The Complete Guide to Using Travel Agencies for Small BusinessesBy Kathleen Burns
One of the first things that small business owners should consider outsourcing is their travel management. Here's how to find easy and affordable ways to improve your process.
Believe it or not, small businesses make up 99.9% of all businesses in the United States. Because of the limited resources available to them, small business owners and employees have to get creative with how they spend their time and operating budgets. Outsourcing administrative tasks is one way that small businesses can accomplish what they need to get done without straining staff or adding to their payroll.
One of the first things that small business owners might consider outsourcing is their travel management. Using a travel agency is an easy and affordable way to maximize internal resources so that employees can focus on endeavors that they are uniquely qualified to do.
In this guide to travel agencies for small businesses you’ll learn:
- What a corporate travel agency is
- How small businesses can benefit from using a travel agency
- What small businesses should look for in a travel agency
- How small businesses can manage travel costs
- The best travel agencies for small businesses
What is a corporate travel agency?
Most of us are familiar with travel agents who help plan family vacations or cruises. This kind of travel agent is responsible for booking travel and accommodations, creating and managing traveler itineraries, and securing discounts and perks for their clients.
Corporate travel agents, and the agencies they work for, perform similar services. But, instead of booking vacations to Disneyworld, they work with businesses to plan and manage travel for meetings, conferences, and other company travel. They book flights, trains, cars, and accommodations, set their clients up with deals and upgrades, and provide support for travelers when emergencies come up.
How small businesses can benefit from using a travel agency
So why should a small business engage a travel agency instead of managing its own travel or hiring an internal corporate travel manager? Here are three ways small businesses benefit from using a business travel agency and travel agent:
1. Travel agents help to enforce the corporate travel policy. It’s their duty to book tickets and rooms that adhere to company pricing guidelines. When business travelers book their own travel, they may book outside of guidelines and overspend.
2. Business travel agents help keep travel expenses down for their clients. Because of their relationships within the travel industry, agents have access to cost-saving deals that aren’t available to the public.
3. Travel agents save small businesses a lot of time. Comparing flights, compiling itineraries, and dealing with customer service when a flight gets cancelled takes time away from employees’ other duties; these tasks can add up to a full time job! When small businesses outsource travel booking, their travel needs are met without additional burdens to employees’ to-do lists.
What small businesses should look for in a travel agency
So what factors should small businesses consider when choosing a corporate travel agency? Here are some things to think about:
- How does the agency charge for its services? Look for flat fee agreements over commission-based contracts so that you can appropriately budget for these services.
- What kind of support does the agency provide? Is there someone on call 24/7 that can help travelers when a flight gets cancelled or a hotel gets overbooked?
- How does the agency work with their clients - over the phone, via email, or in person?
- Does the agency also manage travel expenses? Can they lighten your finance team’s load by processing expense reports?
- Does the agency specialize in a specific type of travel? If your company takes many international business trips, make sure that your agency has international travel industry connections so that they can offer you the best prices no matter where you go.
Find a travel agency that meets your business' needs.
How small businesses can manage travel costs
The average small business spends more than $10,000 on travel per traveler, per year. Reducing travel expenses helps small businesses maximize their budgets to close more sales, attend more meetings, and make more connections at conferences.
Travel agencies help small businesses manage their travel budget in several ways. First, it’s their job to adhere to your company’s travel policy. If your company’s hotel budget is $175/night, they won’t book anything for $200. Furthermore, agents have access to insider discounts that aren’t available to the public. This sometimes includes the ability to forego change fees for flights.
The best way for small businesses to reduce their travel expenses is to work with a travel agency. If your company is managing its own travel as it looks for the perfect travel management partner, it can benefit from these money-saving tips:
- Booking travel in advance is one of the most effective ways to get good deals on airfare. For flights in North America, you’ll get the best price 70 days before the trip. For farther international travel, book 200 days in advance.
- Be wary of basic economy fares, as they charge fees for luggage and seats and force you to book new flights if you need to change your travel dates.
- A corporate travel booking tool like Lola.com can save your small business up to 30% on travel by passing big-company discounts on to you.
Working with a travel agency can reduce your small business’ travel-related employee expenses.
Best travel agencies for small businesses
So where can you find the best travel agency for your small business? Ask colleagues at other companies for recommendations. If your network doesn’t connect you with the right match, conduct a location-specific online search. Look for “corporate travel agencies Boston [or wherever your small business is based]” to find a local agency that can provide your small business the attention it deserves.
Many small businesses are foregoing the traditional agency route and looking for tech solutions that provide the same perks, without the retainer fees and commissions. Lola.com is a corporate travel booking software that also manages travel expenses, provides travelers with around-the-clock support, and shares exclusive travel industry discounts with its customers. Lola’s flat-fee subscription rates start at less than $100/month, so it fits every travel program budget.