Question: How can we reduce the time we spend finding and booking the best business travel deals?

Answer: Work with a travel management company to ensure you only pay what you need to.


Paul Wait says business travel must be seen as an investment and not a cost for organisations looking to grow their sales.

The sport-mad chief executive of the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) is a business travel industry veteran. He spent 28 years at American Express and 13 at airline Virgin Atlantic and is passionate about making it easier and more cost-effective for companies to do business in the UK and abroad.

“Companies need to maximise their return from business travel rather than cutting it just to save money,” says Wait.

“If I was a shareholder in a company with a travel ban I would be worried that the executives were not meeting existing or potentially new customers, that exporting was not a priority and that the senior managers were not as close as they should be to what was going on in the business at different locations. Business travel must not be treated as a commodity.”

He points to a report by Oxford Economics in the US which claims that for every $1 spent on business travel a company can realise $12.50 in incremental revenue. The study also says that curbing business travel can reduce a company’s profits for years, down by as much as 17% in year one and it takes about three years for profits to recover once a travel ban is lifted.

By working with a travel management company (TMC) an organisation can make its budget go further.

“You must buy travel that is appropriate for your needs so you should know exactly what you are trying to achieve from any trip. Also, are you looking for the cheapest deal or do you need arrangements that are more flexible?” says Wait. “A TMC will present you with a range of options and provide management reports so you know you are getting the best deal. Pricing changes by the hour so it is useful to have someone constantly watching the market for you.”

“Companies need to maximise their return from business travel rather than cutting it just to save money,” says Wait.

He says it makes sense to work with travel experts rather than asking employees to trawl through websites and negotiate their own travel as they struggle to understand the airlines’ and rail companies’ complex pricing strategies. A TMC will also provide 24 hour support to travellers in case they need to change their plans suddenly when their own office is closed.

The GTMC positions itself as the voice of the business traveller and is constantly lobbying politicians in London and Brussels.

Wait is vocal about issues that damage his members and their customers such as disruption at airports, strikes or delays on the railways which ultimately harm the UK economy. He is constantly fighting to influence government policy on a range of issues from ticket pricing to business traveller rights and safety across national borders.

His efforts will benefit every company that sees corporate travel as essential to business success.


What your Travel Management Company should provide

A Travel management company (TMC) should work with a business to design, implement and measure the success of its business travel policy to ensure it is getting the best value for money.

There are some big savings to be made. A well-implemented, well-monitored travel policy can reduce costs by at least 10% and by up to 30%, according to The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

A TMC is not just there to negotiate and secure the best deal on flights, rail tickets, hotels and car rental but it should offer a consultative service too. Business travellers want someone to call on when they are away from the office, they made need help or advice to keep them safe or secure or need to change their plans at short notice.

They can also source a wide range of other products including taxi and parking services, meeting venues and video conferencing facilities.

A TMC should supply regular management reports that confirm that their client is getting the best prices for the type of travel arrangements they have had to organise.

There are some big savings to be made. A well-implemented, well-monitored travel policy can reduce costs by at least 10% and by up to 30%

They should also collect data which will help to make the business travel policy more effective in future. This includes information on travel expenses being claimed and knowledge of where all business travellers are around the world at any one time.

You should negotiate with your TMC on how you want to pay for their service. Options include a management fee which is an ‘open book’ arrangement with all costs passed on and a percentage fee agreed; or a transaction fee where the TMC makes a charge for each booking. This will vary depending on whether business travel is domestic or international, the mode of transport used and which hotels were booked.

At the beginning of any deal with a TMC set up Service Level Agreements with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the savings achieved, how management information is supplied and customer service.