As business travel resumes, added T&E fees are making a comeback. During the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines, hotels, and other travel-related services canceled additional charges, mindful that travel plans had become unpredictable and the stress of uncertainty could scare off travelers.
Travel businesses, however, never stopped thinking about these fees, as they provide much-needed revenue to recoup losses from dwindling travelers. With the re-opening of business travel, these fees are coming back…with a vengeance.
Many are the usual suspects: flight cancellation, baggage, and booking-related charges. The pandemic, however, introduced a slew of new and novel T&E expenses. These charges include required government fees and additional charges from travel businesses for services that were once free.
For example, both St. Maarten and the Bahamas charge a mandatory health fee, designed to cover medical-related costs should travelers contract COVID-19 while vacationing on the islands. Travel industry businesses are tacking on COVID-19-related costs as an addendum to normal charges.
In addition to regular security deposits, many hotels and Airbnb rentals now include a separate, COVID-19 security deposit line item. Room service bills now often include the tip plus a COVID-19 charge, and cleaning crews are adding as much as a 20% surcharge. Tour operators are attaching COVID-19 health fees, in the event they are exposed to the virus while performing their jobs. A recent Washington Post article noted that “many [travel] agencies are evolving to a ‘business consulting’ model by incorporating fees for their professional services, time and knowledge”.
For corporations, these additional fees represent a new expense they must now track within the T&E expense claim system. Organizations need to categorize these fees correctly, verify that they are legitimate charges within threshold limits, and ensure they do not violate policy.
If your company is using rules-based or OCR scanning expense claim systems, incorporating these new fees into your existing T&E process can be time-consuming and error-prone. Each additional fee must be manually tracked. IT must develop rules — and employees must be retrained — every time another one is added. Reconciling the inevitable exceptions is also a lengthy, manual process. With so many things that could go wrong, new fees may not be captured properly, placing a heavy burden on IT and Finance resources.
AI can lift that burden. Using an AI-powered Finance solution, such as AppZen Expense Audit, simplifies the addition of these new fees to your organization’s existing T&E workflow. It automatically reads and understands every expense and can identify new fees on the receipt without manual review or changes to your T&E processes. With Expense Audit, there is no need for IT resources or additional employee guidance.
Expense Audit continuously learns and can automatically feed information about new fees into your overall T&E process, and do it at scale. It can tell the difference between valid and invalid charges, flag fees that violate company policies or exceed maximum threshold limits, and track the impact of new fees on your overall expense spend.
An AI expense management solution also provides a 360-degree view of spend data across all teams within the organization. This allows you to identify trends, benchmark your T&E processes, and implement changes that will evolve your team into a best-in-class finance operation.
AI-powered finance solutions like AppZen’s Expense Audit seamlessly provide all of these capabilities without the need for costly custom development, time-consuming manual exception processes, or reductions in Finance and IT productivity. With AI expense management solutions eliminating the need for manual review of low-risk items, auditors can focus on what matters most: addressing out-of-policy and high-risk spend.
There will be plenty of changes that come with the post-COVID-19 resumption of business travel. Increasing your workload shouldn’t be one of them.
To explore how AI-driven Expense Audit can help you manage new fees without adding to your team’s workload, contact us today.
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