adds an additional layer of work to finance teams who then need to track, account for, and reconcile the expenses.

Travel policy compliance

Enforcing travel and expense policies is key to making sure that rules and budgets are followed. However, once employees are on the road with a traditional company card, it’s difficult to keep track of everything they’re spending — and if they spend out of policy, it often isn’t noticed until the transaction has already happened.

Managing Services and Providers

Managing multiple travel providers

Every business has different needs and preferences. And while there are benefits to using  different providers, online and offline booking, travel management companies (TMCs), and various travel agencies, managing too many systems makes everyone’s job more difficult. To avoid hassle, many travel solutions impose a single provider — but this limits their ability to get the best deals and have access to the most options.

Beyond just flights

Many travel solutions available focus on booking flights or other single elements of business travel. However, booking a flight for an employee is pretty useless if they don’t have a hotel to stay in, food to eat, and ways to get around once they’re at their destination. Finding a comprehensive solution that brings all the pieces of the business travel puzzle together in one system can be a game-changer.

Dealing with global providers

When employees travel internationally, they can incur expenses in multiple currencies. This can be a nightmare for finance teams — from making sure that payments will even be accepted to dealing with foreign exchange rates when it comes time to reconcile and reimburse the employee. 

Staying in Control

Approval workflows

The process of approving travel requests is time-consuming and resource-intensive if someone has to manually review requests to check for policy compliance.. This bottleneck is not only a burden on the manager responsible for approving requests, but also creates unnecessarily long wait times for employees.

Ensuring compliance

A corporate travel policy is only useful if travel managers enforce it and employees follow it. It’s crucial for employees to understand the policy, so make it easy-to-understand and readily available. Keep it up-to-date and notify employees of any changes as they happen.

Managing Multiple Entities

If you have multiple entities in different countries, you probably want (or already have) different policies for each one. While there may be some overlap, there are also important differences. For example, in some countries employees are legally entitled to reimbursement for certain expenses incurred during business travels. 

Reconciling expenses at month end

Reconciling the books becomes tricky once you have employees incurring expenses in foreign currencies for business travel. If they’re unable to use cards for payments in local currency, the finance team will need to deal with fluctuating foreign exchange rates when closing the books. Same goes for if a corporate card doesn’t work in a foreign country and an employee needs to pay out of pocket then get reimbursed.

Categories of Solutions

Let’s take a look at some of the types of solutions available on the market to help make travel management less of a pain in the you-know-what.

Travel Management Software

These software platforms allow organizations to manage all aspects of travel, from policy management to booking and expense reporting. Typically it includes an offline booking tool, and is often also used by a corporate travel agent as the primary communication channel to travelers. 

Travel Management Company (TMC)

A TMC is a kind of travel agency, or service provider that helps businesses manage their business travel needs. The services they provide go beyond a simple booking platform and instead focus on providing a tailored service with professionals available to walk employees through the entire process of arranging their trip.

Travel and Expense Management Platforms

These platforms provide companies with the means to pay for travel, and other categories of expenses, as well as reimbursing employees for payments they make while traveling. However, these solutions don’t typically provide a solution for booking travel — or if they do, they curtail the options available to businesses.

Tackling Challenges

Awareness is the first step to facing these challenges, but there are some general strategies travel managers and finance teams can pursue to really overcome common obstacles.


It’s important for both travel managers and employees to have access to flexible solutions that allow them to work with multiple providers. Being locked into a single TMC, for example, puts limits on travel options and can prevent businesses from getting the best prices on flights, transportation and accommodations.

Embed Policy at Point of Payment

The easiest way to avoid out-of-policy purchases is to prevent them. Look for a solution that provides virtual cards that can be customized to enforce limits, vendors or time frames for business trips. This way, finance and travel managers can track how the money is being spent, while the employee has the freedom to select their travel preferences.

Think Globally

Global enterprise needs global solutions. If your travel solution isn’t ready to work with multiple currencies and multiple business entities, it will limit your team’s ability to do business around the world.

Automate Automate Automate

Managing  business travel, from flight bookings to reimbursements, has traditionally demanded significant time and manual effort. Automation elements like approvals and policy compliance  eliminates tedious tasks and ensures that employees are staying on budget.

Provide a Complete Solution

The easiest way to tackle travel management challenges is with an all-in-one system — or one that integrates all systems. Look for a comprehensive solution that  can help you from beginning to end — from planning to booking to payment to reconciliation. This makes it easy for the whole team, from travel managers down to end users.


With business travel booming again, global organizations need to be ready to meet new challenges by knowing what solutions and strategies are available.

Remember that managing employee travel requires:

  • Providing a seamless experience for employees
  • Evaluating and managing multiple solutions and providers
  • Staying in control of expenses and maintaining policy compliance.

To tackle these challenges look for platforms that provide complete solutions across the board, that help you automate key tasks, are equipped to help global enterprises, and that give you the flexibility to choose the providers that are right for you.

Learn more about how Mesh can help your organization make travel and expense management simple and seamless.

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