BY VAL LEVESON
Most exporters have to travel – they need to meet distributors, attend trade shows and scope potential markets. But arranging travel can be a tedious affair that takes you away from your core business. And often, if you’re doing it yourself, you’re not getting the best deals possible.
So what should you expect from your travel planner, how do you make sure you’re getting value from them and that your needs are being met?
The managing director of HRG New Zealand Executive Travel, Kevin Weston, says there are several things a travel management company can and should provide that you can’t get from booking your own airline tickets online.
Firstly, he says, travel management companies (TMCs) should have a security policy so travellers can be tracked.
“Recently there have been earthquakes, political violence and even the Iceland volcano. What if your senior management team is caught up in something like that? Or even an employee that you’re concerned about. A good TMC knows exactly where they are at any time, can get hold of them quickly and organise to get them out of a situation as quickly as possible. It’s about having the right contacts.”
People using a TMC should expect personalised service. “They should be dealing with senior, experienced people who have an understanding of the client company’s needs. You need your travel company to understand your company.”
You also need to be with a TMC that retains its staff. Most companies want someone consistent to deal with, someone who knows their company and who they feel comfortable working with.
“If you have a policy that staff travel economy and a staff member tries to book business class, the person who’s dealing with the client needs to know the policy of your company and alert you to the discrepancy.”
As far as pricing is concerned, Weston says using a TMC saves you time. Most bookings take at least 30 minutes – that’s 30 minutes away from doing your core business. “It’s about someone adding value – helping with visas, organising conference rooms, helping negotiate excess luggage or stopovers. It’s about helping you get the seating of your choice — everything that will make your travel experience a comfortable one.”
Also, travel management companies with bulk buying power can negotiate better deals than those available to individual consumers. This applies to airlines, hotels, car rental firms and more. Often they can achieve 25% off usual corporate rates. Even with fees, a TMC can shave 10-15% off travel costs, Weston says.
Travel management companies are not travel agents. If all you’re getting from your TMC is what you’d expect from a travel agent, you probably should look elsewhere.
A TMC should adhere to the travel policy you have set out. You should be getting enhanced reporting – know your costs, savings and even your carbon emissions. If your policy is for employees to take the cheapest possible flight, you need to be informed when they are not.
These days, travel management companies also need to be up with the latest technology, Weston says. Companies should be able to log in to the internet and get an idea of what the TMC has organised. “It’s about using technology to ensure what’s happening is what management is wanting to happen.”
It’s also good to ensure your travel management partner has global support, he says. “Because we’re an international company, we have people on the ground to assist in 140 countries. We can provide one global solution, one interface.”
If anything goes wrong on your travels, you also need to make sure that your service has 24-hour customer care. “You don’t want it to be a case of someone keeping a cellphone on them to answer calls. They could be in a movie or in a car where they can’t pick the call up. Your travel management firm should have a 24-hour call centre so they’re available to sort out any problems immediately.”
HRG sets out to give its customers’ senior staff VIP treatment. “We try to get them upgraded by airlines, manage their air points for them, arrange concierge service, restaurants and more.”
“By having negotiated rates for hotels, car hire and air fares, the savings can add up across all employees and businesses. A TMC will also work with businesses to make a travel policy tailored specifically to the businesses needs.
“This gives employees the flexibility to work with their travel manager to make bookings that suit them, but also ensures policies are being adhered to in terms of time of travel, upgrades and cost.
“It is also important that travel booking solutions fit your specific business or company requirements.”
He says the differences between small and enterprise-size businesses can be dramatic and it’s important their travel solutions are tailored to be as cost-effective as possible.
“For example, businesses that prefer to book online can take advantage of Corporate Traveller’s unique `SME3’ tool that allows employees to book themselves online, but the final sign-off and accountability for the booking remains with your TMC.
“So if there are any issues or changes that need to be made, their dedicated travel manager can act quickly on their behalf.” [END]