As businesses continue to expand globally, the need for international travel becomes essential. Traveling internationally for business purposes may seem very exciting for employees. However, companies have a lot to take care of. They must ensure employees are productive, safe, and have a good travel experience.
Moreover, international travel poses various risks and challenges for employees. These risks include delayed flights, loss of baggage, medical issues, civil unrest, and many more. Additionally, travel managers must arrange their visas, medical and travel insurance, and provide round-the-clock business travel support, among many others.
That is why creating a robust global travel policy is crucial. An international travel policy for employees outlines the various aspects of business travel, such as employee safety, travel experience, risks, business travel budget, and goals to be achieved.
Here is a comprehensive guide for travel managers on creating an international travel policy for employees:
Step 1: Assess the Risks
Before creating an international travel policy for employees, travel managers must assess international business travel risks. This involves identifying potential risks and threats employees may encounter while traveling abroad. Some risks and threats to consider include the following:
- Health risks: During international business travel, employees may be at risk of contracting infectious diseases or experiencing health emergencies while traveling abroad. Hence, you must conduct a risk assessment considering the health risks associated with the destination country, such as endemic diseases, availability of medical facilities, and vaccination requirements.
- Safety risks: Employees, especially female business travelers, may be at risk of physical harm or violence while traveling abroad. You must consider the safety risks of international travel, such as crime rates, terrorism threats, sexual assault, and civil unrest.
- Security risks: Business travelers may be at risk of theft, fraud, or cyberattacks while traveling abroad. The risk assessment should consider the security risks associated, such as the prevalence of pickpocketing, credit card fraud, or cyber espionage.
- Environmental risks: There are chances that your employees can be at risk of natural disasters, extreme weather conditions, or other environmental hazards while traveling abroad. Therefore, travel managers should assess the environmental risks such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Although rare, being prepared is always better than leaving employees stranded.
Considering all these risks, you must thoroughly research the destination and provide employees with a risk assessment checklist before embarking on business trips.
Step 2: Determine the Scope of the Policy
Determining the scope of the global travel policy is essential in creating an effective policy. This involves identifying the employees covered by the policy and the types of travel the policy applies to. Here are some key considerations when determining the scope of the policy:
- Employee roles: The policy should identify which employees are covered by the policy. This may include all employees who travel internationally for business purposes, or it may be limited to specific job roles or departments.
- Type of travel: The policy should define the types of travel that are covered by the policy, whether for meetings, conferences, training sessions, business events, or trade shows.
- Travel destinations: The policy should specify the destinations that are covered by the policy. This may include all international destinations or be limited to specific countries or regions.
- Travel duration: The policy should define the travel duration of business travelers. This may include short-term travel, such as trips lasting a few days, as well as long-term travel, such as business meetings/projects lasting several weeks or months.
By defining the scope of the international travel policy for employees, travel managers can ensure that it covers all relevant employees and applies to all necessary types of international travel. This helps ensure consistency and fairness in policy implementation and ensures that all employees know the expectations and guidelines for international travel.
Step 3: Establish Proper Business Travel Guidelines
One of the most important yet ignored aspects while setting up an international travel policy for employees is establishing proper business travel guidelines. Business travel guidelines are a set of rules and regulations that employees of an organization must follow while planning and going on business trips. These guidelines are intended to facilitate efficient planning of business travel, support traveler comfort and safety, and ensure responsible use of the business travel budget.
Some of the business travel guidelines you should include in your global travel policy are:
- Travel authorization: You should mention in the policy that authorized employees can only go on international business trips. The authorization should be obtained from their manager or the designated travel coordinator.
- Booking Travel: Employees should be directed to book their travel through the company’s designated travel agency or travel booking platform.
- Travel documents: The policy should specify the travel documents that employees are required to carry, such as passports, vaccination certificates, national ID cards, and visas.
- Transportation and accommodation: The policy should specify the transportation mode and the booking process. Similarly, it should also mention the type of accommodation employees can stay such as a 3 or 5-star hotel, an Airbnb property, etc., and the process for booking.
- Emergency procedures: In the policy, travel managers should outline the procedures employees should follow in case of an emergency, such as political unrest, natural calamities, etc.
Step 4: Mention the Expense Categories and Limits
International business travel involves various kinds of expenses. And if these expenses do not have any limits, they can spiral out of control and finally impact your company’s bottom line. Therefore, travel managers, in collaboration with finance managers, should categorize various business travel expenses and set limits on them.
The various business travel expenses include:
- Flight and hotel bookings
- Per diem rates
- Personal car mileage
- Passport and visa expenses
- Tips to bellboys and waiters
- Public transportation tickets such as buses and trains
- Ticket cancellations
- Meal allowances, etc.
As a travel manager, you must clearly mention the limits on these expense categories so that employees are aware of the permissible international expenses.
Step 5: Define Procedures for Reporting and Filing Expenses
If your company doesn’t have standard operating procedures, reporting and filing international travel expenses can strain your finance immensely. Collecting and filing all expense receipts during international travel is not a cakewalk. Hence, it is crucial that organizations have a strong global travel policy for employees for reporting expense claims.
The policy must report the clear process of reporting expense process and the necessary documents to claim these expenses. You must clearly define how employees can report international travel expenses, they can file expenses while on the go, what is the time frame to report these expenses, and what should be the proof of expenses (invoice, receipts, etc.).
Since international business travel involves employees spending in foreign currencies, y must also mention the preferred mode of payment like a credit card, corporate card, cash, etc., and the various ways to report them. This also helps improve your business travel management process.
Step 6: Include Security Guidelines
There is no denying the fact that providing security to business travelers while traveling internationally is of utmost importance. Security is crucial for employees during international travel because it helps to protect them from a range of potential risks and threats. International travel often involves exposure to new environments and unfamiliar situations, which can increase the risk of physical harm, theft, or other security incidents.
Hence, it is imperative that you prepare an international travel policy for employees that outlines everything about employees’ security. The policy should include the following:
- Security training: The policy should specify the security training employees must undergo before traveling internationally.
- Communication protocols: The policy should include the communication protocols employees should follow in case of a security breach or emergency.
- Safety precautions: In the policy, you should include all the safety precautions employees should take, such as avoiding high-risk areas, securing their belongings, and being aware of their surroundings.
- Security arrangements: Security arrangements such as hiring security personnel or using transportation with a GPS tracker must be mentioned in the policy.
- Data security: The policy should specify employees’ data security measures, such as not connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, using non-encryption software, or locking/password-protecting all devices.
Additionally, you can also prepare a separate corporate travel security policy that defines all the guidelines for business travelers and travelers in ensuring travelers’ safety during international travel.
Step 7: Communicate about the Policy to Employees
Once a global travel policy has been established, it is essential that you communicate it clearly and effectively to all employees who will be traveling internationally. This involves training employees on the policy, providing clear instructions and guidance, and ensuring that employees understand the expectations and requirements of the policy.
Here are some key elements of effective communication and training for an international travel policy for employees:
- Provide clear guidelines: Travel managers should communicate the policy clearly and concisely to all employees, using language that is easy to understand. This can be achieved through written documents, online or in-person training sessions.
- Provide guidance: Employees should be given clear guidance on how to comply with the policy, including information on how to book travel, obtain necessary documents, and submit expenses for reimbursement.
- Ensure employees understand the policy: Travel managers and organizations should ensure that employees understand the policy by providing opportunities for questions and feedback. You can ask them to complete online forms, take a quiz or discuss the sections of the policy that employees could not understand.
Step 8: Review and Update the Policy
After effectively communicating the international travel policy to employees, it is important to review and update it regularly to ensure it remains current and effective. This includes reviewing the policy in response to changing travel conditions, new security risks, or other factors that may affect the safety and security of employees while traveling.
Some ways you can review and update your policy are:
- Regularly reviewing: The policy should be reviewed regularly, such as annually or bi-annually, to ensure it remains relevant and effective.
- Gather feedback: Travel managers should gather feedback from employees who have traveled internationally, including feedback on the effectiveness of the policy and suggestions for improvement.
- Monitor travel conditions: Companies and travel managers should monitor travel conditions in the countries where employees will be traveling, including information on security risks, health risks, and other factors that may affect employee safety.
- Respond to changing conditions: Companies should be prepared to update the policy in response to changing conditions, such as weather conditions, political crises, or global health alerts, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
By regularly reviewing and updating the policy, companies can ensure that their international travel policy remains current and effective. This helps reduce the risk of incidents or non-compliance and ensures employees can travel confidently and stress-free.
Implement an International Travel Policy for Employees Right Now
Creating an international travel policy is essential for ensuring the safety and well-being of employees while traveling for business purposes. By following the steps mentioned above, you can create an international travel policy to help your employees travel safely and efficiently while representing your company’s interests.
You can also take the help of a corporate travel management company such as ITILITE to craft an international travel policy for employees. At ITILITE, we help you create a robust travel policy for employees who often travel internationally as per your company’s requirements. We consider employee preferences, ensure safety and security, are up-to-date with all travel guidelines, and ensure travel policy compliance.
Get in touch with our expert now to get started with international travel policy.