In part one of this series, we looked at how a British exit from the European Union could potentially push up the cost of business travel for UK businesses. It is, understandably, a worrying thought for companies of all sizes. However, there is no need for alarm. If anything, the uncertainty serves to reinforce the value of the managed travel programme, a point worth reaffirming with CFOs and boardrooms across the home nations. It is, perhaps, even more pertinent for the SME sector, where business are, in many instances, more sensitive to cost fluctuations.
A well-defined travel policy and programme will enable businesses to control cost and achieve the best possible return on investment for its travel budget. If working closely with your travel management company (TMC) has not been a priority until now, my recommendation would be to contact them as soon as possible, whoever it may be. The starting point: find out what travel and expense data you can access. What are you spending on rail, air, hotels and taxi? What information can be provided by your corporate card provider, if you have one? Only then can you start an analysis and work with the TMC to develop a strategy.
Some employees could be forgiven for booking out of policy; think they’re doing the company a favour by booking what, to them, appears to be the cheapest flight or hotel room. For example, in some countries travellers are being tempted to book direct with hotels offering favourable rates to members of their loyalty programmes. They may not realise that this seemingly favourable rate includes restrictions, or is not, in fact, as cheap as the company’s negotiated rate.
In any case, a well-thought out policy and programme is the most effective way to manage cost and keep employees safe and happy on the road; get close to your TMC to make it happen. Using one preferred booking channel gives the travel manager complete visibility of every trip. Out of policy bookings fragment the data. If a Brexit leads to changes in pricing, industry regulation, having control of your data will be crucial.
But it’s not only about visibility: analytics provides insight. Is there programme leakage? If so, why? What can be done to reverse the trend, or to influence travellers to make better decisions? By having a profound understanding of what’s actually happening important decision can be made, such as updating the travel policy or renegotiating supplier terms.
A TMC’s expertise in RFP management will help you source and negotiate optimum and most relevant supplier deals to suit your needs; its expertise in change management will equip you to communicate effectively with employees and to change traveller behaviour. In short, a Brexit could increase the cost of business travel. However, a sound travel policy and well managed programme will help mitigate such impacts.
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