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Golf Canada – staying on the fairway: achieving long term value by managing business travel


Golf Canada organizes several national and international golf events each year (notably the RBC Canadian Open and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open); they also develop programs to promote and regulate the game, and encourage both young and old to join the sport across Canada.

Golf Canada first partnered with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) for business travel management services in early 2012. They chose GBT because they needed a more consultative approach to maximize a travel program that is simple on the surface (sending groups of people to specific locations at defined times), but is actually quite intricate (policy compliance for non-employees such as volunteers, a complex car rental program, meetings and events integration, and constant budget pressure).

Golf Canada has a travel objective that many Canadian not-for-profit organizations share: reduce expenses as much as possible to maximize a limited travel budget.

Ensuring employees and volunteers book the right way

The previous travel culture was more permissive than Golf Canada knew was appropriate for their budget. Policy enforcement would need to occur before the trip was purchased; and would need to be applied equitably across all employees. Also, a lot of volunteers who are not regular travelers would be unfamiliar with the travel policy and thus would need to be guided to the right travel decision during the booking process.

EXPERT AUDITOR (a pre-trip auditing tool) was implemented right from the first day; monitoring key parameters and flagging out-of-policy choices in real-time. Because this was a new process for travelers (employees and volunteers), GBT followed solid change management best practices and communicated frequently about what to expect. To ensure compliance, Golf Canada also mandated that travelers book all travel through GBT.

As a result of EXPERT AUDITOR and good management, year-over-year business travel reviews have demonstrated that in many key areas Golf Canada enjoys consistent best-in-class performance and low average ticket prices. This isn’t to say that there is nothing left to do: there are still opportunities to improve select performance areas.

Managing an unmanaged car program

During a large tournament like the RBC Canadian Open, Golf Canada would need to arrange the rental equivalent of anywhere between 800 to 1,200 car days compressed into a couple weeks. Tournament managers, in addition to all the other responsibilities they had, were responsible for car sourcing and they used existing relationships that they knew worked in the past. While expedient, this doesn’t mean Golf Canada was getting the best deal every year. The Golf Canada’s finance team worked with our consulting team to complete a Car Program analysis to manage their approximately $230K in annual car rental spend. The new contract with the rental car company tipped in Golf Canada’s favor, resulting in up to $30,000 in savings, as well as value-added amenities such as VIP club entry and personal discounts for members of the organization. Rental car management is now a more streamlined process and has formal terms outlining what the rental car company will provide.


Golf Canada’s annual general meeting is a chance to review the previous year’s accomplishments and to roll out the next year’s goals; it is also an opportunity to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the many volunteers who donate their time to the sport. In 2013, we asked Golf Canada if we could take on the onerous task of finding a venue—and securing a good deal—for their 2014 AGM. They tried our Meetings eXpert service and the results—meeting cost reduction of $26,500 and giving Golf Canada more time to focus on content and logistics—led to GBT sourcing the 2015 AGM with a cost reduction of $17,800 (approx. 23% savings over the initial quote). Having established our value, we’re working on the 2016 AGM and also looking at other events where we can work together.

Partnerships and Sponsorships

Golf Canada believes that partnerships and sponsorships are key to building long term mutual organizational value. In 2013, we helped start discussions between Golf Canada and Delta Air Lines. This resulted in a corporate sponsorship for the 2014 Men’s Open for Delta Air Lines, who provided flights for athletes and employees (reducing Golf Canada’s air costs). In addition, we also assisted in the management of these flight credits to maximize their utilization. For more details about sponsorships and/or corporate hospitality at a Golf Canada event, please contact Craig Sharp at (905) 849-9700 x 210.

2015 and Onwards

Since starting our partnership, we’ve consistently delivered value against Golf Canada’s travel spend. Comprising supplier discounts, consultative advice, unused ticket management and our venue sourcing service, Golf Canada saw a total value of 2.5% as measured against their total travel spend (2:1 ROI on fees) in the first year, and currently average 6.7% value as measured against their total travel spend (and an average 8:1 ROI on fees). This doesn’t include the value we’ve developed together revolving around the car rental management and sponsorship deals.

As we line up a fourth year in partnership we’re still working together to find ways to maximize the travel budget.

  • In Spring 2015 we collaborated on a car RFP, and were able to re-affirm that the 2012 Car Consulting program results continues to deliver value even today… what we negotiated in 2012 is still strong in 2015.
  • Golf Canada has entered into a 3-year corporate sponsorship agreement with WestJet; representing an opportunity to reduce air travel costs.
  • We’ve also implemented the Future Travel Credit solution to relieve the administrative burden of manual credit re-assignment, while maximizing the value received from their credit bank.
  • We have begun sourcing their 2016 AGM and would anticipate similar savings.

The 2015 RBC Canadian Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open are shaping up to be stellar events with golf’s re-introduction into the 2016 Olympic Games feeding more interest into the sport. Like a golf course, their travel program requires maintenance and improvement to match, and even get ahead of developments in the travel and sports industries. Together we’re driving a program that aims to make every trip a hole-in-one.