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How to Hire a Corporate Travel Agent

Are you one of those people who spends hours perusing the internet to find the best fares and hotels for your upcoming business trip? Travel is an essential part of business life, but surprisingly, a lot of professionals still find booking and managing travel to be time consuming and difficult.

Challenges in Corporate Travel Management

As traveling for business becomes more common, it’s only natural that corporate travelers want to save time when possible, be productive, and still have a pleasant travel experience while accomplishing their business goals.

However, regardless of how much time you spent to plan your next business trip, there will always be unexpected variables waiting to arise. Some of the top pain points that corporate travelers found particularly vexing according to GBTA include:

  • Booking hassles, i.e. time spent to book trips, make last-minute changes and apply for travel-related documents, such as visas

  • Optimizing the time lost during transit, layovers, immigration (see how the APEC business travel card can you save you time), or airport security

  • Improving travel experience without going over budget

  • Reducing the number of apps and tools needed to organize the trip

  • Keeping track of the travel expenses

Today, many companies lean on corporate travel agencies to save time and resources as well as reducing the risk of sending their employees with minimal disruption.

What is a corporate travel agency and what do they do?

The name exactly refers to what they are: travel agencies that specialize only in business travel. But you may already have a secretary or an in-house corporate travel planner to assist you, so do you really need to hire a corporate travel manager? Yes, you do.

Business travel agents can alleviate stress for travelers, while reducing the time and costs associated with a typical business trip. Unlike a secretary or in-house corporate travel planner, they have the advantage of “insider” expertise and an industry network.

In general, the basic tasks of a corporate travel manager are:

  • Create a travel policy that works for your company

  • Negotiate rates for flights and accommodations based on economies of scale

  • Assist you with all of the travel arrangements including booking and rescheduling

  • Provide support to your travelers in case things go wrong

  • Provide data and analytics on your travel program to help you asses return on investment

Leisure Travel Agent vs Corporate Travel Agent

So, why can’t you just book and arrange your trips through a regular travel agent?

Brick-and-mortar travel agents indeed offer similar services and experiences as corporate travel agents in terms of booking flights and hotels, but that’s as far as their similarity goes. The underlying point here is how leisure travel differs from business travel. Corporate travel agents are able to accommodate to specific business travel habits and necessities.

For one, frequent business travelers prioritize saving time and flexibility, and most often prefer to skip check-in or airport security lines. Corporate travel agents are able to offer “Fast track” services at an affordable price. Moreover, they understand the importance of flexibility in business travels. Corporate travel agents know which fares to book to prevent extra costs of rebooking and keep everything transparent so travelers know exactly what is included in the fares and how much the changes would cost them.

Online Travel Agent vs Corporate Travel Manager

With the rapid growth of the internet, you probably think you can save money if you just arrange your business trip via Online Travel Agents, like Expedia or Booking.

Sure, OTAs have become the dominant marketing channel in the travel industry thanks to their access to cheap travel fares. However, these websites typically sell discount fares that are inflexible and inconvenient when it comes to make changes which is a bad match for business travelers that need flexibility. In addition, they typically offer poor customer support and will charge high rebooking fees.

With corporate travel managers, employees are typically given the choice to self-book with the help of online tools or to delegate the task to the agent for more complex trips or group bookings for events or conferences. Additionally, chances are you need to book with specific airlines, hotels or insurance that have been negotiated for your company and the travel agent can help ensure you get access to preferential rates.

During unforeseen situations, they can help track your location and help you find alternative transport. Further they will help track your travel expenses, which is really important to identify savings opportunities and optimize your travel program. A good corporate travel agent can then design an appropriate travel policy tailored to your travel patterns.

If you’re a frequent flyer, a corporate travel manager will help you earn and spend from airline loyalty schemes such as Star Alliance.

Choosing the Right Corporate Travel Agency

Sold on the idea of hiring a corporate travel agent? The next step is to pick one that is right for you.

Like all businesses, corporate travel agencies vary in their scope and expertise. That aside, you’d want to weigh-in employees as one of the necessary factors to consider. According to a study by Gartner, one of the seven drivers of high employee engagement is rewards. Consequently, further research from American Express undertaken by YouGov shows that business travel is one of the most sought after employee rewards.

It’s clear enough for modern employees, business travel opportunities can be the unique perks that make the job worth pursuing or staying for.

With the traveler’s happiness and business values aligned, here are our top criteria for choosing a corporate travel agent.

Wide travel inventory

An ideal corporate travel agent should have access to an extensive travel inventory, including low-cost flights and hotels to ensure that travelers can book whatever options they choose. You may also want to work with an agent that enables your employees to book from alternative providers such as Airbnb.

Seamless booking experience

The baseline in hiring a corporate travel agent starts from the booking process. The right one should be able to efficiently assist you with different types of booking experiences, from individual, complex travel, group booking, as well as offer the autonomy for travelers to book for themselves and their peers through a user-friendly online booking tool.

Advanced industry expertise

Business travel is an investment, so keeping the company’s ROI in mind is essential. It’s best to hire corporate travel agents that have access to ample travel resources so they can negotiate fares for a fair fee schedule that fits your company’s budget, offer intelligent insights of your travel destinations, patterns and spending, or troubleshoot any issues calmly.

Fully comprehensive service

Corporate travel agent is a wide ecosystem of features and services for business travelers. It’s important to hire one that can provide 24/7 travel arrangements and travel support. This includes hotel and amenities reservations, flights and travel itineraries changes, visa and passport procurement, as well as implementation of duty of care. Bonus point? Being able to do those in multiple languages.

Leverage technology

The right agent is the one that saves you time and money through an innovative travel technology strategy. From automated travel expense trackers, reports and analysis, chatbots, privacy security, mobile technology, travel apps to platform integration, business travel agents that you choose should be able to deliver data-driven and functional support.

Travel policy solutions

Compliance with the company’s travel policy is one of the trickiest parts in business travel. Set an inappropriate policy and your employees will not get the benefits of business travel and it will lead to downstream issues for HR and Finance with time consuming approval flows and rogue travel. Work with a travel management company that can help you tailor a policy that will optimize your business travel program.

Wrapping Up

A travel agency that focuses only on technology won’t be able to support travelers when they are stuck in a foreign city, whereas, a travel agency that only offers a human element without any automation is not efficient, not to mention fail short when it comes to meeting the expectations of tech-savvy corporate travelers that are exposed to technology-driven experience on a daily basis.

Ultimately, hiring a corporate travel manager comes down to one crucial factor: the perfect blend of technology and human service.

This solution comes in the form of travel management software. A smart and data-driven travel management platform like Betravelo, gives corporate travelers the best of both worlds so that they can easily book their own trips within policy while still having human support when required.

With Betravelo, you can book flights in less than 5 minutes while staying within your travel budget and policy. When your trip is over you can save time with automated integrations that keep track of all your expenses in real-time and provides you with a consolidated invoice at the end of the month.

Moreover, Betravelo is relentlessly focused on creating a great experience for business travelers by providing personalized travel recommendations to save time while booking and making your trip more enjoyable. The best part? Betravelo offers around-the-clock support to cover all your bases.

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