Scaling up? How business travel can impact growth
By Geoff Kahler, Senior Director of Global Marketing at Egencia
This post was originally written in September 2019 and has been updated by Geoff Kahler, Sr. Director of Marketing in June 2022 to reflect the current business travel environment.
Congratulations, your company is growing. Fast. Maybe you’ve just taken a second or third round of funding. Or maybe you’ve expanded into a new region or across an ocean as part of your business model.
In any case, you’ve found success as a new business, entrepreneur, or small business built to be scalable—fast. Now you need the right partners to help you manage the areas of your business—outside of your core competencies—that will enable the early stages of future business growth.
One place that tends to be a blind spot, but has the power to build serious competitive advantage? Your corporate travel programme.
Choosing a business travel partner that’s the right cultural fit will help you implement the processes to fuel your growth without slowing you down.
You’re not in the Wild West anymore
For most fast-growth companies, travel started like the Wild West. Everyone booked their own travel, on whichever platform they wanted, and off they went. There was no visibility into what the cost was, or where people were.
And while that may have worked for a team of five, it just doesn’t once you’ve hit 50, 500, or 1,500 employees, and the larger business plan changes for travel.
That’s when it’s time to start managing your full-time travel programme, instead of managing team members as travellers. And that’s where the right partnership comes in.
There are a lot of shiny new travel tech companies out there, and it can be hard to choose. But the new kids on the block are finding they don’t have the infrastructure or business means to build scalable business relationships that support fast-growing companies.
Egencia, on the other hand, has the DNA and agility of a startup—born from the world-class consumer experience of Expedia—with decades of experience, hundreds of millions of online interactions, and the gravitas of a global network.
What does that mean for you?
Best value and choice– To start with, savings. Whether it’s helping to shape your travel policy to optimise savings, tapping into powerful negotiated rates, or reaping the rewards of machine-learning to meet your travellers’ preferences, Egencia makes it happen.
Happy travellers – It also means happier travellers, which is a big deal in today’s competitive talent market. Your travellers will get the autonomy they’re looking for with Egencia’s intuitive booking tool—whether on their desktop, mobile app, or smart watch—backed by real people to help them when they need it.
No more blind spots – And along with all of that, you’ll have visibility into where your travel budget is being spent and where your employees are at any given moment.
Business travel isn’t going away… so use it to your advantage
Yes, Zoom, online business and digital products for communications have opened up new opportunities. But business travel is roaring back beyond laptops. Recovery is now at 80%, blowing way past industry estimates.
In all honesty, it takes one face-to-face interaction to see why.
No matter how convenient it is for quick meet-ups, Zoom will never be able to replace the power of human contact, especially when it comes to meeting new customers or introducing new products. Building on the collective energy in a room. Putting heads together—literally—to solve a hard problem or ideate innovative business ideas with like-minded contributors. Sharing stories with colleagues in the lobby after hours. There’s that intangible spark that happens when you’re together instead of online.
I, for one, didn’t even realise how much I was missing that until I encountered it again myself.
Yet there’s no denying the world is a different place. But I believe the right business travel partner turns change into opportunity.
For instance, duty of care—which is both knowing where your travellers are and how to take care of them at any given time—is a huge priority. And having a robust duty of care plan in place is a great way to show your employees you value and care for them—which is critical in this competitive talent market.
Sustainability has taken centre stage as well. More and more companies want to be accountable for controlling their carbon emissions. Egencia gives companies visibility into the impact of your travel options, so you can make choices that reflect sustainability commitments both internally and externally.
Vision and technology to help you scale
For companies that are scaling fast, there are two essentials to look for in a travel partner. The mindset that matches your entrepreneurship, the ability to get up and running quickly, and the ability to easily add functionality to meet your company’s needs as they expand.
We find that a lot of fast-growing companies and small business owners who are new to managed travel often don’t know where to start. We can help.
When is the right time to bring on a dedicated travel manager as your business scales? What kind of systems should you have in place? Our account managers guide you through the process of finding the right answers, while building a business case to estimate how much you can save or increase business travel profit margins, by consolidating travel through one platform.
The other essential for fast-growing companies is the ability for your travel partner—and the functionality of the platform itself—to be able to quickly grow with you.
Egencia started as a travel tech company. We’ve built a powerful platform with SaaS components that’s highly configurable to keep us nimble for your benefit. Plus, we can quickly activate additional functionality through APIs based on your needs.
We’re always innovating and leveraging AI to make it easier and easier for our customers.
For instance, setting hotel rate caps on a market-by-market basis used to consume lots of time for travel managers, and it was almost impossible to keep up with seasonal price fluctuations. So we built a new feature that uses an AI-powered algorithm to automatically adjust hotel price caps according to the local market median.
During COVID, travellers struggled with having to dig through multiple sources to find out where it was safe to travel and what entry requirements there were at any given time. So we developed travel adviser, a tool that aggregates information on travel restrictions, entrance requirements, self-quarantine policies, hygiene standards, and more, and presents it all to the traveller right in the booking path on the Egencia platform.
Another need that’s arisen out of the pandemic is trip approval – since January 2020, we’ve seen a 230% up-tick in our customers setting up trip approvals to keep their travellers safe. The issue is, that process is complex and time-consuming, with multiple variables to account for at each stage. So Egencia launched a first-of-its-kind approval recommendation tool that uses machine learning and automation to automatically generate personalised settings for travel approval processes that can be implemented in just a few clicks.
As a large, data-driven company, we can identify friction points ‘in the background,’ so to speak, and find ways to continually optimise the experience through relevant metrics. Our customers truly drive our product roadmap. And because we have so many more transactions across the platform than anyone else in the market, we can innovate more quickly.
Pick the right partner
You’re scrappy. You’re innovative. That’s how you’ve got to where you are. But you’re also at a stage of growth where you need processes to scale-up strategically. It’s important to choose a travel partner who understands both worlds.
The right travel partner – one that has the DNA of a travel tech company and the global experience and reach – can help you spend and save strategically, make travellers happier and safer, and help you scale in a way that reflects your company’s culture.
For more information, download our whitepaper, “Three golden rules for using travel to fuel fast growth.”