As more businesses with small numbers of frequent travellers are looking into both the benefits and challenges of introducing a managed travel programme, we talk to someone with first-hand experience of the situation.
Fran Brooke is PA to Stephen de Heinrich, the founder and CEO of luxury skincare company Omorovicza. Brooke has been with the company 18 months, and until recently was handling a large amount of the company’s travel requirements for up to ten regular travellers in the firm – plus de Heinrich, who travels worldwide around once a month.
Brooke was booking through agents such as Flight Centre, but that provided little continuity, and if the agent booking an itinerary was away, no one else seemed to be able to pick up the work. “My boss wanted a single platform where our company could book travel and allow them to own their travel plans” she says.
“Travellers were either coming to me or booking on an airline’s website and, that way, we were losing receipts and were not quite sure where people were.
“And we had no grip of our travel expenses. I knew Concur from a previous company I had worked for, so I approached them for advice and they recommended Business Travel Direct. We have been using BTD’s services for a year and they are helping us formulate a travel policy.”
1. IT IS IMPORTANT TO EXPLAIN TO TRAVELLERS that you are taking on a travel management company [TMC], and why, so they know that all travel should be booked through one channel and that it will be scrutinised. Often, knowing that is enough to prompt travellers to choose the lowest available fare.
2. GETTING MANAGEMENT INFORMATION IS CRUCIAL. Having a business travel agent allows us to have all our travel information in one place, so now we know what we are spending and where it is going. Having a TMC pays for itself, even for a small company like ours. We used to pay for travel on the company debit card, but now we have monthly invoices from BTD, which is more efficient and gives better MI [management information]. BTD keeps our expenses in check: we have spent some £90,000 on travel this year but have already saved around £48,500.
3. DUTY-OF-CARE IS ANOTHER IMPORTANT FACTOR. The dedicated booking platform has made it much easier for our travellers to organise their trips and I can see who is where at any one time, which is invaluable. A TMC also brings a connected and consistent service – I can email my main contact at the TMC about something and, if they are not there, I can contact the team and someone responds almost immediately.
4. BTD ALSO PROVIDES a traveller tracking service for us, and if we’d had anyone in Paris during the terrorist attacks, for example, they would have contacted them by text to ask them to confirm they were OK. We have given the mobile numbers of all our travellers to BTD, so that they can contact them in the event of an emergency. It is important to communicate this to travellers, so that they understand why they should part with their contact details.
5. WRITE A TRAVEL POLICY and make sure your travellers know what it is and where they can see it. In consultation with our TMC, I have given guidelines for capping hotel, air and rail tariffs on the booking platform. If someone pays more than the cap, we look into why that was necessary. Anybody lower than management or director level travels economy or premium economy on flights over six hours. For hotel accommodation, it may be that rooms are not available at the level capped in certain areas. Bookings are made through Concur and there is a traffic light system that guides travellers, so they know if the light is amber or red, they should think again.
This will eventually lead to a structured travel policy. It is a work in progress at the moment, but it is important to have one. I do want people to stick to the guidelines, so although it is still too early to mandate, when we have an official policy I will consider it.
6. OUR TMC SUGGESTED that Omorovicza became a member of British Airways’ loyalty programme, On Business, and I strongly recommend it. Stephen travels regularly in business class and we rack up a lot of points – so much so that he recently flew with BA in business class to New York entirely free of charge, because we were able to pay in points. That said, we do not steer travellers towards BA but go for the lowest fare on the day.