22 Mar 2017

As a member of a dynamic and growing entrepreneurial organisation or SMME, chances are your business requires national and international travel. Your business travel policy may entail booking your business travel yourself. You go online, devoting many hours to find the cheapest prices on flights, accommodation, car hire, etc.

The pros of ‘doing-it-yourself’ include not incurring travel management company (TMC) fees, the freedom to book whatever suppliers you choose.

Obviously, there are also cons. The inordinately long time you or an assistant spends searching for the best deals online is non-core and non-productive, you have no systematic tracking of what your organisation is spending on business travel and you do not benefit from negotiated bulk discount deals.

If your organisation’s travel policy is to partner with a reputable TMC, you will be obliged to pay a management fee. They will provide you with a dedicated customer service team that is expert, reliable, proactive and familiar with your travel programme and needs. If you don’t want to relinquish all control, especially on less complex national bookings, you can still go online using the TMC’s online booking tool; plus you get the substantial benefit of the TMC’s bulk discount deals from preferred suppliers on flights, hotels, car hire, on-the-ground security, etc.

Whether partnering with a TMC or going it alone, there are common sense considerations that even the most seasoned business travellers sometimes neglect.

Imagine travelling to Namibia to clinch a vital deal. You arrive at the airport and are informed that your passport is due to expire in four months. Entry into Namibia requires at least six months of passport validity.

It’s all in the detail!

Make sure you have all your important documentation – I.D., passport, flight tickets – with you at all times, so that in the event of loss, you have copies online on your smartphone.

Perhaps you and your team are attending a conference in Europe. Share extra cargo such as brochures, posters and cards with your colleagues. Paper is surprisingly heavy and extra luggage costs can be exorbitant.

When not using a TMC, remember you don’t always receive notifications or alerts from the airline. Find out their policies before booking.

Know the airline’s terms and conditions regarding unavoidable emergencies; for example, your taxi in Cameroon is involved in an accident on the way to the airport. Will the airline automatically give you preferential booking on the next available flight?

Lastly, most airlines give benefits such as priority boarding, business lounges, sometimes even showers and massage services to business travellers who fly frequently with them.

With amenities such as free Wi-Fi, refreshments, snacks and glossy magazines, lounges feel like the answer to most of your air travel annoyances; at the very least, they can give you sanctuary from concourse noise and hubbub.

Entrance to most lounges is free with a first, business or premium class ticket. However, if you’re travelling economy, there are ways to gain access to these comfy inner sanctums without paying thousands of rands for an upgrade. For example, invest in a lounge membership card or use your compliant credit card. Some airlines will even sell you a day pass. Airport facilities are there to make your flight better. Use them!