Working with a corporate travel agency – also known as a travel management company – can be highly beneficial for companies whose employees frequently travel for business purposes.

Agencies can help companies with all their business travel needs, from booking hotels and flights to managing their travel policy. They can also help businesses optimize their business travel costs.

In this article, we explore what a travel agency for corporate travel is and what the benefits and disadvantages of working with one are for both corporations and SMBs.

What is a corporate travel agency?

A corporate travel agency is a company that specializes in managing all aspects of business travel for companies. Their ultimate goal is to streamline the business travel experience, making it efficient, cost-effective and policy-compliant. They act as a comprehensive service provider by offering a wide range of services including:

  • Planning and booking – booking flights, accommodation and car rentals, as well as making reservations for events such as conferences. They can also arrange travel visas for employees and subscribe to the relevant travel insurance if needed.
  • Managing travel policies – making sure all travel arrangements respect the company’s travel guidelines and updating guidelines when necessary.
  • Travel reporting – providing tools for tracking and optimizing expenses, generating reports and making sure that expenses fall within the travel budget determined by the travel policy.
  • Providing travel assistance – offering round-the-clock assistance to business travelers in case of emergencies.

Online business travel agencies employ specialized travel consultants who boast industry expertise and tool knowledge to provide businesses with the best travel solutions.

Challenges of managing business travel

Business travel management is challenging for businesses, with several aspects of it being tricky to handle. The most common challenges of managing business travel are:

  • Budget control – keeping travel expenses within budget is particularly difficult as travel costs can easily go beyond what was expected. Employees should be aware of the expense policy and the reimbursement process.
  • Travel policy compliance – creating, managing and enforcing travel policies is essential for cost control and legal compliance. But it can be difficult to achieve, especially in large organizations where travelers’ needs are diverse and ever-changing.
  • Risk management – protecting business travelers, handling emergencies and managing health and safety risks is a complex task. Travelers need to be informed of the potential risks they might be exposed to in their destination.
  • Technology integration – the right technology can help streamline the booking process, plan itineraries and track expenses, but it requires expertise and financial investment from businesses.
  • Administrative tasks – applying for the right visa or documents requires research and knowledge of each individual situation. Things can sometimes go wrong if not enough attention has been paid to these points.
  • Lack of feedback – it’s essential for business travelers to share their feedback regarding their business travel experience. This is the best way of ensuring the travel policy is up to date.

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Pros and cons of working with a travel agency

Relying on a corporate travel agency for all your business travel needs can prevent you from having to deal with the difficulties of handling this in-house, although it can also come with some disadvantages:

Advantages

  • Expertise – by working with corporate travel agencies, you benefit from their specialized knowledge and years of experience.
  • Cost savings – you can optimize your costs as agencies are able to negotiate discounts with service providers. Thanks to the detailed expense reports they provide, you are also able to optimize costs.
  • 24/7 support and risk management – many agencies offer 24/7 assistance in case business travelers have an emergency. They can also manage the risk related to business travel by providing services like travel insurance,
  • Policy compliance – agencies help businesses enforce their corporate travel policy and monitor out-of-policy bookings.
  • Technology integration – agencies use tools such as one-stop-shop business travel platforms or software that allow them to provide companies with detailed spending reports.

Disadvantages

  • Loss of control – outsourcing travel management can result in a certain loss of control over the travel program and final decisions.
  • Cost of services – the services of a travel agency come at an initial cost, even if they can help you save money in the long run.
  • Lack of personalized solutions – depending on the agency, the software used by the company may not fully cater to a company’s specific needs.
  • Dependency – working with an external agency might make it more difficult to switch service providers if needed.

Business travel agencies as solutions for corporations and SMBs

Corporations

For big corporations, working with travel agencies can be a real lifesaver by helping streamline the travel process across the organization. Here’s how agencies can benefit corporations:

  1. Handle corporations’ complex business itineraries and make them save time.
  2. Get the best prices by negotiating discounts and booking in bulk.
  3. Offer detailed spending reports and analytics to further optimize corporations’ complex travel costs.
  4. Offer tailored programs to meet the specific needs of corporations and their employees.
  5. Deal with complex administrative issues regarding visas and travel documents for employees coming from all over the world.
  6. Assign a personal account manager to take care of all your specific needs and be your go-to person.

Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs)

Online travel platforms like Booking for Business can be very useful for small and medium businesses with lower travel needs. Such platforms provide an easy and cost-effective way to book business trips. SMBs can manage team travel, get an overview of upcoming bookings and save money by using special discounts. The platform can be used by travelers, travel managers, HR and finance teams, administrative assistants, and CEOs to book business trips quickly and efficiently.

Here are some of the advantages of Booking.com for Business:

  1. Free online travel tool, ideal for small-budget SMBs
  2. The team can book and manage every travel by themselves, no support is needed
  3. One-stop-shop for hotels, flights and car rentals, ideal for efficient business travel planning

Alternatively, a corporate travel agency for small businesses can be the best solution for SMBs who want to outsource their business travel needs. With no need to have a dedicated person in the office to book and manage trips, the company can save some human resources and rely entirely on an agency. A small business travel agency can reduce the strain that business travel processes can put on SMBs and help them focus on the core of their business.

How to choose the best travel agency for your needs?

To choose the ideal travel agency for your business needs, here are the criteria you should pay attention to:

  • Know your business needs and budget – understand what your business’s travel needs are. Are they occasional or regular and how much budget can you invest in them?
  • Know your travelers’ needs – take into account your travelers’ preferences and what’s important to them.
  • Check the agency’s expertise – choose an agency with an extensive service provider network to make sure you can benefit from the best rates. Make sure they are specialized in the business travel industry.
  • Check the agency’s rates – rates can differ greatly from one agency to the next. Make sure that you pick an agency that offers rates in line with your budget or a free solution such as Booking.com for Business.

Working with an online corporate travel agency can help corporations and SMBs improve their business travel processes and optimize their costs. Businesses can take advantage of an agency’s corporate travel tools, industry expertise and connections, bulk discounts and 24/7 assistance for their business travelers. For SMBs, it’s particularly convenient that online corporate travel tools can be used by different teams, allowing them to keep some degree of control over their processes.

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