Here at NexTravel, we are constantly looking to ensure that we are putting out the best possible product.  A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to put NexTravel to the test: FinancesOnline, one of the most consistently trusted software review platforms, had a panel of experts examine and test our product, and the results exceeded even our expectations.    

We are pleased to announce NexTravel has been awarded the following awards by the esteemed experts at FinancesOnline: The Rising Star Award 2018 and the prestigious Great User Experience Award.  

We are beyond humbled to be honored by these awards, and grateful to FinancesOnline for validating the hard work we have put into NexTravel. What stood out to panelists was NexTravel’s ability to simplify what is often a complex process. Features like “One-Click Cancellation”, “Centralized Travel”, and “Quick Reconciliation” contributed to the overall score of 8.3 of 10, placing NexTravel in the best online booking software products. FinancesOnline experts were especially impressed with the “Smart Search” time and money saving feature that cuts booking time by nearly a third, while simultaneously applying corporate discounts and preferences making the travel booking experience for the company much more pleasant. Due to our outstanding contribution to various industries, FinancesOnline also highlighted NexTravel as a top example in their article regarding how online booking software works.

As exciting as winning these awards are, we still have some room for improvement, and are more fired up than ever to continue improving NexTravel for our customers. To accomplish this, we must ask for your help: submit your own NexTravel features review to assist us in enhancing NexTravel, and thank you for any feedback you have provided to us so far. It takes a village to be successful, and we feel so grateful to have such amazing partners like you.

What’s the best way to set up your travel policies for growth? In this post, we unpack the accommodations category and answer all your burning questions about hotel policy.

One of the most important questions that we try to help our customers answer is, how do you create travel policies to drive growth, save money and keep employees happy?

To understand the best travel policies for growing companies, we looked at the data and spoke with some of the companies using NexTravel to set policies for overnight stays.

Spoiler alert, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. But there are plenty of insights and common trends that policymakers can use to create smart policies for their particular industries, travelers and trip types.

Before we dive in, you can find a primer on travel policy fundamentals here if you’re not already familiar.  

On to to answering your hotel policy questions.

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What are the best hotels to book for business travel?

Mid-range hotels seem to be the sweet spot for most companies. Among NexTravel customers, ranging from ten person startups to billion dollar companies, the most frequently booked hotel brands are Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn and Marriott.

That doesn’t mean those are the only options you should consider. Boutique hotels are the most popular category overall, and short-term rentals are a very popular accommodation option as well, along with a range of premium and economy hotel bookings.

% Hotel Reservations by Hotel Chain or Type

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The question we always suggest companies consider is, in what way will the place employees stay affect their work?

Start by covering the basics: clean rooms, fast wifi, nearby dining options and a good location.

We usually recommend booking hotels close to the job site, rather than booking the cheapest option if that would mean dealing with traffic and wasting time in transit.

Comfort is another key consideration, especially among road warriors who spend a disproportionate amount of time away from home and can easily get burned out.

Our CEO, Wen-Wen Lam experienced this herself earlier in her career, so she instituted a clear “avoid the cheapest option if it will take away from your happiness and ability to perform” policy here at NexTravel. She says that for her, it made a huge difference to be able to stay in the same comfortable hotel each time she was in the same city when she was traveling frequently for work earlier in her career.

Should we allow Airbnb stays?

The short answer here is “probably.”

Airbnb is an increasingly common business travel option, which appeals to travelers who may prefer the experience of staying in a home or apartment to staying in a hotel.

Hotels are still far more popular, but Airbnb has seen tremendous growth in the business travel category. Thanks to a big push by Airbnb to cater to business travelers, the category grew from 250 companies using Airbnb for business travel 2015 to 250,000 companies in 2017.

Must you include Airbnb’s in your travel policy? Of course not. But many employees and businesses do choose it over more traditional options.

If you want to go deeper on this one, this Airbnb report for corporate travel managers on Skift  goes into the details of Airbnb bookings for business.

What’s the deal with prepaid hotels?

Choosing to prepay for hotel bookings enables companies to centralize payments for one of the largest components of their travel spend. That means more rewards, less accounting overhead and more control over spending.

It also eliminates the need for travelers to front payments and submit expenses for accommodations. That can be particularly useful for candidates and consultants, or for any travelers who may not feel comfortable paying for business travel on their personal card.

How do you control costs without being overly strict?

This is one of the things we think about most. In the chart below, we’ve broken down the basic travel policy best practices for keeping costs under control while providing the flexibility and comfort travelers need to perform at their best.

Here are the highlights for the hotels category:

  • Always require hotel prepay
  • Require approval for all candidate travel and any employee travel 20% over the lowest available price
  • Block hotels under 3-star ratings

As a rule of thumb, we always recommend that companies provide a relative price buffer (usually 20% above the lowest priced comparable option) rather than encouraging employees to book the cheapest hotel at all cost.

Travel Policy Chart

Ultimately, the cost of a bad travel experience tends to outweigh any difference in price.

What about recruiting?

The best hotel policy to use for recruiting depends partly on the level of the candidate. For high-value executive candidates, you may want to go a step above and hand-select a few hotel options that are sure to please, or block certain hotels, including all those below 4-stars.

For most other candidates, a relative price buffer, similar to your standard employee policy is a good idea.

Tip: Don’t forget about Airbnb as an option for candidates.

Another consideration is logistics. Many companies will limit the location range to within a few miles of the interview site, and specify the date(s) on which to book the hotel.

Payment is an issue that can be more complicated for candidates than employees. For that reason, we always recommend requiring hotel prepay, so you don’t have to deal with awkward money conversations, or chase down receipts for reimbursement.

Still have questions that we missed? Let us know and we’ll dig into it.

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When it comes to controlling travel spend, there’s a sweet spot somewhere between pinching pennies and burning cash that tends to work out well in the long run.

That’s what we encourage companies to aim for when creating travel policies. To help you make the best decisions for your company, we’ve compiled our top travel policy recommendations for companies focused on growth, productivity and employee happiness.

The thing about best practices is they don’t work for everyone, and they don’t always work forever. Still, you probably want to know the secrets to building the best travel policies, right?  

We’ll start with the basics to lay the foundations for a successful policy, then we’ll dig into some other considerations, including how far in advance to book, when and where to set price ceilings, what type of bookings to avoid, and how to stand out in the recruiting process.

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Getting Started

Across the board, we recommend requiring travelers to list a trip purpose, and book all flights and prepay for all hotels on a centralized corporate card.

For companies, this can simplify accounting and provide credit cards rewards and corporate discounts. For travelers it avoids the inconvenience of fronting payment, dealing with expenses and getting reimbursed.

If you don’t already have a policy in place, start by categorizing your travelers into buckets. Most companies will divide travelers into three categories: employees, executives and candidates. Each of these categories comes with its own policy restrictions and approvals requirements.

Travel Policy Chart
Let’s start with policy for employees. The goal here is to create moderate controls that enable employees to book the itineraries they prefer, while keeping budgets under control.

For flights, hotels and rental cars, any booking that’s 20% above the lowest available price should require manager approval. For flights, we also suggest hiding basic economy, business class and first class tickets.

The chart below shows the most frequently included travel policy categories among NexTravel customers for employees.

Employee Travel Policies

For executives, policies have a role to play even if there are no restrictions on travel spend. We suggest blocking basic economy fares to improve search quality, and for reporting and accounting purposes, requiring a stated trip purpose and payment on the company card.

Tip: To promote a flat organizational structure, consider using the same policy for executives and employees.

For most candidates (as well as consultants and partners) more controls are typically needed. We recommend requiring approval for all candidate travel bookings, regardless of price. For flights, we suggest hiding premium economy, business and first class tickets, and for hotels it’s a good idea to restrict bookings by geography (within a couple miles from your office).

Rental cars are commonly excluded for recruiting visits — among customers we’ve spoken to, it’s common to exclude rental cars and instead reimburse for taxis, Ubers and Lyfts. If you do choose to allow rental cars, keep in mind that there are age restrictions and surcharges for drivers under age 25.

Candidate Travel Policies

When to Book Flights

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at ways to save time and money.

One of the most common questions we get asked is how far in advance you should book flights to get the best fares.

On average, NexTravel customers book flights 17.73 days in advance of travel.

If travel plans tend to change frequently, consider booking within a week of the date of travel to avoid change fees.

What to Avoid

If you’re tasked with developing a corporate travel policy, chances are one of your priorities is to save money—as it should be. Rather than saving at all cost, we advocate for smart savings.

That means weighing how an employee’s itinerary will impact their capacity to be successful at the job they’re traveling to do.

Here at NexTravel for example, we have a “don’t choose a long and terrible flight with two layovers” policy, because our team’s productivity and sanity are worth more than whatever we’d save on the price of the flight.

Tip: To support traveler wellbeing and productivity, avoid the following:

  • Airlines with poor safety or quality ratings
  • Hotels under 3-stars
  • Unnecessarily long connections and double layovers
  • Hotels with a long commute to the office

It’s usually worth paying a bit more for a clean, comfortable hotel with good wifi, access to restaurants and close proximity to the work site. Consider whether a longer commute to the office is justified by saving 10% on a hotel outside of town—wasted time aside, it may even end up being more expensive when you factor in ground transportation.

Many companies avoid certain airlines with poor safety/quality ratings, and block hotels with less than a 3-star rating. These decisions can ensure that employees don’t wind up with a poor travel experience that could negatively impact their job in the short term and lead to burnout in the long term.

Cost Controls

Controlling costs is about more than getting the best deals on travel. Our recommendation is to take the total travel cost into account when choosing itineraries, including employee productivity and happiness, as well as the cost of the ticket.

Rather than choosing the cheapest itinerary at any cost, we encourage companies to provide some flexibility to travelers. Of course, you want to make sure you’re not blowing your budget unnecessarily, so any “use your judgement, keep it within in reason” policy should be tempered a by clear approvals process.  

That’s where relative price buffers come in: a dollar value or percentage limit above the cheapest available option.

To keep costs under control without implementing excessively strict policies, you can either block all options outside of the price buffer or provide a wider range of options with approval required before booking.

Tip: To cut down on communications overhead and speed up the decision making process, always require travelers to list a reason for booking outside of the price buffer.

Some companies choose to pre-approve in-policy bookings, while others require approval for all bookings. Even if you always require approvals, by providing an allowable price buffer, you can cut down on much of the back-and-forth communications that admins often have to deal with.

High-Value Recruiting

We’ve talked about general recommendations for candidate travel already, but what about those hard to hire executive-level candidates you really want to impress?

To make a strong impression from the start, consider blocking all flight classes below premium economy, and blocking hotels with less than a four-star rating.

Many companies will only show executive candidates a list of hand-picked hotels, so that their experiences are guaranteed to be great.

Unlike executives who are commonly given the freedom to book without restrictions, high level recruits should actively encouraged to book comfortable options to set the tone for a great recruiting trip.

 

Want to know learn how to optimize your corporate travel policy? NexTravel can help you discover ways to save and ensure a positive travel experience for your employees.

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Hiring today has gotten ultra-competitive across growing industries, making it more and more important for companies to get creative in their talent search. Swanky offices, catered lunch and flexible work arrangements are a few of the carrots that might attract recruits, but perks are only part of the equation.

While talent can seem concentrated in competitive job markets, the truth is, the best and brightest can come from all over the world. That’s why NexTravel partnered with Greenhouse to enable companies to attract talent from anywhere.

Greenhouse exists to help companies with one of their biggest challenges: hiring. Our partnership will help make recruiting the best talent faster, more efficient and more diverse.

At NexTravel, we’ve experienced the power of recruiting beyond our bubble here in San Francisco firsthand. Today, we’re excited to be working with a company like Greenhouse that’s helping to redefine hiring.

Here’s what Dane Hurtubise, VP of Partnerships and Platform for Greenhouse had to say:

The Greenhouse and NexTravel integration allows our innovative mutual clients to easily arrange candidate travel for interviews, streamlining the hiring process. In the highly competitive world of recruiting, lowering the time to hire is an important objective for talent teams. This integration takes the complexity out of candidate travel expenses and logistics.”

Hiring managers and recruiters will be now able to fly candidates out to their offices for interviews, with a seamless travel booking experience that lets candidates choose their preferred itinerary while avoiding fronting costs or dealing with expenses after the fact.

Wen Wen Lam, Nextravel’s CEO explained, “With this partnership, we’ll be able to take the strengths of both offerings and combine them to make an overall smoother hiring experience for the fastest growing companies in the world.”

Greenhouse clients can now automatically synchronize candidate information into the NexTravel Hire platform, providing users with a seamless candidate hiring experience.  By connecting HR, accounting and travel management, companies can reduce errors, save on travel costs, and enable recruiters to spend more time actually recruiting, rather than dealing with logistics.

Integration NT

The integration makes the entire process less time consuming and more enjoyable for candidates as well as the recruiters, so companies can recruit talent from anywhere.

Ready to start booking travel now? Click here to sign up.

Already using NexTravel? Click here to learn how to activate your Greenhouse integration.

At NexTravel, we are constantly talking to our travelers and getting feedback about what makes their business trip successful. Today, we are excited to launch a few of our most requested features.

Ready to start booking travel now? Click here to sign up.

Interested in a demo of the NexTravel product? Click here.

Open Booking has traditionally been a controversial topic among the managed travel community. Open Booking is the process of booking travel outside the approved channels set forth by the company, and frankly, many travelers are guilty of this. In an effort to collaborate with that natural tendency to occasionally book outside of their travel program, NexTravel has launched an Open Booking functionality.

The Open Booking feature allows travelers to import reservations that were booked outside of NexTravel into the NexTravel platform. This enables the traveler to keep all of their trips and receipts centralized, despite different booking channels.

Open booking

Ready to start booking travel now? Click here to sign up.

Interested in a demo of the NexTravel product? Click here.

 

At NexTravel, we’re always striving to provide business travelers with more choices and costs savings for their flights. Our newest flight results feature, Mixed Fares, pairs one-way flights from different airlines to build cheaper and more flexible round-trips.

So, how does it work?

Let’s say you’re taking a business trip from San Diego to New York City. Our search results will now display a combination of regular fares and Mixed Fares, providing cheaper and more flexible options for the trip. Simply choose which regular or Mixed Fare result is the most ideal for your business trip and choose “Select”.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 11.14.41 PM

Business travelers are now on their way to saving more money for their companies and having the flexibility to travel the way they want to.

Ready to start booking travel now? Click here to sign up.

Interested in a demo of the NexTravel product? Click here.

Already a NexTravel business traveler? Click here for detailed instructions about how to use Mixed Fares.