Why should you manage your business travel through a Travel Management Company (TMC)?
The pandemic paused business travel for many businesses. Companies are now looking for ways to adapt to a new normal in how they work, how they manage their business, and how they connect with customers, prospects, or partners. This implies a search for new providers and suppliers that can alleviate some of the burdens or answer tricky questions about what to do next.
This article aims to give you a perspective on what a travel management company can do for your organization and why you should consider working with someone who knows business travel. Managed business travel.
What is a travel management company?
By definition, Travel Management Companies are specialized travel agencies that provide ongoing services to other companies, managing business travel needs & demands by saving customers’ resources, people, time, and money. They are specialists in finding the best travel solutions for your business trips, so you don’t have to.
They streamline the processes around booking travel, reporting, contracting different travel suppliers, and support your business travel program through service and technology. Their purpose is to give you both, your company and your employees, the support you need to keep the focus on whatever it is you’re traveling for.
TMCs provide a range of advantages to companies over traditional travel agencies that engage in all kinds of areas of travel.
As they are geared and focused only on business travel and B2B services, TMCs are useful for a lot of practical reasons. While we are talking about travel management, it is worth stretching that the main reason for this topic is that travel is about people. Your people.
Here are the most important ones you need to take into consideration for having efficient management of your resources but most importantly, your employees.
1. You can benefit from their negotiation power and expertise in a B2B environment
TMCs are experts when it comes to managing business travel arrangements for companies. You’re not just paying someone to click through a reservation system or email a hotel, you’re working with an experienced travel consultants’ team that knows the specifics of working with multiple travelers from the same company, not to mention multiple suppliers around the world.
A travel management company has connections across the entire travel ecosystem through various technology systems, allowing them to access rates for tens of suppliers at the same time.
They also have the expertise needed to look for the best available fare for flights in global distribution systems, NDC direct connections, or API aggregators to book flights at the right time. As a result, overall travel costs can be significantly reduced.
TMCs provide booking services for all services the business traveler may need during his journey, either domestic or internationally:
· Air transport: Flights, commercial and low cost, private jet or access to airport lounges;
· Ground transportation: Transfer and shuttle services, ferry, bus or train tickets, car rental, and parking services;
· Accommodation: Hotels, independent properties, and long-term rentals, conference or meeting rooms renting;
· Travel insurance, Visa services, Covid testing recommendations.
TMCs provide counsel through an account manager to streamline and focus your travel program toward reaching the goals you need as a company. Account managers work with you to thoroughly analyze the needs so you can identify issues or gaps. Based on their analysis, they provide a tailored plan of recommendations to help you know where improvements can be made. This kind of consultative account management allows companies to rely on the expertise of travel professionals and make the most out of their budgets.
2. Keeping your employees safe
Duty of Care is the legal and moral responsibility that your organization, as an employer, has to keep for its employees to be safe from risks. These may include extreme weather or natural disasters, political strikes and civil protests, accidents, health difficulties, personal attacks, or terrorism the list goes on. Considering the implications, you need a good provider to support you in this area. The TMC knows what are the requirements and travel conditions for destination countries by engaging with other suppliers to ensure the data provided is complete, accurate, and up to date.
They’re also able to handle crisis operations in case of emergencies so you do not need to panic.
TMCs provide their travelers and companies with alerts to inform on specific events that could impact their travelers and their safety.
They run reports periodically to track travelers and maintain close contact where they see fit by sending notifications.
When we speak about employee care while on the road, your travel management company plays an important role when a crisis happens. They take the responsibility to mitigate risks and solve difficult situations for you. They offer the traveler's needs no matter where they are through their know-how of the industry and connections with third-party suppliers that specialize in this matter.
One of the most important aspects of working with a TMC is having a support team available 24/7. While you may not be there for your employees around the clock, your TMC must be. This means that when something needs to be changed in a trip or your employee faces a difficult situation, there is someone who can be of help.
3. Get your true one-stop-shop for all your business trips
Travel agencies that specialize in business or corporate travel build relationships within the travel industry and outside of it. Whether it’s an airline or hotel chain, they have the experience of working with these suppliers before and for other companies as well. They negotiate larger deals with services suppliers as they aggregate the needs of multiple companies at the same time.
A TMC holds numerous contracts and contacts with different kinds of suppliers so you don’t have to. While using the services of a TMC does not come cheap they can still save you important amounts of money by optimizing expenses, negotiating on your behalf, and looking out for your employees.
When we said one-stop-shop, we need to mention the level of technology that a TMC must have in place to perform all the tasks you request from them. This goes down to the inventory they can access and the functionalities they can provide in terms of trip management, traveler communication, reporting, payment, and cost savings.
An experienced travel management company knows the travel industry inside out and due to the high volumes of trip bookings and changes. They did learn some tricks along the way. They know airline policies, hotels, they know the routes, and of course what you need to do before you visit a specific destination.
Dealing with high volumes means having a diversified type of companies as customers to manage their travel. This brings expertise in servicing many industries that have specific needs when it comes to travel and gives the TMC specific know-how relevant to each travel profile. Prior experience can be very useful in optimizing expenses and how to respond to more nuanced travel needs.
4. Easy and fast searches in compliance with your travel policy
When your employees travel for business reasons, you need to make sure they comply with your travel program or policy. These custom-built procedures include the rules your employees must follow when traveling for business. TMCs make sure travelers comply with your company’s travel policy and make the decisions accordingly. They also brief your employees on how they can meet travel requirements to fulfill the company’s travel policy.
At the same time, they cover all areas of what it means to a travel program from applying a travel policy to reporting and optimizing your expenses.
TMCs use profile management tools that securely store traveler identity details, preferences, and loyalty programs information. These profile details get fully integrated into their internal back-office and mid-office system to ensure ease and convenience at the time of booking and reporting. When working with a TMC, travelers can book travel online or with an expert travel agent, based on their unique service needs.
It is important to mention that TMCs provide their customers with the necessary tools to book and manage travel easily.
This implies they provide you with a corporate booking tool, or a mobile app, that allows you to book your travel on your own at any time of the day. This brings a new experience for travelers in terms of booking, while the TMC keeps an eye on your booking and still manages the changes or all other post-booking processes.
Reporting is very important to companies and having a consolidated regular report helps to have an overview of the expenses and dimensions of your travel program. Having a proper report to settle accounts and identify spending is the first step followed by the analysis step and recommendation on how to make adjustments to fit the budget to achieve your goals.
Some companies that use multiple TMCs or suppliers find it quite difficult to put figures together, to have an understating of the value they get from travel and so they lose control over the whole program.
Managed vs unmanaged travel
Why don't employees look for the best prices, book their flights and hotels, and then submit reimbursement requests all by themselves? Unmanaged travel may avoid the cost of a management fee paid to a TMC, but risks having a higher bookings rate as the traveler have no guarantee of finding the best available rate. How about the cost of their time spent on finding and organizing the trip?
Managed travel consists of having the expertise on finding the best trip options and support in fulfilling post-booking services to solve challenges related to business trips and having control over the spend.
The travel management company you use as an organization says a lot about your culture and ethical work.
Please mind that you are entrusting this company to take care of your employees when they are not in the office or at home. The way you manage the travel program and your travel management company is a reflection of how much you ultimately care about the wellbeing of your employees.
The travel management company your organization engages with is a reflection of how you treat employees. It cannot be separated and should not be disregarded. So, when you contract your travel management company, make sure it fits your needs, your culture, and your people.
Let's talk about the steps you need to take to select the travel management company that can deliver a travel program the way you deserve.
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