When most people first hear the term ‘travel management company,’ they think it is just a fancy way to say ‘travel agent’ – but this is far from the truth. A travel management company resembles a travel agent in the same way a security guard resembles an FBI agent. They both have their uses, but they are far from the same thing.
When looking for ways to save your company money, don’t overlook the benefits of a real expert. An office administrator may be able to book a flight, but the time taken, the cost incurred, and the lack of suitable support can wind up costing the company quite a lot.
Before you decide to take care of travel needs in-house, seriously consider the benefits of using a travel management company. The benefits go well beyond saving time and money, improving cash flow flexibility, lowering stress, increasing company morale, and resulting in more effective business travel.
What does a travel management company do?
Sometimes going by the name ‘corporate travel provider’ or ‘business travel agent,’ a travel management company goes beyond booking flights and accommodations, and even beyond sharing first-hand advice to travellers – though it does these things too.
A travel management specialist manages all of a company’s travel requirements, and this can include a lot. Here are just a few examples.
On the legal end of things, your travel management company can ensure compliance with a corporate travel policy, so you and your employees won’t have to comb through documents to check on details, and won’t have the embarrassment of having to explain infractions or errors. It also prevents intentional abuse.
They will also determine which travel documents are needed, assist with document procurement if necessary (including passports and visas appropriate to the purpose of the trip), including any restrictions or exemptions for travellers of certain nationalities to certain countries.
Insurance is also provided, and since the travel management company will have extensive experience through a wide range of circumstances, they will know how to claim and receive your compensation effectively and quickly should the need arise.
They will also provide travel-related financial services – including potential savings or loss prevention – by passing on savings gained through frequent and bulk travel purchases. Because a travel management company buys so many services, so regularly (for your company and for others), they are viewed as a single customer with very frequent purchases throughout the year. Airlines, hotels, and other companies will see the value in keeping your travel management company as a customer, and will reward their custom with great deals – which are passed on to you.
Communication with your company can include MIS reporting too, so your accounts department can see everything laid out for them in a way they can instantly recognise and understand.
Cashflow can be improved through use of a travel management company too, through perks such as hotel bill backs, and a credit agreement (discussed in more detail below).
They can even help when it comes to employee safety and general peace of mind. They will provide risk management in real time, and emergency repatriation if necessary. Through use of apps and smartphones, they can track travellers at each step of a journey, increasing security, efficiency and peace of mind – both for the travellers and for the company who has sent them out.
In addition to all of this are the usual services provided by any travel company: full-service travel arrangements, charter services, group travel, venue sourcing, roadshow services… and many more, depending on the type and needs of the client company.
Quick and Easy
Most travel management companies use a Global Distribution System (GDS) that displays real-time availability of flights, hotels and other travel services. This means that there are no delays in finding out if a particular itinerary is available, and no lag time in finding out if it has been secured and confirmed.
This ease and speed doesn’t increase the chances of misspending company funds though, as individual profiles ensure compliance and appropriate spending at all levels.
One of the most effective ways a travel management company saves its clients time and money, is by developing individual profiles of all employees who travel – frequently or only on occasion.
Each traveller’s special needs and privileges are saved in the system, preventing abuse of travel funding and avoiding inappropriate bookings. In other words, junior employees won’t wind up in a luxury suite while CEOs are in the economy room of a budget hotel, and any employee who needs a particular service – like wheelchair accessibility – will have it.
Along with individual profiles comes the ability to track a traveller’s progress, intervene if there are any changes in flight plans or conditions of travel, and generally to keep an eye on that person to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
Once a company has established a relationship with their travel management provider, further benefits are realised in the form of credit. Not having to pay up front can assist in cash flow, increase flexibility of payment options, and allow invoices to be bundled up at the end of a given period, reducing administration work in dealing with each trip separately.
Credit isn’t usually available immediately, depending on the size and reputation of your company, but even for smaller or newer companies, some form of credit agreement can usually be implemented after six months to a year of regular business.