What does a travel manager do? (With skills information)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 10 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

During a business trip, employees have a lot of things to think about, from making reservations for their accommodation and transportation to paying their bills and balancing their expenses once they get back. These responsibilities are often carried out by a corporate travel manager on behalf of an employee. Although they are more common in bigger companies, corporate travel managers also work for smaller organisations provided their staff travel often. In this article, we answer the question 'What does a travel manager do?' and go through all of the key skills required to succeed in the role.

What does a travel manager do?

To answer 'What does a travel manager do?', it might help to first explain what a travel manager is. This refers to an individual who is responsible for the planning and development of a company's travel policy. They make sure all employees travel in a safe manner and that the company's policy on travel is adhered to. This is a fast-paced job since a travel manager is often required to resolve travel issues.

They also ensure the company works with a business travel agency that, while they themselves focus on their other obligations, manage reservations and rate negotiations on their behalf. A travel manager has a range of responsibilities, overseeing a company's entire travel needs. These responsibilities include:

  • establishing travel allowances for employees

  • providing assistance to employees while they're travelling, including coordinating activities and providing itineraries

  • managing travel expenses, such as flight bookings and rental vehicles

  • accounting for and administrating business credit cards

  • documenting team members' travel experiences

  • providing assistance to staff with respect to visas, medical and legal forms and travel legislation

  • maintaining up-to-date knowledge of travel rules and continually revising the company's travel policy as required

  • arranging travel and accommodation for business visitors

  • identifying cost savings

  • analysing and preparing reports on travel spend

Related: Examples of travel and tourism degree jobs (with salaries)

What skills does a travel manager require?

The skills required by a travel manager include:

Management skills

Depending on the size of the organisation, corporate travel managers either work alone or oversee other staff members responsible for travel-related tasks. Regardless of the circumstances, it's beneficial for them to have previous expertise in management. This ability remains crucial regardless of the size of the department since employees who are travelling look to the travel manager for their guidance, knowledge and advice while they're away from the office.

Related: Travel agents qualifications (and how to become one)

Digital competency skills

In their role, corporate travel managers navigate a range of different software programmes, websites and applications. If they do not work in partnership with a travel agency, the travel manager handles all of the bookings themselves online. Many businesses now provide their employees with their own travel portals, where they submit requests for travel clearance and upload receipts when they have returned from their trips. Since they're likely to make use of technology on a day-to-day basis, travel managers require good digital skills and feel comfortable working with technology.

Communication skills

Travel managers regularly act as liaisons between several groups of individuals, including leaders of the business they work for, staff members who travel, corporate travel agencies and travel vendors. Ensuring the information the manager presents is understood by all parties necessitates a high level of proficiency in both written and verbal communication. Since corporate travel managers are also responsible for developing and enforcing the company's travel policy, it's essential they're able to convey the policy in an understandable manner to all of the company's employees.

Interpersonal skills

Developing working connections with various travel providers is a responsibility that falls within the remit of a corporate travel manager. A travel manager who maintains good connections with suppliers may be able to negotiate better deals on rates and acquire valuable insight into the vendors' business practices as a result of such interactions.

A travel manager may also have access to additional resources as a result of this, since the suppliers with whom they have established relationships may be more willing to assist them in resolving an issue or providing them with recommendations. It is imperative for a travel manager to possess strong interpersonal skills to successfully navigate the travel industry and establish positive relationships with travel vendors.

Related: How to be a travel therapist (a step-by-step guide)

Financial skills

The administration of an employee's allotted travel budget is one of the most important tasks that falls within the remit of a corporate travel manager. They take into account a range of elements, such as what the firm could cover, what the reimbursement restrictions are, where employees are travelling to and from and how much money they require for meals and housing. There is the possibility the budget might change depending on unforeseen situations plus rules and regulations regarding travel.

It's essential for a corporate travel manager to have sound knowledge of financials and accounts to strike a balance between all of these elements while making suitable budget decisions.

Related: A guide to travel and tourism degrees (tips and salaries)

Problem-solving skills

Travelling regularly comes with some challenges, including flight delays or cancellations, lost luggage, problems with the accommodation or unexpected medical situations. It's highly beneficial for corporate travel managers to possess good problem-solving abilities so they're prepared to deal with any issues that arise during business trips. Their adaptability and capacity to overcome obstacles ensure employees' travels are safe and productive.

Negotiation skills

With websites providing unused rooms for a fraction of the price at hotels all over the world, a travel manager works to negotiate with different companies to offer reasonable pricing to their customers. When putting together a trip package for a customer, a travel manager negotiates hotels and airlines. Due to the competitive nature of the travel market, you're required to possess excellent bargaining and negotiation skills.

Multi-lingual skills

Although not a pre-requisite, it's often highly advantageous if a travel manager speaks more than one language. Whether they're speaking directly to hotel managers in foreign countries or trying to help an employee get the medical care they need while they're abroad, being able to communicate in this way can save a lot of time and hassle.

Related: 17 jobs that involve travel

How to become a travel manager

Travel is often critical to a company's growth and success and typically consumes a significant portion of its budget. This means hiring a corporate travel manager remains a popular choice, especially for larger organisations that travel regularly. The qualifications and experience required to work as a corporate travel manager vary from company to company. Become a travel manager by taking the following steps:

1. Education

Although there are certain businesses that demand only a high school or university education, most organisations prefer to hire corporate travel managers with at least a bachelor's degree. This includes degrees related to tourism, travel and hospitality. Graduate degrees help you increase your work possibilities and the prospects for career development.

Related: How much does a travel agent make? (Plus duties and skills)

2. Experience

Businesses tend to prefer candidates with previous experience in the travel, tourism or hospitality industries. This expertise provides you further insight into how the travel business works and makes it easier to handle many parts of the job, such as deciding on budgets and booking tickets and accommodation. Before pursuing a career as a corporate travel manager, it's beneficial to obtain experience in the travel industry by working as a travel agent. Consider working for a company that deals with foreign travel rules, international currencies or the reporting of travel expenses.

Related: 9 jobs that require travelling and how to get them

3. Certification

Certifications make you a more valued employee and increase the number of work opportunities available to you, even if they're not a specific requirement. Examples of travel manager certifications include:

  • travel and tourism professional

  • certified travel associate

  • certified corporate travel executives

  • certified manager certification

  • certified hospitality and tourism management professional

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