When it comes to business travel, most companies quickly learn that planning, booking and making sure that business trips go smoothly can involve a large amount of administrative work. This often falls on the individual employee to deal with, raising a number of issues, from ensuring that travel is booked correctly to monitoring cost effectiveness.
Having a centralised travel booking platform aligned with the power of a corporate travel agent not only meets these challenges head-on, but also improves any inefficiencies in your business’s corporate travel programme. Throughout this post, we’ll address:
- The challenges of decentralised business travel management
- Gaining control over business travel services
- The role of a corporate travel agent
- Combining corporate travel agents and travel management
The challenges of having a decentralised travel programme
Some of the key problems of a decentralised travel management strategy include:
Controlling what employees spend on travel and accommodation - You might have a business travel policy in place, but ensuring that employees don’t go out of policy when booking flights, rail travel or hotel stays, or when generating expenses, can be difficult. Without a lot of supervision and control, it can be difficult to maintain travel policy compliance throughout your organisation. Another downside is that it’s often left to the employee to personally fund their own airfare, hotel and other expenses. This leads to the employee filling in multiple expense claims, which adds to the overall administration and workload.
Ensuring that travel is cost effective - Decentralised travel results in businesses receiving a poor deal on their business travel needs. If employees are booking their own travel and claiming expenses, they’re paying full rates and missing out on savings. And these additional costs can escalate quickly.
Business Travel Administration - Inputting data into spreadsheets to manage travel and actual expenses is time consuming. This takes attention away from other business tasks that are more crucial. This also means that multiple departments may need to be involved in the travel booking process, including individual teams and managers, human resources to approve trips, and even accounting staff to ensure that travel and expenses are cost-managed and tracked.
These issues highlight why organisations often turn to a business travel agent to help with the travel booking process. So, how does a corporate travel agency help a business with its travel?
Gaining control over business travel services
The first step to gain control over business travel is to centralise travel management within a company. This can fall to the human resources team or the accounting department. A company should hire a dedicated travel manager if the volume of travel requirements is high enough.
Even with a dedicated travel manager in place to help organise a corporate travel programme, without the right tools it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on at an employee level. A company will often turn to a traditional corporate travel agent to help arrange business travel.
Often, when an organisation needs professional services that fall outside their own business’s core remit, it’s time to consider outsourcing the service to a professional organisation. For business travel, organisations would turn to corporate travel agents to help support their company policy and travel needs.
Travel professionals specialise in providing travel services to businesses to help simplify the travel process.
What does a corporate travel agent do?
Corporate travel agents connect organisations with resources and providers in the travel industry. They hire corporate travel consultants who are experts in their field and who are trained in arranging business travel on behalf of their customers.
Some of the benefits you can expect from using a corporate travel agent are:
Reduction in travel spend - Get better rates for your business travel when you use a corporate travel agent. Over time, these travel savings can have a big impact on your travel spend and make hiring a professional company quite cost effective. Dedicated corporate travel agencies have access to a network of travel providers they can use. This means you can save money on your business travel, as going directly would mean paying higher or premium rates, and employees should book their business travel efficiently and at the best price. Last-minute business travel arrangements will come up, but they’ll still want to avoid paying higher costs.
Professional travel itineraries - Another benefit that business travel agents provide is professional travel itineraries. Imagine you need travel visas for international travel. A business travel agent will provide the essential documentation and take care of all the administrative work and complex details. Or, if you have a complex journey and need to book connecting flights, a business travel consultant will have the expertise to complete these travel bookings easily and effectively.
Provide recommendations and business travel advice - It can be difficult to know what a hotel is going to be like until you’ve stayed there yourself. Online reviews aren’t always accurate, and personal preferences can vary, so booking accommodation can be stressful. Corporate travel agents understand which hotels are recommended and which are best avoided. This expertise comes from experience in booking, arranging and speaking directly to travellers and customers about their stay and overall experience. If a hotel room wasn’t up to scratch, you can guarantee a customer will provide that feedback to their corporate travel agency.
Combining corporate travel agents and travel management
Corporate travel agents are becoming less popular since companies want more control over their travel management and have gained important benefits through centralising their travel booking process internally. These additional benefits can include integrating travel expenses into key accounting systems, maintaining employee duty of care, and automating and streamlining other travel-related processes that fall outside the remit of a traditional business travel agent.
Modern travel management companies such as Egencia offer the best of both worlds. With Egencia, you can get all the latest technology, automation, and modern travel and expense integration, while enjoying all the benefits of speaking to a business travel consultant if you need additional help.
Quickly book business trips - Enable employees to quickly book their travel arrangements, including airline tickets, accommodation and car rentals while ensuring compliance with the organisation’s corporate travel policy. In addition, you’ll get the best rates through the global distribution system (GDS) that travel management companies like Egencia use, saving your organisation money.
Avoid mistakes - Passport information and relevant details are stored in the system, so booking flights is easy. If you need a visa, the online booking tool will let you know and will also allow you to arrange one via the platform through an approved provider.
Change your travel itinerary - Business travel often requires flexibility. Meetings and requirements change, and you need a system that can handle unexpected changes. With Egencia, you can make changes on your own, instead of relying on a business travel agency.
Protect employees and maintain travel safety - Duty of care and risk management are maintained with an alert system that can block certain trips from being booked. A system is also in place to alert both management teams and to route important travel safety messages directly to business travellers when they’re travelling. These features are normally outside the remit of traditional corporate travel agents.
Flexible travel booking strategies - You can provide different levels of booking options to different traveller types. The system fully supports this functionality. You’ll have the benefit of comprehensive and flexible travel planning throughout your organisation.
Track travel expenses - Business travellers can use a mobile app when travelling to track expenses quickly and easily, making sure that all expenses are accounted for. No need to waste time compiling expense spreadsheets, and no chance of losing important receipts when out of the office. This is another benefit that business travel management software offers over a business travel agency. The ability to combine and integrate business systems together can help reduce administrative tasks between different teams in your organisation.
Corporate travel management has never been easier. Combining the benefits of a traditional corporate travel agency with a modern travel management company provides a comprehensive travel solution. A business will be able to get travel consultancy and advice when needed, as well as automation, efficiency and cost savings on their business travel.
Speak to Egencia today to learn how you can implement an effective corporate travel solution into your business.