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A growing number of businesses across the world are regarding business travel, not as a cost, but as an economic lever to boost corporate growth*. In a fiercely competitive global environment, international business travel is increasingly being recognised as essential to retaining customers in existing markets, as well as winning new business in new markets.
This trend, with small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) in particular leading the way, dictates that business people cannot always decide the most convenient time to travel. They’re often obliged to travel during peak leisure times.
Peak time travel presents a unique set of challenges. Flights are crammed and airports inundated with holidaymakers. Accommodation and car rentals are at a premium.
Peak time business travellers are also often ‘last-minute’, with the company’s travel manager under immense pressure due to short planning or booking periods. Given the tight deadlines, travellers will often book flights and accommodation on an ad hoc basis with suppliers whose rates have not been negotiated.
A relevant and flexible travel policy that’s clearly communicated and understood throughout the company goes a long way to alleviate these challenges; especially when the travel policy is created and updated in partnership with an experienced travel management company (TMC).
Implementing a robust travel policy with the flexibility for travellers to choose their preferred suppliers at the TMC’s negotiated rates, allows the travel manager to better control the business travel spend at all times (including peak); thus preventing over-expenditure caused by ‘do-it-yourself’ booking behaviour.
Travel policies are not ‘cut-and-paste’. Each policy reflects the culture of the company. For example, some companies prioritise traveller comfort, others are more about cost. A good TMC will find the right balance for each client.
Timeous, open and ongoing communication between the TMC and the company’s travel manager is an imperative. When the TMC has a clear picture of the company’s business travel requirements over a prolonged period, it can pre-plan itineraries, book hotels, airlines and other relevant suppliers well in advance; all at the best possible, negotiated rates.
This forward planning gives the TMC a marked degree of credibility and leeway with suppliers. Based on long-standing mutually beneficial relationships, they have leverage when last-minute, impromptu bookings are urgently required; for example during peak periods when the company still demands the best possible rates at a difficult time.
All of the best TMC consultants are great listeners. By listening to the travel manager’s and traveller’s concerns and needs, the TMC gets to know the company culture, the preferences of its frequent flyers, the regular destinations and type of activities (conferences, board meetings, exhibitions, etc.). The TMC also assists in informing and educating the company’s first-time flyers regarding the directives of the travel policy.
The TMC’s dedicated professionals ensure traveller peace of mind; before, during and after the trip. Communication is everything.