As you begin your approach into travel management, we’d like to provide you with a big picture view of how this whole thing works. It’s important to understand who the key players are and how the money flows in the corporate travel world. We’re here to help you get your bearings so that you can start your company’s travel program on the right foot.
Get to Know the Key Players
Suppliers are the airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, payment systems and technologies that you might want to partner with. You, as the Travel Manager, will have to determine which providers best fit your business requirements, and how you can make a dent in travel expenses.
Travel Management Companies (TMCs) act as a travel agency for your employees who travel for business. These firms come in small, large and behemoth sizes. Most offer online booking engines and technology solutions combined with personalized customer service and data analysis. The trick is to match your company’s needs and culture with the right vendor. Some TMCs will proactively engage in helping you build your company’s travel program and some will require you to take a more DIY approach.
Industry Organizations provide educational documents & webinars, host live events & online forums, and conduct relevant research. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the big player in the game. Their members are people who have already walked in your shoes. Their tools and research can help you benchmark budgets and partnerships against other companies in your industry or at your company’s spending level.
Manage the Money
Here’s a basic snapshot of how the key players are paid: a company will pay transaction fees for services rendered by a TMC. You have opportunities to leverage your company’s spending volume to qualify for supplier discount programs and implement processes to secure the lowest fares & rates that will directly impact your company’s travel & expense budget.
Some companies choose to partner with a credit card vendor in order to get fees waived on company charges. Payment systems offer options of centralized and un-centralized billing, as well as detailed reporting. Depending on the amount spent, your company may qualify for a rebate from one of the payment solutions.
How to Build a Travel Program
The travel policy is where it all starts. The goal of this document is to encompass your company’s approach and strategy for its travel program. Typically, an internal committee will collaborate on this task with representatives from accounts payable, finance and the sales team. HR comes into play since a travel policy can attract and retain employees. It’s important to weigh the input from a comptroller, who may be only concerned about excess spending, with that of the actual travelers who have to live out of a suitcase. Once the travel policy is negotiated internally and approved, you can figure out which external vendors and supplier relationships make sense.
A concise, well-written policy will give your staff guidance and direction when it comes to spending company money on travel & entertainment. Furthermore, a good travel policy will balance the need for minimizing travel expenses with the need to provide a pleasant travel experience for employees.
Once it’s written and approved, make sure you review it annually and make necessary updates. You’ll need to keep up with acquisitions & mergers and new technologies – both on the supplier side and within your own company. It’s also important to know what your competitors are offering so your company doesn’t lose new recruits.
How to Find the Right Travel Management Company
A TMC is a fundamental partner in the success of any travel program. Use an RFP during the selection process, in which you’ll evaluate which company can provide the services you need most. Check their technology offerings to ensure that their booking tool is intuitive and will work well in your technology environment. You want to find the right combination of excellent service at a reasonable cost. No two TMCs are exactly alike, so you’ll have to decide what’s most important to your organization. The main question to have answered by all candidates is: How am I being charged? Ask for references from their existing clients that have needs similar to yours.
Finally, you want to find a long-term partner because the selection process can be onerous. Consider whether this union can be a lasting relationship. Will they help you better manage your program? There’s a lot to consider as you take the reins of a company travel program.
Content provided by Travel Leaders Group.
For assistance getting started with a managed travel program, contact Travel Leaders / Destinations Unlimited.