The Top 5 Business Travel Management Companies & How to Choose One
The right corporate travel management company can help you simplify the business travel booking process, gain real-time visibility into spend, and save money on flights, hotels, and car rentals. In this guide, we’ll explain what a travel management company does, walk you through the different types of travel management companies, and help you choose the right solution for your organization.
What is a business travel management company?
A travel management company (TMC) is a travel agency that helps companies organize the travel process for their teams; view, track, and report on all travel spend; set a travel policy; and access discounted rates they might not find otherwise. There are several different kinds of travel management companies.
Types of corporate travel management companies
When you use a corporate travel agency, you work with travel agents to book travel for your company. The agents assigned to your company will have a copy of your travel policy, and employees will contact them directly when booking their corporate travel.
The best things about using a travel agency:
- They can help you develop a travel policy and even revamp your whole travel program.
- They usually have access to special negotiated rates and can also negotiate on your behalf for corporate rates.
- They can help with travel disruptions like flight delays and cancellations.
- Travel agents have a very good understanding of the nuances of the travel industry, which can help you and your team navigate all types of situations.
They can help you maintain duty of care by tracking where your travelers are.
Some things to keep in mind:
- A lot of travel agencies keep normal business hours (between 8am and 6pm) and this means they won’t be available on off times to assist with changes or issues.
- Some agencies charge a fee per booking on top of a fee to use the agency.
- If you’re booking via email, there could be times where prices go up due to a delay in response.
- Travel agents might forward you receipts, but won’t help with expense management. This could add extra duties to your role as travel manager.
Online Travel Agency
An Online Travel Agency, or OTA, is a site where options are aggregated from across multiple brands and the traveler can book everything themselves. These include sites like Booking.com, KAYAK, or Expedia. When you have your travelers use this type of system, they are able to manage all the online bookings themselves, which means they don’t need to go back and forth with a travel agent.
The best things about using an OTA:
- Travelers can see all options in one place, so it’s easier to find the lowest fare.
- Some OTA’s are able to offer special deals and have preferred rates with some brands.
- Booking on an OTA is usually quick and easy.
Some things to keep in mind:
- A lot of rates offered on OTA’s are not eligible for loyalty points with hotels and airlines.
- There can also be some restrictions to these bookings that allow you to get a discounted rate but do not allow any changes or cancellations.
- When something goes wrong your travelers must reach out to the customer service of the OTA, which is typically outsourced. They will not be speaking to the actual hotel or airline.
- Booking through an OTA can make duty of care more difficult when everyone is managing their own bookings and you don’t have visibility into where your travelers are.
Travel Management Software
If you are looking for a combination of the two previous options, then travel management software is the way to go. With software you are able to manage the travel policy and view, track, and report on your company’s travel spend in real time. Most travel management software also comes with 24/7 customer travel service to help your travelers with changes and cancellations.
The best things about using travel management software:
- They can usually give you access to discounted rates through their partnerships which can give even small businesses the ability to book with discounts that are usually only available to large corporations.
- You have the ability to see where all your travelers are at all times.
- Travelers can see the travel policy while they are booking so they know exactly what is within policy. This will save your company money.
- Most travel management software will integrate with expense platforms, which will make managing travel expenses much easier.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Pricing can vary depending on the software you choose, so do your research and make sure you know what functionality you are paying for.
- Some travel management software companies will charge extra for 24/7 service. This can cost your company more money in the long run, so look for a company that includes this feature in the package pricing.
- You’ll need to do a little work on the back end to build the policy and get everyone into the platform. But once it’s set up you will love it!
How to choose a travel management company for your business
Be Clear on Your Needs
Why are you looking for a way to improve corporate travel management? Here are some common reasons:
- To reduce your overall travel spend.
- Improve compliance with your corporate travel policy (or create one).
- Overhaul your travel and expense process
- Strengthen travel-related risk management.
- Enhance the travel experience for your employees.
- Streamline the reimbursement process.
- Gain more actionable insight from your T&E data.
- Make the travel booking process easier.
Knowing what you want to accomplish (and why) allows you to realistically evaluate potential travel solutions and determine what will work best for you. If your main goal is cost savings, and you don’t need a travel policy or help with expense reporting, then you are probably fine using an OTA. But if you want to enhance the travel experience for your employees, reduce overall spend, and gain more insight into travel and expense management, travel management software is the right choice.
Look for the right support
When your team is on the road, having support for travel-related issues is a huge help. Really dig into the support options offered by the travel management agencies or software you are evaluating. They shouldn’t just assist with bookings; a good travel agency or travel consultant should help your travelers get out of a jam. Corporate travel is an ever-changing environment. Meetings get moved. Snowstorms strand your plane on the runway. There’s nothing worse than feeling stuck with no way to get home. Understand how your team is traveling and make sure to choose an option that will give them the support they need.
Determine your budget
To figure out the budget that is comfortable for your company, look at a few different areas.
- Pull together last year’s corporate travel costs to the best of your ability. Break it out by hotel, flight, car, etc if you can. Now imagine a 2-5% savings overall on that amount. Is it $1,000? Is it $10,000? Is it more? If working with a company that can get you a savings of $10,000 per year, and their yearly fee is $2,500 it’s worth it. You’re still saving money overall.
- Try to figure out how many bookings actually made last year. Now imagine paying a $25 fee for each of those trips on top of a yearly fee for a service. If the price scares you, then look for a solution that does not charge per trip.
- Demo a few different options and see what you are getting at each place for the cost they quote. It will be obvious to you if a travel agency seems too good to be true or a corporate travel management software’s price is much higher than everything else in the market. This research will help you determine the value and what you are willing to pay.
Top 5 travel management companies
Here are some of the most popular corporate travel management companies and a little information about each of them.
Lola is travel management software known for its excellent user experience, high profile partnerships that give companies access to exclusive savings, world-class 24/7 customer service through experienced travel consultants, and an easy-to-implement travel policy. It’s best for medium-sized companies who don’t need a heavy-handed tool.
TravelPerk’s corporate travel management software is a good solution for larger companies based in Europe and overseas.
Concur Travel is a legacy enterprise-level corporate travel and expense management software that offers a traditional platform with tight controls on spending. Concur’s travel management system is best for large, established businesses looking to maintain tight controls over travel spend management with little interest in flexibility and innovation.
Egencia is the corporate travel agency developed by Expedia. It caters to large enterprise and global businesses with a need for booking air, hotel, train, and car reservations. Their travel management platform includes policy and expense management tools.
TripActions is a corporate travel booking tool that incentivizes business travelers into booking lower-cost hotel, flight, train and car options to help their companies save money on travel. In addition, the company is charged for each of the incentive gift cards for an employee leveraging a lower-cost hotel and this incremental expense is not included in the system, but charged back monthly.
With all the choices for corporate travel management solutions out there, it’s good to know your options. Remember, not only are you and your travel managers using your solution, but your business travelers are too. The easier it is for them to complete bookings within your travel policy, access travel consultant support, and submit their travel expenses, the more money your company will save.