The airline business began a rapid series of changes with deregulation at the end of the 1970s. Twenty airlines then have become four today. The next major shift in travel occurred when technology became common. Nowadays the internet has taken over a lot of activities that used to require that personal touch. Business meetings can be done over a web conference. Trips can be booked on a personal computer. But are these really the best way to operate a company?  It’s impossible to shake someone’s hand on a computer, and it’s difficult to book a business trip with all of the necessary components by oneself on the Internet. Even with automation, the future of corporate travel agents is still bright.

Though a simple flight and hotel are easy to book, there are assumptions that have to be made. First and foremost, there will be no issues with the flight requiring a rebooking, which at a minimum is a frustrating experience and can end up being detrimental to your business if you lose a deal as a result. If you book on your own, you are at the mercy of the customer service agent as to when and how you will be put onto a flight to your destination. A travel agent, with one simple phone call, will be able to handle that all for you and get you on your way to your client smoothly.

Booking through a knowledgeable corporate travel agent allows you to tap into the technology for travel agents that gives them the ability to include perks that basic internet travel sites can’t. Things like being able to check out later when you have an important client meeting in the morning let you relax and take care of business instead of worrying about what to do with your luggage.

Corporate travel agents can also procure confirmed upgrades for you which means you can fly business class and take advantage of the greater space to relax and arrive rested, or amenities like free wi-fi and power outlets so you can keep working, even at 38,000 feet. A basic internet travel site will only let you upgrade for a fee, and sometimes only at the airport. It’s much harder to plan when you have to gamble on a seat assignment.

Though they sound like luxuries, having a corporate travel agent book your trip enables you to find places with complimentary breakfasts and spa services. After a long, all-day meeting, being able to relax and unwind is healthy for the mind to sort through all of the data of the day. And a free breakfast served onsite means you can get a good night’s rest and eat a good meal to start your day properly.

Travel agents have the tools with which to find all of these amenities and more, including hotels with onsite meeting rooms so your clients have a proper place to meet with you. Or, they can find the right hotel room for your needs – which might not necessarily be the cheapest room. Once a travel agent knows your particular requirements, it becomes simpler for each subsequent trip because he or she will make smarter reservations. Your travel program will become more streamlined as a result. In the US in 2015, corporate travel is expected to rise 3%, and so long as the worldwide economy stays strong, 6% the following year. Imagine being able to get ahead of your competition and land the big deals more efficiently – it’s possible thanks to corporate travel experts.

This is also not just a trend that is occurring in North America. In January 2015, American Express did a study about global business travel and found that it grew just under 1% in 2014, ending a three-year growth decline. Buoyed in part by an improved economy in the key nations of Europe, business people are traveling again to connect with new clients and take care of their regular ones, too.  Business development spending is 51% of international business travel now, up from 46% just a year ago. Passport renewals are expected to see a dramatic rise, including those in up-and-coming nations like Argentina and the Philippines.

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Even more dramatically, almost half of all businesses in Europe plan to expand their international reach over the next three years, up from just over one-third in 2012. Most of those businesses are doing their corporate travel within the borders of Europe. One of the big motives these companies have for turning to corporate travel agencies is controlling costs, followed by being able to book trips in advance and do so with flexibility.

Being mindful of their financial bottom lines is one of the main reasons European corporate travelers flock to specialized travel agents who can both mind their budgets and fulfill all of their clients’ needs. One of those specialties is the travel management company or TMC. A TMC is capable of handling all end-to-end components of each business trip it books while giving business travelers the best return on investment possible.  Some TMCs give their clients nearly 20% savings over trying to book each component individually.

TMCs also allow for mobile interactions that help speed travel and make it easier for business traveler to check the status of their flights, make changes if necessary, and monitor their expenses through expense management solution tools. The younger, more technologically adept, millennials are certainly driving this category.

From the airlines’ standpoint, travel agents mean more profit for them. Internet sales give travelers the best deals, as long as you are willing to change planes three times and do so in the middle of the night. Better, more direct, flights are available but at a premium. A travel agent who can book a flight that makes sense for you means the airlines get a better fare sold.

No matter what the internet age can offer, corporate travel agencies are here to stay, regardless of what transpires in the so-called sharing economy. (Think Uber and Airbnb.) Being able to put a professional on the task of company travel saves time – and money. A robust travel program is able to make your business more effective – financially and personally. 

Learn more about our Corporate Booking Solution for SME – TTS Corporate!