Saturday, 4 December 2010

Are you a SME? Are you losing £50,000 a year buying travel badly?

Picture this, you have to travel to Denver on business in four weeks and you’ve never travelled there before. You don’t know which carriers fly there, where to stay or even what part of town the meeting is in. What do you do? Call your travel agent and get them to sort everything; or put the kettle on and spend the morning searching online? After all, you book the family holidays just fine, right – how hard can it be?

I’m guessing the latter, but whether this is you or not, the truth is it happens. And it happens too often in SMEs where business travel is, understandably, an after-thought. By adopting such an unstructured and chaotic approach to buying business travel, travellers are almost certainly wasting the company unnecessary time. And time, of course, means money. Let’s assume the guy travelling to Denver, for example, earns £60,000. That morning’s searching just cost £128. Now let’s say there are 20 travellers in the office making 20 trips a year, all booking independently. That’s the equivalent of over £51,000 of billable hours wasted.

So what’s the alternative for SMEs operating in a price-driven environment? They may not have the buying power to negotiate discounts, but they can certainly buy smarter, save the company time and effort, and enjoy increased benefits and rewards from suppliers. For more tips, read on:

1          Get your house in order. Appoint a member of your management support team to take responsibility for buying business travel and work with them to introduce a company-wide travel policy to control spending and reporting.  

2          Avoid online leisure travel agents. They eat up time and charge hidden fees. If you know what you want to book, go direct – you’ll get better service and equally good prices. Otherwise...

3          ... ask the experts. If the majority of your business travel is domestic, use rail and hotel booking agents. They will save you time, and HBAs don’t even charge. They also have access to a much wider choice of accommodation to suit all budgets. If you buy flights, use a local business travel agent like Advantage Business Travel or Uniglobe to deal with the more complex itineraries. For a small fee, they will save you hours.

3         Book ahead. Planning ahead can help you buy quality services for less.  Fly mid- week or out of season, purchase a multi-city ticket rather than a round trip fare, bundle your flights and accommodation, buy a restricted ticket and stick to your plan rather than fork out for a fully flexible fare! And for rail travel – never buy tickets at the station, it will cost you 30-40 per cent more.

5         Be brand loyal. Price is always king, but if you can be loyal it pays. By signing up for programmes that reward companies AND travellers, you can use kickbacks – such as free upgrades – to get more for your money. Most major airlines and hotel groups operate reward schemes and the good news is that, thanks to the recession, they are on the rise.

6         Look at the complete picture. Booking the cheapest but not the nearest hotel room, for example, may end up costing you more when you factor in extras such as cab fares, parking fees, airport transfers, internet charges and the time and hassle it takes to get to your meeting.
               
7         Seeing is believing: If you’d like to see how much money you could be saving by  using specialist business travel supplier and implementing a travel policy check out the travel savings calculator in the Visitor Zone of www.businesstravelshow.com and see if that can persuade you to stop doing it yourself!

Posted by David Chapple, event director BTMS

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