Travel management companies (TMCs) must stand ground against corporates striving to cut costs or service levels will fall, Karen Spence told a one day conference on expense management.

Ms Spence, director of corporate sales support for FCm Travel Solutions, said one of the problems TMCs faced was that they had bowed to corporate pressure to drive out costs which had led to savings but service and delivery was not being valued.

“Where TMCs need to be smarter is in the need to strand our ground. As costs are driven down, services will suffer.

“We don’t want to be regarded where clients are not comfortable with the service we are delivering,” she said.

She was speaking at the Corporate Travel and Expense Management conference organised by Management solutions (UK) and attended by 65 delegates in London this week.

Caroline Allen of Cendant TDS said there was a “massive mis-connect” between travellers and TMCS and the corporates.

She said that TMCs needed to market themselves to the travellers who “only looked at what a trip costs.”

Richard Darley, UK travel manager for Eli Lilly and Company, said that travel managers also needed to work much harder with their financial officers to get control of travellers who were booking airlines and hotel outside policy.

In a session on ‘Route Deals versus the Spot Market’, Richard Tams, head of corporate sales for BA, said the carrier was doing just as many short haul deals as in the past.

But he added: “We are finding that people are finding very cheap fares on a spot basis and are by-passing the normal travel management process and going direct to ba.com.

“We are also finding that the needs of the leisure traveller and the business traveller are becoming increasingly blurred. But the corporate wants flexible tickets and want to buy at the top of the ladder so they always want a deal.”

Barbara Kelly, UK office facilities manger for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, said her company did do “a little bit of spot buying” but only when it knew it was going to achieve the requirements of its route deals.

David Skinner, travel manager for Willis also said his firm did spot buying for the “lowest logical fare” in the domestic and European market.

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