< PrevNext > 3. Companies Will Leverage Pre-Trip Approval to Increase Business Travel Flexibility By SAP Concur Travel & Expense Technology Solutions Thought Leader Ralph Colunga / January 25, 2021 Share More companies will implement pre-trip approvals for business travel in 2021, as part of broader efforts to safeguard employees and reshape travel and expense policies. At the booking stage, a pre-trip approval process assesses whether a trip is necessary; during the trip, the prior authorization helps a company keep tabs on employee whereabouts for duty of care; post-trip, the additional visibility can help if contact-tracing is required. But pre-trip approval could be positioned to do more. While most organizations will keep bookings in preferred channels—that is, within an online booking tool or travel management company partner—some may consider a booking tool-agnostic pre-trip process that positions the program to provide more flexibility to travelers in a time when flexibility will be an immensely important factor in rebuilding confidence with business travelers. Even though there is reason for optimism with regards to Covid-19, uncertainty remains. Governments will adjust rules and restrictions to current and projected situations. Travel suppliers and airports will institute new requirements. Travelers will need to respond to those adjustments in turn, which could require last-minute changes to plans. Elevated health and safety concerns only add to the stress, and empowered employees with better options to make travel decisions based on their own and their company's best interest will have more confidence on the road. A pre-trip approval process that allows for supplier-direct bookings does not diminish the role of travel management companies, which provide essential support to travelers and program managers. However, a percentage of business travelers always will book directly with suppliers no matter how strict the corporate policy. When we think about the next generation of business travelers, many prefer the self-service approach to booking for convenience, time savings and value. In addition, many suppliers reward travelers who book direct by offering special incentives like lower rates, preferential treatment, seating, and special amenities. Elevated health and safety concerns may further increase the number of travelers who will want a more personalized say in their plans.Business travel managers who institute pre-trip approvals in 2021 should consider technologies that can provide the transparency necessary for program compliance, while also accommodating more flexibility for business travelers. Providing fewer constraints will help rebuild confidence with business travelers and boost satisfaction with travel programs as our industry continues to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.