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Everything You Need To Know About The Business Travel Management RFP Process

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Navigating the Business Travel Management RFP Process

Your journey to find a business travel management company (TMC) doesn’t have to be a turbulent one. Whether you’re developing a travel policy to better manage your duty of care in a pandemic world, consolidating travel services to streamline your program, leading a periodic rebid requirement, or wanting a clearer picture of your travel data to inform your decision making, we’ve broken down the Request for Proposal (RFP) process to help you reach your final destination unscathed.

Step 1: Determine Needs and Goals

The RFP process is like hiring a new employee. Before you jump to requesting resumes, you need to develop a job description to advertise for the most qualified candidate, one who is interested in a long-term relationship with your organization, meshes with your institution’s culture, and performs at a consistently high level.

Similar to collaborating on a job description for an employee who will work with multiple departments in your organization, you need to assemble a team to conduct an internal evaluation of your company’s needs and expectations for the TMC position, both current and long term. Include all of your travel stakeholders—or a representative from your stakeholder groups—as well as upper and middle management who have a vested interest in developing your travel policy and fulfilling your travel program.

In light of the recent pandemic, we recommend including HR to review duty-of-care needs and traveler well-being.

Your evaluation team should look something like this, depending on your organization’s structure and travel needs:

  • Travel manager
  • Travel arrangers/schedulers
  • Frequent travelers
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CTO
  • CFO
  • HR

Conducting an internal evaluation of your company’s needs and expectations will prepare you to engage with TMCs. The process will help you determine whether a Request for Information (RFI) provides the insight and direction you need to “hire” a best-fit TMC for your company or whether your needs require a formal RFP.

Once you’ve agreed on position requirements, give them a hierarchy based on a percentage or points system. You’ll use these criteria to rank the RFPs during Step 6. Include the criteria and ranking in your RFP so TMCs better understand your program needs and can respond accordingly. An example ranking table is given below.

Step 2: Research TMCs and Develop a Prospect List

Now that you’ve developed your job description, you need to find likely candidates. As with Step 1, doing your homework here will produce the best outcome.

A Google search for “TMC” may overwhelm you with choices, so consider asking other businesses who their travel partners are and reach out to travel industry leaders, such as SAP Concur or the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), to ask for recommendations from their TMC networks. Develop a reasonable list of prospects to continue to vet. It’s easier to begin with more prospects during this step than it is to fall short at Step 5 or 7 and have to repeat the process.

Now you can Google those candidates and assess whether they might be a good fit for your organization. Start with the candidates’ websites and review their corporate backgrounds. Are they an award-winning firm? Do they maintain their accreditations and memberships in significant travel industry groups? Is their client list impressive? Have they been in the business long enough to weather changes in technology and the travel industry? Use this background information to trim your list as needed.

Because representing your firm in the best possible light is easy on your own website, also consider what others say about the TMC. Look for mentions in travel industry/business media and on their client’s websites, check their LinkedIn profile, and review their company ratings on Glassdoor or a similar site – because how the TMC’s employees rank the working relationship is significant to your potential partnership. If the TMC is difficult to work for, they are likely difficult to work with.

Start conversing with the TMCs on your list. Ask each one some standard questions formulated during your research and request a standard proposal from likely candidates. The TMC’s standard proposal, like a resume, presents all the benefits of working with them—services, technology solutions, experience, work history, etc. This provides more information to help you weed out TMC candidates so you don’t end up with a mountain of RFIs and/or RFPs to review. Why waste your time if you can determine early on that it’s not a good fit?

Step 3: Refine Prospect List

Now that you’ve found some solid candidates, narrow your list to a manageable amount. A good rule of thumb here is to peek at the back of the book (which we would never do with a novel) and work backwards. Take a look at Steps 4, 5, and 7, and estimate how many prospective TMCs you want to include at each stage of the process, ideally ending up with two or three candidates to “interview,” that is, to demonstrate their capabilities and answer your final questions.

If you’ve already ended up with a short list and your preferred candidates are sure to meet your criteria, skip Step 4 and move on to Step 5, the RFP.

Step 4: Send an RFI

Step 4 is like getting a massage: You want to make sure those knots receive the most attention. Structure the request around your organization’s most important issues and hot buttons, such as data collection and visibility, online adoption, duty-of-care, and unused ticket tracking.

From these responses, you can quickly evaluate the TMC’s value propositions and create a shortlist of companies with which to continue. Some companies can make a final decision from these RFI responses, but if that’s not you, move on to Step 5 – the RFP.

Step 5: Write/Revise and Distribute the RFP

The RFP process is not a one-size-fits-all document: If you’re 6’6″, you’re probably not buying a suit off the rack unless you have some tailoring done. Your RFP needs a custom fit, too, because your organization has its own culture, travel policy, and technical requirements.

There are dozens of RFP templates online (we provide one, below), and you may even have a serviceable RFP that just needs dusting off and some pandemic-related adjustments. However, it’s important to compare your template, if you decide to use one, with the weighted criteria you developed during Step 1 to ensure those criteria are covered .

Ask TMCs for additional information on these criteria. For example, if data-driven reporting is critical to keeping your program on track, in addition to asking about available reporting tools, ask for examples of the reports you need most frequently and the time frames for data population and report turn-around. If your travel bookings haven’t conformed to policy, ask what specific measures the TMC recommends implementing to improve policy compliance and how those measures function with an online booking tool and a full-service travel advisor. And if you’re having a hard time retaining your most frequent travelers, ask how you can increase traveler well-being to save rehiring and retraining costs.

Getting in-depth answers to your most vital concerns is essential in the RFP process, so request additional information to inform your decision, such as:

  • Technology overview
  • Example reporting
  • Service level agreement
  • Client success stories
  • Implementation plan
  • Account review example
  • Organizational chart

Make sure your published RFP timeline is reasonable and allows for a question and answer period. Your firm needs time for internal communications, executive approvals, and input from other departments, as appropriate, as well as their ongoing projects. Establish a realistic schedule, then pad it with a week or two to give your team some leeway. It’s easier to add time upfront than to communicate schedule changes to multiple TMCs, issue RFP addendums, communicate new deadlines to your team, and reschedule meetings.

Example RFP Schedule

Step 6: Rank RFP Respondents

Using the criteria established during Step 1, rank your proposals by percentages or points. You may have a clear winner at this point and can proceed to contract negotiations and award.

However, if a few firms are closely ranked, gather your evaluation team and develop a final set of questions for the presentation/demonstration phase. Again, weight your questions so you can tally scores during Step 7.

Step 7: Request Demonstrations and Rank Presenters

If you followed Step 3, you should have a two- or three-firm shortlist from which to select your TMC. Unless you’ve been given carte blanche, utilize the main decision makers from your evaluation team as your presentation panel. Use your weighted criteria from Step 6 and the total proposal score, as well as any internal conversations around the potential working relationship, to guide your award decision.

Step 8: Select TMC

Congratulations! You’ve successfully navigated the RFP process and are ready to implement your new travel program.

We suggest you debrief the TMCs who presented to your team. Explaining why you didn’t select their services helps them strengthen their programs, which may benefit you in the future.

Need Additional Assistance?

If you have questions about the RFP process or Christopherson’s consultative approach and solution to travel management, please contact our business development team and download our sample RFP to help you get started.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”center” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom” shape_type=””][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][nectar_btn size=”large” open_new_tab=”true” button_style=”regular” button_color_2=”Extra-Color-3″ icon_family=”none” text=”Download RFP Template” url=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Business Travel

Want to keep business travelers safe? Then mandate your corporate travel policy.

In previous times, “mandating business travel” might have been considered “dirty words” to some. Many companies certainly want to offer flexibility to their travelers while maintaining a free and open culture. But in today’s world, especially on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, mandating travel is essential for every organization that wants to ensure business traveler safety. The bonus is that you also save money when you do so. 

“Mandating business travel, or what some may call consolidation of travel, is definitely becoming more popular post-pandemic,” said Allyson Cross, a Business Development Manager at Christopherson Business Travel. “In certain industries it was perhaps seen as scary or taboo to require business travelers to follow certain protocols when booking, but travel managers are talking more and more about mandating and the benefits are undeniable.” 

What does it mean to mandate business travel?

When you partner with a travel management company (TMC) to help you manage your business travel program, you want to consider mandating. Mandating means you officially require your travelers to handle all their travel needs through your TMC and to use your organization’s approved booking channels for all reservations. In other words, it is mandatory that they use your newly-implemented and fully-integrated systems and services.    

Why should you mandate business travel?

Travel managers have countless tools provided to them by their TMC, but they’re not useful if your business travelers are freely booking through various channels unknown to you. Here are four reasons every organization should mandate travel:

1. To Better Manage Risk

Everyone knows risk management is important, but until something happens you don’t realize how important it really is. 

“Trying to maintain duty of care standards without total visibility is impossible,” Cross said. 

Only a mandated, fully-managed business travel program provides that kind of visibility. Without it, you won’t always know where your travelers are. Here’s an example, recounted by Christopherson’s Manager of Implementations and Account Support Adelina Littler, of what happens when an unmandated travel program faces real-life risk: 

2. To Save Money 

Every organization, from non-profits to Fortune 500s, are focused on cost savings and smarter spending. To both account for and maximize every dollar spent on travel, you have to know exactly how and where you’re spending. This is only possible if you mandate travel. 

When travelers book outside your approved channels, you miss out on vendor discounts, the ability to track and re-use the ticket if the trip isn’t taken, and the ability to ensure compliance with your travel policy. When business travelers stay within policy and book with preferred suppliers, companies can reduce the average cost per traveler by 14-25%.

Another way mandating travel not only saves you money, but could actually generate income, is that you can use one, dedicated credit card to pay for the entire organization’s travel. The kickback or rebates earned from your credit card usage then provide a source of revenue, meaning business travel doesn’t just have to be a cost-center anymore.   

3. To Track and Manage Unused Tickets

A major part of generating cost savings is being able to track unused airline ticket credits. But successfully managing every unused ticket can only be done if all tickets are booked through your TMC, whether with online tools or with full-service advisors. 

Every ticket booked through a managed, mandated travel program can be tracked. If the ticket goes unused, it is then stored and provided for re-used at a future date, ensuring that you don’t lose those funds. Christopherson even provides reports that show exactly how many credits your program has, who they were booked by, and when they’re expiring so you’re able to stay informed in real-time on the status of every dollar. 

“Unmandated business travel programs will always lose money on unused tickets simply because they don’t know where those credits are or who booked them,” Littler explained. “If you mandate, you have the peace of mind that all your unused tickets are in one place and that all the work of tracking them, reporting on them, and ensuring their re-use is done for you.”

4. To Get Better Reporting & Vendor Contracts

One benefit of mandating travel that organizations might not think about as much is accurate reporting and how that affects their vendor negotiations. The ability to leverage robust data that provides a complete view of your entire travel spend means better vendor discounts and greater cost savings. 

“Having accurate reporting of your total business travel program allows you to show vendors your full spend and thus get better discounts and contracts,” Littler said. “And travelers can’t get those discounts by going straight to or They’re only available and applied when you’ve booked through a TMC. Ensuring the ability to receive those discounts is a huge money saver.”

How do you mandate business travel?

The real value of a TMC is realized when all the TMC’s services and tools are used by everyone in the organization. From booking, to duty of care, to policy integration, to reporting–it all works together to maximize your spend and ensure the safety of your travelers. 

If your goal is to enjoy the full benefits of your TMC, then mandating your travel program must be paramount. But doing so doesn’t have to come at the expense of your culture or traveler satisfaction. The key is to ensure buy-in from the top. 

Every member of the C-suite wants to be good stewards of the company’s financial resources. Your TMC can help you gather the necessary reports so you’re equipped with data and talking points to get your leadership team involved and on-board. 

Once you have buy-in from the top, you’ll then need to communicate the benefits of your managed travel program and newly-adopted policies to your travelers. You can even do so without ever using the word “mandated.” Keep in mind that travel policies don’t have to be rigid and unforgiving. Christopherson’s Account Managers help clients craft solid, traveler-friendly travel policies that still allow freedom and flexibility while guarding your financial resources and protecting traveler safety. 

When travelers understand the following benefits, they are more likely to stay within your travel policy and adopt the newly-required program: 

  • That your organization’s discounts are only available and applied through your TMC 
  • That their safety and location tracking is tied to “in-channel” bookings
  • That they have access to expert travel agents who can handle problems with the airlines or get them home quickly in an emergency
  • That their frequent traveler memberships, travel preferences, and profile information are securely stored and applied to every booking

You can also find super users within your organization to champion the program and tools to their peers. 

Finally, remember the importance of on-going training. Offer webinars or periodic quick tip communications to remind your travelers about certain aspects of policies or how to use certain tools and services. Include business travel training during the on-boarding process for new employees. For a mandated program to remain effectual, it has to be consistently encouraged. 

The Dangers of Not Mandating 

Patti Bragg, an Account Manager at Christopherson Business Travel, shared the following case study about the dangers of not mandating:

To learn more about the benefits of mandating business travel and how to roll out a mandated program for your organization, we invite you to speak with a Christopherson executive.