The world of corporate travel has changed dramatically in the last few years, thanks in part to the rise of internet travel booking sites. It has also been altered by the ability of the traveler to connect to their company and to their corporate travel agent via portable devices at any time day or night. Yet despite that connectivity and the ability to book travel by oneself, corporate travel agents are still as important as ever. Technology innovations have provided corporate travel agencies ways to keep up with the radical advances in the industry.
Now, corporate travel experts have been able to devise some best practices that are continuing the revolution in the industry. From using new types of software to finding new ways of handling business expenses, corporate travel agents are reimagining the business model. Those willing to take the lead are the ones that will prove to be more successful in the long run.
Innovation allows corporate travel agents to be more responsive to their clients. Even with all of the websites that allow travelers to create their own itineraries, travel agents still have an edge. A recent survey by Abacus showed that nearly 2/3 of those surveyed agree that their clients want to work with a travel agent instead of doing the work themselves, in part because over half of the travelers find that trying to create a business travel itinerary is too hard to do by themselves.
To accommodate the rise in corporate travel bookings, almost ¾ of travel agencies have started utilizing a corporate booking tool like Concur or Serko. One such corporate booking tool that fits travel agencies of all sizes is TTS Corporate. They have found that this enables them to do more with less.
That same survey also found that almost every single business traveler – 97% – has been tasked with reducing the cost of his or her business trip. This means fewer trips made in business class and more in coach, as many as 60%. Or, corporate travel agents are looking towards low-cost airlines for transporting their clients. This factor has risen by 73% recently. Interestingly, there are sometimes smaller airports near large cities that are much cheaper to fly into and don’t cause an increase in the distance to the core of the city.
Many companies have had to tighten their fiscal belts since the great recession of 2008-09. Specifically, almost half of corporate travelers, 47%, are being asked to scale back on their hotel accommodations and go for ones that are not as luxurious. It’s important to still find hotels that can allow for high-speed internet connections and to give the business traveler a place to unwind after a long day. Keeping this in mind is a best practice any corporate travel agent can implement quickly.
Being able to assist your clients in finding cost savings will also put you ahead of the curve. Tracking their ancillary expenses like mobile roaming and car rentals is a must so they can report it back to their company accountants. Or, even better, if you can save them the costs of both of these items, you will be their hero. This is particularly true for US travelers, where 18% of travel expenses are used on these types of costs. But, throughout the rest of the world, it can be anywhere from 10% to 14%. Right now, only 37% of travel agents help their clients with such cost-saving moves. A best practice here is to start implementing this business plan.
Another cost-saving move is booking fewer days in a given hotel than in years past. In large cities, occupancy rates overall are higher than they have been, showing a centralization of where people stay. Convention centers and business districts are usually near the heart of town, and this is reflected in the bookings. Interestingly, new hotels are going up that are opening up the choices and allowing for greater flexibility in travel. Even with cost monitoring, however, eco-friendly hotels are gaining in popularity.
Beyond the basics of booking the trip, corporate travelers are looking for value-added items that help enhance their trips. Not only do you have to be able to accommodate these changes, but you also need to be able to help them itemize the costs and organize the data into reports that will help the clients’ bottom line. Corporate travel agents who can do this stand ready to separate themselves from the crowd.
The Global Distribution System and corporate booking software help provide that data for the traveler, both before and after the trip. For the travel agent, the data can be utilized to help make recommendations to his client that will enhance the trip in meaningful ways.
Another benefit of using corporate booking tools is checking each reservation for any issues with compliance. Those issues can be fixed quickly and simply. The CBTs and the GDS allow for real-time information to be analyzed and utilized quickly for both cost savings and understanding what the business needs. It can create a dashboard of information that will give companies instant feedback on expenses and if any controls need to be put in place.
CBT also gives an international extension of business practices, no matter how small each overseas office is. The smallest of companies can benefit from a standardization of travel procedures. Anyone can now glean information about how much benefit to cost there is to corporate travel, and what ways exist for savings.
Finally, portable devices are making a huge impact on corporate travel and corporate agents. The Abacus survey shows that more than 83% of corporate travel agencies believe that just smartphones alone will impact their business. The low-hanging fruit here that would make for a best practice for anyone is that only 1/3 have created a mobile website or an app that works on phones and tablets, and a mere 14% have created a tablet-only app.
Travel agencies that are willing to embrace portable technology, add value for their clients, help their clients save money, and help them collate their data effectively are the ones who have embraced the best practices of the industry and put them to good use.
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