Whether you work for an organisation or are a sole trader and travel for business, there is no doubt the travel landscape has changed dramatically. COVID-19 has not only impacted the way we travel, but the cost of flights and accommodation, so it has increased the need for adaptability and flexibility. Here is a guide to average business travel expenses, including if you’re looking for insights into average travel expenses for a small business.
Flights are generally the first expense that needs to be considered when planning a business trip. But the average cost of a flight depends on a range of factors — and not just where you are travelling to and from and when. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the airline industry. Internationally, well-worn flight routes have been blocked and have led to fewer flights and rigid traveller conditions for those flights that are available.
Not only has international travel been restricted, but state border closures are also continually being implemented as new cases appear and spread. It is an unpredictable environment that restricts business travel and changes the way airlines adapt and operate.
This affects the industry’s ability to focus on domestic travel and tourism efforts and leads to a consistently fluctuating market.
Some of the impacts of COVID-19 on the industry include:
To curb the spread of the virus, a number of health precautions are being taken by airlines, including mandatory mask-wearing and temperature checks before boarding at some airlines and on some flights, and staff limiting the number of “touchpoints” on flights, including restricted meals and magazines. So if you are used to a certain business class experience, that may have changed considerably.
COVID-19 has caused over forty global airlines to halt operations this year. This includes Australia’s Tigerair, and Virgin, which went through administration in 2020. In September, it was sold to US private equity firm, Bain Capital, which has vowed to keep the airline running. As expected, both Jetstar and Qantas’ stocks have plummeted and their ability to offer more flights will continue to be impacted by border closures.
One of the easiest ways airlines are recouping the staggering amounts they have lost due to COVID is by increasing prices. Many experts are predicting that airfares are likely to remain in the moderate to high price range for the next 12 to 18 months.
Having said that, prices will fluctuate depending on the states that remain in lockdown and the restrictions with interstate travel. As of today, a Qantas Red e-Deal from Sydney to Brisbane costs from around $200 one-way and a business class ticket from around $1500 one-way. However, there are currently strict rules in place if you are planning to travel to Brisbane, including at Brisbane Airport.
If you work for an organisation, their travel policy will usually outline where you can stay or how much can be spent on accommodation per night. Typically, an overnight stay in a 3-star Brisbane hotel will cost around $95 per night and a 4-star hotel around $150 per night. However, budget hotels can cost as little as $60 per night.
If you are looking to book accommodation yourself, hotel booking sites like Expedia, Booking.com, Agoda, Wotif and Hotels.com can be an efficient way of comparing options and save you having to trawl through websites to find a suitable room. There is also the option of booking Airbnb accommodation for your business stay.
The cost of meals while you are travelling for business can obviously vary greatly depending on where you choose to dine. If your business has a travel policy, it’s worth noting that this should cover “reasonable expenses” for food and drink, including:
- Dinner and breakfast if you are staying overnight somewhere.
- Daytime food and drink away from your regular workplace.
- Alcohol if it’s part of a meal, although this should be “reasonable” and dependent on your organisation’s travel policy.
Commuting and other expenses
Commuting costs that you may be able to claim while you’re away for business can include:
- Car hire and the cost of fuel
- Taxi or Uber fares
- Bus, train and tram fares
- Airport transfer chauffeur services (like ours, which are competitive, flexible and reliable)
It’s worth noting that you generally can’t claim for your journey from home to your usual place of work. For example, if you are going into the office before your flight, the transport costs probably won’t be covered.
Other things you might be able to claim for include phone calls, internet fees, laundry and dry cleaning.
Keeping records of your expenses is vital for the reimbursement of costs, so you need to keep track of them. Rather than carrying around paper receipts, consider using expense tracking software . There are a variety of apps you can download to your mobile that are accessible, convenient and easy to use.
Business travel during COVID-19
Businesses of all sizes have had to continually re-forecast their travel budgets as government operating landscapes shift with the health and economic effects of COVID-19.
Although many businesses have benefited from a significant drop in travel expenses by replacing travel with video conferencing, many businesses are keen to resume face-to-face contact with existing customers and new prospects. Here are a few tips on how organisations can budget for travel during these uncertain times (particularly if you run your own business):
Get your travel policy sorted
If you don’t have a travel policy, it should be a priority. An effective travel policy can help you prepare for the unpredictable by providing important behavioural guidelines that prevent overspending and confusion. Working with a reputable travel management company can also assist with sourcing the best possible deals with airlines, hotel providers and ground transportation.
While the industry returning to “normal travel” is hard to predict, it’s always good practice to regularly review how much your previous travel budget was allocated to events, conferences or sales trips to help you make more informed decisions. Again, travel management companies can assist with providing customised analyses and reporting functionality.
Know what travel is required
Review what trade shows, training, conferences or other major events might be on the agenda for the next financial year, and have a contingency in place if travel and border restrictions might occur. If you have budgeted for these and they are cancelled, the cancellation can be factored into your re-forecasting process.
Because travel in these times is full of uncertainly, it’s a smart move to build in contingency plans into travel policies in case borders open up (or close!) more quickly than expected. When it comes to travel budgeting, you need to be proactive but also reactive.