Did you know that the average business trip costs $1,293? According to the 2019 Cost of Business Travel Report, airfare makes up, on average, 34 percent of the total cost, lodging accounts for 28 percent, and meals make up 19 percent. How does that stack up with your average travel spend? And maybe a better question: do you know your average travel expenses?
From conferences and events to client and vendor meetings, travel can be a critical part of your small business’ success. And if you don’t have a managed corporate travel program in place, you’re missing out on opportunities to save money on business travel, better manage travel risks and security, and ensure a positive experience for your travelers.
Contrary to what you may imagine when you hear “corporate travel management,” it isn’t just for large organizations or Fortune 500 companies; it’s something every business, regardless of size, should establish a plan and program for if travel is a routine expenditure. So how do you go about creating a corporate travel management program? Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. A corporate travel agency for small business can help you tailor travel solutions to fit your smaller team, leaner budget, and schedule needs.
Christopherson Business Travel is a full-service business travel agency that serves more than 1,000 organizations in the United States, from small businesses to large, global corporations. Below, we’ll explain in more detail what we offer and why choosing Christopherson as your small business travel agency could increase efficiency and (maybe even more importantly) decrease headaches this year.
What do corporate travel agencies for small businesses offer?
Corporate travel management encompasses the various services and solutions travel management companies offer. At Christopherson, our integrated travel management software lets you dive deep into the numbers of your travel program and identify the real cost of business travel, while identifying opportunities for increased savings and efficiency. We also offer our team of knowledgeable travel advisors who deliver expert reservation assistance, online booking tools, and ongoing account management. Our various specialty departments can also provide corporate event planning, humanitarian travel services, and vacation travel expertise.
What benefits do small businesses receive from corporate travel management?
Small businesses who don’t have a dedicated team for corporate travel can see immediate benefits from a corporate travel management company like Christopherson—not just in dollars, but in time. Here are some of the benefits our small business clients receive when they partner with us:
Cost-savings – Business travel management companies (TMC) can often be more affordable than hiring an in-house travel coordinator or corporate travel manager. A TMC’s expert guidance, cumulative buying power, and integrated technology can further reduce overall travel costs, too.
Travel Rewards & Perks – Because TMCs have strong vendor relationships and know how to leverage your travel spend, they can often find ways to deliver perks to your travelers such as upgrades, amenities, points, and more. Keeping travelers happy is an important part of running a successful travel program as it leads to more productive business trips. A TMC can also help you find and take advantage of vendor rewards programs that can benefit your organization.
Increased efficiency – Searching for the cheapest flights that still meet your scheduling needs, comparing hotel rates across different platforms, and figuring out the cost difference between a rental car and ride-sharing takes time. But our team has the years of experience to evaluate those options quickly and efficiently. We also have integrated booking tools if your corporate culture is more DIY when it comes to booking. Additionally, our reporting and data technology, automated process, and centralized program management tools allow you plan and manage business travel with efficiency.
Improved travel insight — To actually improve your business travel program, you need to identify how you’re currently doing. How much are you really spending? What unnecessary fees are you unknowingly paying? How productive are your employees while on the road? Where are your travelers and how do you connect with them in the event of an emergency? Our travel manager dashboard delivers data and reporting tools to help you answer those questions so you can strategize how to improve and save.
Travel policy compliance — Do you have a travel policy? If you do, how well do your travelers stick to it? TMCs can help you create and integrate those policies for increased traveler compliance which, in turn, provides you with better data for your risk management, understanding travel spend, and more.
Does your business need a corporate travel management solution?
You now know what the benefits of travel management are, but maybe you’re still not sure if it’s right for your business at the moment.
We understand. If you answer yes to the following questions, it may be a sign that it’s time to search for a small business travel agency:
Are you or your team members wasting a lot of time searching for flights, hotels, and transportation solutions on your own?
Do your business trips seem inefficient?
Are you unaware of your business travelers’ travel plans in the event of an emergency?
Do you have a hard time identifying exactly how much you spend on business travel?
Are you unaware of the small business travel reward programs available and how to best use them?
Do you foresee business trips continuing as your organization grows?
Why Small Businesses Turn to Christopherson Business Travel
As a small business, you need a corporate travel management company that is flexible enough to work with your fast-moving company, and experienced enough to help uncover hidden opportunities to improve how you approach business travel.
After 69 years in business, our Christopherson Business Travel team has grown to more than 300 travel experts across the country. Our longevity and innovation provides peace of mind that you’re working with a partner who understands corporate travel inside and out—whether it be finding the best deals, ensuring traveler satisfaction, staying current on COVID-19 guidelines, or delivering the latest tech solutions to streamline your travel data.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimates that business travel spending is projected to increase 21% in 2021 and continue rising to approximately $1.4 trillion by 2024.
As companies around the world ramp up business travel operations, travel management companies are in high demand. Businesses are more focused than ever on the ROI of business travel, and the risk management of that travel has moved to the forefront of C-suite conversations.
With a steady increase of employees returning to business travel, some companies may be considering the help of a travel agency. However, companies seeking a comprehensive solution for corporate travel management should turn to a travel management company (TMC) instead.
Below, explore the differences between a travel agency and a corporate travel management company. Plus, discover how TMCs are uniquely structured to help protect your travelers and your bottom line.
What’s the Difference Between a Travel Agency and a Travel Management Company?
In the most basic terms, a corporate travel management company assists businesses with developing and managing their corporate travel program through a variety of services and technology.
The key difference between a travel agency and a travel management company is that travel management companies work directly with businesses to analyze and then streamline all aspects of their existing travel program. Often, a travel management company implements new technology to help businesses reach their intended program goals and track progress.
A singular travel agency primarily focuses on assisting clients with booking business travel. Travel agencies may also provide a limited range of special rates for vendors they have relationships with. They may or may not be able to offer off-hours assistance.
On the other hand, travel management companies offer businesses a broader set of services customized to the needs of their corporate travel program including policy creation and integration and tools for risk management. They can also provide reporting options, unused ticket management, and booking options that fit the needs of their program, company, and culture.
How Do Travel Management Companies Work?
Once you understand the difference between a travel agency and a travel management company, you can begin to see the unique value a TMC offers. Integrating, centralizing, and often automating different components of modern business travel are how travel management companies improve any organization’s corporate travel program.
If your corporate travel program is unmanaged or lacking clear goals and policies, a travel management company can work with you to develop a travel management plan that fits your strategy.
By helping you examine your existing vendor relationships, rates, travel patterns and processes, a TMC can identify ways to streamline or automate procedures, implement actionable data and reporting, while also providing you with the technology you need to execute your plan and ultimately save money.
With the necessary travel management plan and corporate travel software in place, experienced corporate travel agents, like the travel advisors at Christopherson Business Travel, can then assist your travelers based on the integrated policies of your corporate travel program. Those policies can also be fully integrated into an online booking tool that meets the needs of your travelers.
At Christopherson, our travel advisors are well-versed in the best practices of corporate travel programs, domestic and international travel, VIP travel, and the needs of corporate travelers. We maintain cost controls by utilizing your preferred vendors and finding the lowest possible rates. For those unplanned emergencies on the road, our team offers assistance 24/7, 365 days a year.
What to Look for in a Travel Management Company
The benefits of working with a travel management company extend far beyond your bottom line. Today’s business traveler needs more than efficient booking and expense management tools. Corporate travel managers have more responsibility than ever to ensure their travelers are safe, protected, and supported throughout their travel experience.
A travel management company is an effective partnership to ensure your corporate travel program functions at the highest level with the greatest efficiency. Whether you’re just beginning internal discussions or already performing a travel management company comparison, here are five key benefits to consider in making the decision to use a TMC.
An Expert Partner
A travel management company should provide consultative services to guide the development of your corporate travel management program and make meaningful recommendations to your existing policy.
Easy-to-Use Technology and Seamless Reporting
One of the most important considerations in using a travel management company involves technology and reporting.
Christopherson’s integrated software program delivers secure, real-time visibility into your organization’s entire corporate travel program. Designed to meet the needs of both travelers and travel managers, our platform delivers solutions for compliant travel booking, traveler tracking, and comprehensive reporting to see where you’re earning the most in savings.
Consistently Low Rates
Finding and securing the best rates for flights, hotels, or car rentals that also meet the scheduling restraints of the trip can be a major time drain for employees. In addition to removing that stress, a travel management company can customize your plan based on your preferred vendors and also offer a wider range of booking options for your travelers.
Corporate travel software, such as Christopherson’s tool for managing unused tickets or hotel payment authorization, allows you to maximize savings, increase compliance, protect against fraud, and eliminate waste.
Giving you the tools to track your business travelers’ locations and safety during a potentially dangerous situation is just one way a travel management company can help you take a proactive approach to protecting your travelers.
Christopherson’s risk management technology allows you to access global travel alerts and locate your travelers anywhere in the world. The data is updated in real-time so you can quickly confirm the safety of your travelers and push time-sensitive alerts as needed.
The Value of Integration
As one of the key differences between a TMC and a travel agency, comprehensive integration of your whole travel program is a valuable reason to use a travel management company. Program integration allows you to centralize your data, reporting, unused tickets, profiles, policies, and ensure that the right vendors and rates are used. It also streamlines your workflow and provides the information you need to deliver on your duty of care requirements.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: COVID-19 TRAVEL VENDOR HEALTH & SAFETY GUIDE
“COVID-19 will reinvent the travel process around safety, cleanliness, and virus transmission protection. Terms like social distancing, personal protection equipment (PPE), and antibody immunity testing are now part of our new travel vocabulary. We are up for the challenge, and we will reinvent ourselves to help you and the travelers for whom you have a duty of care responsibility.”
– Mike Cameron, CEO, Christopherson Business Travel
Cleanliness is Key to Safe Travel
Do I need to wear a mask at the Delta terminal? How crowded is United’s economy class? Is Marriott practicing social distancing? Has Hilton discontinued breakfast or housekeeping? Will National sanitize my rental car?
There is a lot of apprehension about the safety of travel during this coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, you need to know what steps travel providers are taking to keep their airline cabins, hotel rooms, and rental cars clean.
A Comprehensive Guide to Travel Vendor Cleanliness Standards
We want to help corporate travel managers make smart decisions with their business travelers. To that end, we created a COVID-19 Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide. This in-depth resource will be updated regularly. It provides relevant information about travel vendors’ health and safety standards. You may want to bookmark this page and share it with your business travelers.
Vendor Health & Safety Measures
In the COVID-19 Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide, you’ll find a list of the steps travel providers are taking to keep travelers healthy. The guide begins with links to major sources of pandemic safety guidelines and TSA protocols. It then moves on to measures being implemented by major airline, ground transportation, and hotel brands.
If you have questions or concerns about cleanliness and health in regards to business travel, we invite you use this guide. Doing so will allow you to review and compare vendors’ overall efforts to provide a safe travel experience.
Christopherson values each of our client partnerships. We appreciate the opportunity we have to consult and assist corporate travel managers as they achieve their objectives and support their business travelers. We are pleased to share these stories in our new blog series of Client Success Stories.
. . .
CHG Healthcare, a Christopherson client since 1998, provides physician, nurse, and allied health staffing for both permanent and temporary positions throughout the world. Their locum tenens model for staffing reaches over 25 million patients every year. With thousands of travelers, CHG has had to adapt to immense growth while maintainingfunctionality within their travel program.
CHG wanted to migrate to a new Global Distribution System (GDS) booking platform to accommodate their growth.
This system migration could not negatively impact the current functionality CHGtravelers experience.
The increased number of travelers being served required a higher level of support.
SOLUTIONS & RESULTS
Christopherson assigned a project manager to overseetheplatformmigration. Theproject manager was responsible to coordinate acrossdepartments. Thisadditionalsupport resulted in a seamless transition and rollout of the new platform.
A GDS specialist was tasked with creating scripts for CHG that were specifically tailored to the new GDS and CHG’srequirements. These scripts were deemed by CHG and the GDS support onsite as both comprehensive and easy to navigate.
The goal for the “go live” was to minimize stress and provide sufficient support to answer
any questions. The Christopherson team developed a system to report bugs and issues with prompt and attentive support from advisors, advisor support, IT, and theproject manager that has delivered an exceptional level of customer service and a successful transition.
“Our Sabre Customer Solution Specialist was extremely impressed with the scripts Christopherson created, and commented that she seldom sees conversions go as smoothly as this one did. We know this was possible because of [Christopherson’s] extreme patience with us and your attention to detail. We appreciate your whole team, there have been so many different departments collaborating to bring this together. We treasure our partnership.”
—Gordon C., Director of Travel Services, CHG Healthcare
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its eighteenth month, one persnickety pain point for business travelers is the increased number of schedule changes airlines are now making.
It’s understandable—airlines remain in a constant state of revision as they try to anticipate traveler demand while working with reduced flight crews. Their guessing game is further exacerbated by the shifting effects of the virus’s variant, vaccine rollout, and ever-fluctuating restrictions from governments around the world. While the situation will most surely stabilize eventually, the increase in schedule changes is likely to continue through the coming months.
In order to protect business travelers’ rights and help them prepare for this possibility, here’s what corporate travel managers need to know and do:
Two Types of Flight Schedule Changes
There are two types of schedule changes: minor and major.
Minor schedule changes occur when an airline adjusts flight times by less than 30 minutes from the original time. Tickets, in these instances of minor change, simply need to be revalidated (as opposed to being reissued). Christopherson automatically does this for our customers and resends the updated itinerary. Travelers likely won’t need assistance from their corporate travel agent, but they are welcome to reach out if they have questions or do need assistance.
Major schedule changes occur when an airline adjusts flight times by more than 30 minutes from the original time, or when a minor schedule change causes a missed connection. In these cases, airlines require the ticket to be fully reissued. If the traveler does not get their ticket reissued, the airline can potentially deny boarding.
When a major schedule change affects an itinerary booked through any Christopherson booking method, our corporate travel agents and online support agents receive those changes from the airline. Those agents then provide travelers with the revised itinerary for confirmation and assistance in reissuing the ticket per each airlines’ guidelines. If an airline’s proposed new schedule doesn’t work, our agents can assist travelers in finding a flight that does meet their needs while still upholding your organization’s travel policies. When Christopherson assists with reissuing tickets for major schedule changes, those tickets remain integrated with our risk management technology so you can maintain your duty of care standards in spite of the schedule change and ticket reissue.
When a major schedule change occurs on the same day of travel—likely due to the airline’s crew availability or a change in aircraft—travelers can immediately reach out to their corporate travel agent for help. Travelers who monitor their flights in the days leading up to their trip and who check in 24 hours in advance are better equipped to be aware of those same-day changes. They are also able to lean on the expertise of Christopherson’s agents to remedy what can feel like a stressful situation.
What should a traveler do if their flight schedule is changed?
If a traveler experiences a flight schedule change, they can do one of three things:
Nothing. If the new flight times work, they can accept the change and Christopherson will either revalidate or reissue the ticket, depending on the type of change it is.
Find a different flight route. If the new schedule provided by the airline doesn’t work, travelers can work with Christopherson’s corporate travel agents to find a flight, route, and schedule that does meet their needs.
Get a refund and start the booking over. For major changes where the flight time has been adjusted by more than 90 minutes from the original time, travelers are entitled to a full refund. Christopherson can help navigate the eligibility and process for getting a refund in these instances.
In addition to these three courses of action, travelers should also do the following:
Be Aware and Prepare
Travelers should periodically monitor their flights via their airline’s website or app, and more regularly in the days leading up to travel. The earlier you are aware of a flight change, the easier it is to handle. We also encourage travelers to check in 24-hours before their flight so they have a bit of lead time in case there are same-day or last minute changes that dramatically affect the trip. Travelers can also reconfirm (or revise, if needed) travel plans with their corporate travel agent. If travelers are given a minor or major schedule change, they need to be sure the ticket has been revalidated or reissued respectively.
Complete the Travel Profile
It is imperative that business travelers include their cell phone number in their travel profile. Having a cell phone number listed gives the airline and Christopherson the ability to communicate with you in the event that a schedule change occurs en route.
Rely on the Expertise of Corporate Travel Agents
Whether a schedule change occurs prior to a trip or en route, travelers can reach out to their corporate travel agent to ensure the changes don’t cause missed connections or affect their hotel and rental car reservations. If the airline’s newly-proposed flight times don’t work for the traveler, corporate travel agents will be able to provide the consultative expertise to work with the airline to fix the flight. They can also help you get a refund from the airline depending on eligibility.
How Much Do Schedule Changes Cost?
Airlines do not charge or refund any difference in fares for schedule changes. Because airlines require tickets to be reissued for major schedule changes, which are out of the control of travel management companies, service fees may apply to reissue those tickets.
If a major schedule change is greater than 90 minutes, travelers are entitled to a full refund. Christopherson can assist travelers with that refund process. Upon refund, travelers can then rebook with an airline that offers better flight times.
In rare instances, when neither a refund nor the new schedule are an option, an organization may decide to deposit the value of the first ticket into their unused ticket bank to use against future travel and then purchase a new ticket on an airline with a more amenable schedule.
What Can Corporate Travel Managers Do to Avoid Potential Schedule Changes?
Keep in mind that when you book farther in advance, there is a greater potential for your flight to be affected by a schedule change, possibly more than once. Until the airlines’ current schedule change situation resolves, organizations that book 60+ days in advance might consider temporarily booking closer to their travel dates. Of course, this option needs to be weighed against the possibility of reduced routes and limited seat capacity.
Corporate travel managers can consult with their travel management company to determine their best course of action understand the pros and cons of the options available.
The Bottom Line
The good news is that the current flight change situation will settle as the pandemic approaches its end and airlines are able to increase hiring and plan more stable schedules. Fortunately, organizations and their business travelers do have options in the meantime. And despite the challenges, Christopherson’s relationships with the airlines ensures that we have the information and resources you need to successfully navigate these schedule changes.
Christopherson values each of our client partnerships. We appreciate the opportunity we have to consult and assist corporate travel managers as they hit goals, achieve objectives, and support their business travelers. We are pleased to share these stories in our new blog series of Client Success Stories.
. . .
Medical Solutions, a Christopherson client since 2013, is a nationally-recognized medical staffing company. Their tremendous growth has led to both unique opportunities and challenges. After an acquisition, they needed to quickly implement travel for their newly-acquired employees and transition from using full-service corporate travel agents to an online booking tool.
Acquisition of another company necessitated implementation of a new group of travelers.
Medical Solutions made the choice to move from an on-site travel advisor to using an online booking tool (OBT) as their primary travel booking method.
SOLUTIONS AND RESULTS
Changes required implementation for the acquired travelers, as well as implementation and training for everyone using the OBT. The online adoption has been exceptional, reaching 91% online adoption within the first year.
Christopherson also conducted an expedited implementation in order to have the client’s former TMC release the existing Concur site to us for the additional travelers. The acquired company was up and running in only two weeks.
During this time, we also evaluated each aspect of the travel program and configuration, including structure, reportable fields, vendors, reporting, payment methods, etc. to optimize the travel program.
“Our account manager has made it abundantly clear how much she values me, my team, and my company; she always makes me feel like I’m a top priority whenever I need her. She took over our account at a delicate time with our integrations really being underway and our investors pushing for a potential change in our travel management company based solely on cost savings. She took my brutal honesty and direct questions and has worked endlessly to show why Christopherson is so amazing and what value they bring to us.” –Stacie P., Medical Solutions
Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s Chief Strategy Officer, Josh Cameron. Josh shared insight on how Christopherson’s strategy has changed over the years and how the company is preparing for the future.
Q: Can you perhaps set the stage for us and share how Christopherson’s strategy has changed or evolved in recent years?
A: Christopherson has been in business since 1953. To stay in business successfully for nearly seventy years you’ve got to do more than a few things right and it requires a continuous commitment to development, growth, and evolution. Different eras of our business required different focus, but in recent years, I’d say our strategy is focused on creating equilibrium between the human side of service and the digital side of technology solutions.
Christopherson has always had a stellar reputation for customer service. We’ve also been known for our commitment to innovating and developing corporate travel technologies that solve problems. As we move forward, we’re looking for smarter ways to combine those two aspects of our solution in a more complimentary way. That will require what I’m calling the “productization of Christopherson”—in other words, finding ways to transform and enhance our customer-centric approach to service with or through technology, while also enriching our technology to allow for even better service.
Q: What was the catalyst or “the why” behind this new approach?
A: Businesses need to be able to solve customers’ problems more rapidly and how you do that matters. Everything we’re working on now and planning for the future is because we want to provide instantaneous resolution and instantaneous information so customers can make the best decisions for their business or perform the necessary task in that moment.
Q: How does that then affect what Christopherson’s working on now?
A: Right now we’re spending significant time and resources evaluating our core technologies, layering or redeveloping where necessary, and making sure we’ve effectively centralized the digital and human interactions between our travel agents, our clients’ travel managers, and the business travelers themselves. That’s the foundation.
We’re also making a shift in how we meet the needs of all those customers. In the past, we’ve been hyper-focused on corporate travel managers, helping them do their jobs faster, easier, and better. But as we move into this new phase of strategy, we’re also building for the business travelers and corporate travel agents as well.
We also have a renewed focus on customer-centric product development through design thinking. Every tool is measured against our strict standard of being useful, elegant, and intuitive. Every service interaction is measured against our consultative standard. Ensuring this strong core will allow us to amplify our customer-centric approach in a way that we’ve never seen as a business.
Q: Can you tell us more about the equilibrium Christopherson is working to achieve between those human and digital interactions?
A: The beautiful thing about technology is that it can solve users’ problems in the most efficient manner. What’s exciting, to me, is that as we streamline our ability to meet the needs of countless customers through technology, we free up resources, which we can then invest back into solving new problems and different needs.
That said, we’re not looking to replace people with technology. The first of our two core values is that we value people, and humans have an innate, intuitive ability to navigate both nuance and complexity that can’t be replicated digitally. The question for us is how we can make those customer interactions as efficient and personalized as possible. Because when we can do that—deliver instantaneous resolution and instantaneous information in a consultative, personalized way—it allows us to ultimately do more with less.
Q: How do you see this refocused strategy positioning Christopherson for the future?
A: When we look back on our company’s history, the years we experienced our highest growth were the years when our innovation was at its peak. As we move into this next phase of innovation with a clear vision of our renewed strategy, we feel confident it will spur an acceleration of growth, widen the differentiation between us and our competitors, and strengthen the value we create for our customers.
Q: Thank you for your time today, Josh. One last question, just for fun, what’s the best business trip you’ve ever taken?
A: Well off the top of my head, I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a trip that wasn’t a business trip because I’m always traveling with Mike. But I did really enjoy the BCD Travel meetings in Cancun a few years ago, as well as their event at the Ritz-Carlton in Tahoe. I brought my wife along with me on that one and it was fun to be together. Although I’m realizing it may have been memorable because it was our last trip alone before we had kids.
Corporate travel technology has changed the way organizations and their travelers manage and plan, book, and experience business trips. For travel managers, keeping up to date with current innovations in corporate travel technology is critical to ensuring traveling employees are protected and prepared. Corporate travel technology also allows both managers and employees to have peace of mind through all stages of the trip.
Travel technology is constantly evolving, which means there’s almost always something new on the horizon. Below are a few critical innovations in travel technology, specifically designed for corporate travel programs.
Travel Management Software: A Must-Have for Corporate Travel
Businesses with a high volume of traveling employees face unique challenges. From booking the best rates to managing business trip approvals, tracking expenses and traveler safety, the list of responsibilities for corporate travel managers is endless.
Travel management software is a tool no corporate travel program should be without. The best travel management software should do more than track the minimum essentials. It should also integrate with other industry-leading technology tools. It’s critical that your travel management software includes a few key travel tech features:
Virtual Payment Options
Accurately tracking and reporting on business travel expenses are key to running a cost-effective corporate travel program. One way corporate travel technology helps you do this is by offering virtual payment options.
For example, companies face hotel payment challenges if a traveler is a contract worker, has limited credit, or doesn’t have a company credit card. But with virtual payment options provided by corporate travel technology, companies can easily pre-authorize payments with single-use credit cards. This option not only creates operational efficiency, but improves hotel billing accuracy, limits fraud exposure, and helps consolidate hotel spend.
Easy Booking Tools
While the internet has given everyone access to the vast options provided by airlines, hotels, and rental car companies, culling all those options takes time. Quickly finding the lowest rates, knowing which vendors provide the best value, and making bookings that align with corporate travel policies takes expertise. By partnering with a travel management company that delivers integrated corporate travel technology, travel managers can provide their travelers with booking options (online or with expert agents) that align with the company’s goals while still serving the needs of employees.
Corporate travel technology also allows travelers to create travel profiles that populate bookings with their travel preferences, reward memberships, and credit card numbers to eliminate the need for re-entering those details during the booking process.
Integrated Travel Policies
Corporate travel technology gives travel managers the ability to integrate, communicate, and enforce their corporate travel policies. You can also include your specific vendor contracts and detailed reporting requirements to easily manage expiring contracts and ensure you’re tracking the right data. This leads to overall cost-savings and improves both policy and vendor compliance.
Having the ability to customize and integrate your travel policy also means rules can be applied at the time of booking, so travelers maintain compliance from the very beginning.
In an era where anything can change at a moment’s notice, keeping track of traveling employees has never been more critical. Corporate risk managers need real-time access to global health and safety threats as well as the ability to quickly communicate them to business travelers.
Corporate travel technology should help you manage business travel risk by identifying risks and assessing impact, locating travelers by name, travel date, and/or location, and allow you to quickly verify safety or provide communication and assistance should an emergency arise.
Centralized Location There are countless travel apps, all designed to manage different aspects of business travel. —too many options for too many singular actions. Travel managers don’t need one more app to manage one more thing. They need one tool that gives them access to everything.
The best travel management software should allow you to conveniently organize, access, and manage your entire corporate travel program from one place. When you gain access to a fully-integrated corporate travel software platform, you’re equipped to reduce spend, manage risk, track unused airline tickets, access traveler profiles, ensure policy compliance, and more. And travelers have access to the booking options, support, itineraries, and business travel resources they need to have successful trips.
Leveraging Digital Solutions
Christopherson Business Travel provides digital business travel management solutions that help companies maximize their budgets and keep travelers safe and happy.
Our integrated software platform, AirPortal, provides the essential tools for successfully managing and navigating corporate travel.
From booking to approval to security to reporting, AirPortal streamlines critical processes. AirPortal also helps companies maximize their travel budgets and reduce costs with features like AirBank, which tracks unused airline tickets to eliminate waste and ensure re-use.
Companies are always looking for ways to protect their bottom line. AirPortal’s Value Scorecard allows you to assess the ROI of your travel management company partnership by identifying and quantifying both the savings and value you’ve achieved.
All of these tools and features are easily accessible via desktop and mobile. Your dashboards are also customizable to meet your unique needs and how you manage your program and workflow.
Industry-Leading Technologies and Personalized Service
No matter the size of your company or business travel volume, Christopherson’s personalized service and industry-leading technologies can help you take control of your corporate travel program. Contact us today.
Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s Chief Financial Officer, Heather Young. Heather shared insight on how Christopherson financially navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and where the company stands now as travel restarts.
Q: It’s no secret that the last year and a half has been brutal on the travel industry. From your perspective as CFO, how did Christopherson’s financial philosophies protect the company through the pandemic?
A: Our owners, Mike and Camille Cameron, have taken a conservative approach to running and growing our company over the past 31 years. Additionally, at the beginning of March 2020, they had just paid off our corporate office building. This meant that as the COVID-19 pandemic began, Christopherson was in a great financial situation with good liquidity and very little debt.
As a company, we also rely on data to drive decisions. Because we review our ticketing information everyday through our data visualization dashboards, we could see travel bookings begin to decline in the weeks that led up to the pandemic being declared. By seeing that change early, our executive team was able to come together quickly and make a solid plan to weather this storm. We have been able to make important decisions throughout the pandemic, faster than many, because we track that key data in real-time.
Q: So as we see the pandemic coming to a close, where does Christopherson now stand in terms of financial stability?
A: We are in extremely good financial shape. We began the pandemic with sharp focus on protecting our cash, our people, our clients, and our clients’ customer experience. By the end of 2020, we were able to shift our focus back to investing in our future, particularly through a human and digital transformation.
Even though sales are still below pre-pandemic levels, we are currently tracking higher than the rest of the industry. We are strategically investing in areas that will allow us to continue being a leader in travel. We are able to make these investments because of our conservative fiscal approaches. We have also utilized the government’s COVID relief programs to aid our stability. Our cash reserves remain strong and we have the financial ability to make these investments for our future.
Q: You mentioned you do a daily review of travel bookings. What are you seeing in terms of business picking up? Is business travel on the upswing?
A: We are definitely seeing business pick up. We said all along that leisure travel would lead the way, followed by business travel. This is exactly what we are seeing. Our leisure travel division’s bookings began increasing in early 2021. That is now being followed with more business travel bookings as well as meetings and groups. We also implemented numerous new clients throughout the pandemic and have been excited to see these new customers begin traveling this summer.
Q: Part of Christopherson’s plan to weather the storm was protecting its people. How has Christopherson been able to support its team members over the last 18 months?
A: We kept a sharp focus on our two company values—1) We create value. 2) We value people.—in all our decisions over the last 18 months. At the beginning of the pandemic, we all experienced the difficulty of making the sacrifices needed to preserve our financial stability and allow us to keep as many people employed as possible. We are happy to report that we were able to reinstate our 401(k) match and restore any pay reductions even before we returned to profitability. We’ve retained much of our staff and have also been able to hire back many of our previous employees as business continues to ramp up this year.
Protecting our teams’ mental health was also important to us during the pandemic, so we made sure our employees had access to programs that provided unlimited access to professional help with stress, depression, financial concerns, family difficulties, and more. We also enhanced our employee benefit package by adding paid short-term disability in 2021, paid bereavement leave, and COVID-related paid leave. We continue to evaluate our benefit offerings for competitiveness in the market and ensure our decisions demonstrate that we value people.
Q: So having gone through the last 18 months, how would you say Christopherson is doing now?
A: COVID gave us an opportunity to make difficult decisions and we have emerged stronger. We spent that first month looking through all our expenses with a fine tooth comb, cancelling or negotiating better terms on anything we could. We learned who our real business partners were—those who were willing to work with us as we navigated through this very unique time. And while business was certainly slower, we used that time to strategize how to increase the value we bring to our clients and the industry.
We are being even more deliberate with where our money is being invested. We are hyper-focused on the design and delivery of our service model and are expanding our product development team. We have an ambitious roadmap of enhancements planned that combine the human and digital experience in a transformative way and will allow us to lead the future of business travel.
Q: Just for fun, do you prefer …
Window or aisle? Aisle—I hate feeling trapped and I try to stay hydrated while traveling 😉
Beach, mountain, or city travel? I’m a beach person at heart.
Salty or sweet travel snack? Sweets.
Where are you looking forward to traveling next? My husband and I had an anniversary trip to Portugal booked for the fall of 2020 that was cancelled due to COVID. We are looking forward to rescheduling that soon.
Most corporations spend about 10% of their revenue on business travel. However, that investment tends to pay off. Companies typically see a $2.09 profit increase and a $9.50 revenue increase for every dollar spent on travel.
Still, it’s difficult for many organizations to track and report those metrics. Additionally, business travel expenses often fluctuate, making it hard for companies to budget for it.
For these reasons and more—including concerns about employee safety—it is critical to hire the right travel management company (TMC). A travel management company will help you manage business travel risk, improve reporting, expenses, and more to ensure your investment in corporate travel pays off.
Here’s a short guide on how to choose the right corporate travel management company for your organization.
What To Look For In A Corporate Travel Agency
There is a persistent myth that corporate travel agencies are interchangeable and that one is as good as any other. This myth stems from the misperception that corporate travel management companies are simply travel agents that only help you book flights, rooms, and car rentals.
However, experienced corporate travel management companies provide far more valuable services that extend beyond typical travel agencies. As a result, they are an invaluable partner that can elevate your corporate travel program with the right strategy.
To ensure that you select the right corporate travel agency, look for the following features and services that will provide you with the most value, saving you time and money.
Cutting-Edge Business Travel Technology
There are many business travel management software providers. But the right corporate travel management company will have integrated, digital solutions that deliver the right tools to your employees. In addition to technology for corporate travel managers that track expenses, report metrics, manage unused tickets and assist with risk management, your corporate travel software should offer business travelers easy access to booking options, itineraries, policies, risk plans, and their support team.
From self-service options to mobile apps, your business travel technology should be up-to-date, real-time, and fully integrated. Look for a corporate travel management company that provides software that helps you manage your entire program conveniently, centrally, and cost-effectively, all while keeping a pulse on your employees’ locations in case of emergency.
Furthermore, if you are a corporate travel manager or are responsible for tracking your business travel expenses and ROI, your corporate travel management company’s technology should deliver real-time reporting with actionable data.
Experienced Travel Agents & Business Travel Support Teams
There is no substitute for experience. The business travel industry transforms quickly and is often the first indicator of how economic, geopolitical, weather and climate situations are going to affect global industries and economies. The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of that.
When situations like these arise, they can often affect travel prices, the availability of travel vendors’ services and products, and sometimes, the safety of an organization’s business travelers.
An experienced corporate travel management company has its finger on the pulse of the travel industry and will know when and how these factors may impact your business travel program. Additionally, a TMC provides a team of expert travel agents, an account manager, and additional client service members who can assist you and your business travelers in navigating those changes or any other domestic or international situations that arise.
When business travelers encounter those unexpected, or even concerning, situations, they need access to someone who can assist them immediately. Your company may not be able to facilitate 24/7 availability for traveling employees. When looking for a corporate travel agency, look for a partner who provides immediate access to expert travel agents 24/7, 365 days a year.
Ultimately, your travel management company’s team of travel agents, account managers, and support personnel should be consultative advisors who offer personalized solutions and deliver a plan that meets your needs, saves your company money, and aligns with your goals, travel policies, and risk management plans. It can also be beneficial to find a corporate travel agency with experience in your industry sector and an understanding of your frequent business travel destinations, whether domestic or international.
Every business travel program should create a corporate travel policy. These policies ensure that both the organization and its business travelers are protected. They also help companies save money and manage the risk associated with business travel.
The right corporate travel management company will have the expertise to consult with you on current best practices of corporate travel policies. They will also have the technology needed to integrate that policy with all your booking options, helpful benchmarking tools, and your HR feed.
Additionally, the right corporate travel management company can guide you in presenting and communicating your corporate travel policy to your business travelers. Maintaining a current travel policy that 1) aligns with your corporate culture, 2) offers a measure of flexibility, and 3) is clearly communicated, allows you to set expectations while keeping business traveler satisfaction high. It also ensures that all your bookings are compliant which saves you money, gives you data to leverage when negotiating rates, and provides the intelligence you need to manage risk.
While business travel risk management is one of the most important duties of a corporate travel manager, it can sometimes be a bit of a grey area.
For example, what happens when employees participate in extra-curricular activities while “off-the-clock” but are still traveling for business? What if an employee gets into a car accident on their business trip, but the accident occurred not while engaged in business but while they were on their way to meet a friend? Should the consumption of alcohol be allowed while business traveling? Should your travel program address phone usage or other safety standards while driving?
These questions and more are another reason corporate travel policies are important and the right corporate travel management company can help you define what you want to allow or not allow within the scope of business travel.
Risk Management and Business Traveler Safety Tools
In addition to utilizing corporate travel policies to facilitate duty of care requirements, companies should also outline plans for managing business travel risk. Such plans ensure the lines of communication in an emergency are defined, open, and accessible if a business trip goes awry.
The right corporate travel management company will help you outline and implement your risk management plans. Risk management plans should consider business traveler safety needs and outline contingency options to enable quick pivots and immediate service when employees are on the road. Your corporate travel management company’s technology should also offer solutions for real-time notification of emergency, disaster, and weather alerts.
Intelligent Reporting & Travel Data Options
Suhail Doshi, the CEO of Mixpanel said, “Most of the world will make decisions by either guessing or using their gut. They will be either lucky or wrong.”
There is a world of difference between data and actionable data. The right corporate travel management company will deliver the reports and tracking software you need to access actionable data that measures performance and helps you analyze areas for improvement.
When your corporate travel management company provides easy-to-read reports with the right data, you can more easily justify the investment in business travel and prove the ROI of your corporate travel program to your management team. With proven, actionable data, you can also see where to save while identifying additional expenditures that yield greater profit and revenue.
When searching for a corporate travel agency, ask for a demonstration of their reporting software and look at the data they deliver. Ask if they are customizable and ensure they track metrics that will assist you in your future decisions.
Corporate Event Management Team
A challenge for many corporate travel managers is the additional level of detailed coordination required for corporate event planning. Organizing large conferences, making group travel arrangements, and negotiating with vendors can prove overwhelming on top of the numerous daily tasks associated with managing a corporate travel program.
Such business travel events may include small gatherings like executive retreats and team meetings, or large events like trade shows and conferences. Regardless of the size of your event, your corporate travel management company’s meetings and events team has the ability to help you plan, manage, and execute details like audiovisual needs, catering, activities, ground transportation, attendee registration, and more.
Additionally, corporate meetings and events teams ensure each event is uniquely themed and aligns with your organization’s vision for the type of experience you’re wanting to create. They also maintain established relationships with trusted vendors worldwide to ensure the quality of that experience.
Business Travel Vendor Negotiation Expertise
When you partner with the right corporate travel management agency, you are able to leverage the collective buying power of that travel agency. Additionally, you can rely on your account manager to identify the power of your own spend data to strategically negotiate rates that benefit your bottom line.
Why Use A Corporate Travel Management Company?
If your company engages in business travel, partnering with a travel management company will save you time and money. An effective travel management program includes the following and more:
Intelligent corporate travel software
Centralized data and reporting
Online and agent booking options
Risk management support
Expert vendor negotiation
Simplified and streamlined process
The right corporate travel management company should provide a comprehensive travel management plan that helps you navigate the unique needs of your own corporate travel program and caters to the needs of your business travelers.
How To Choose A Business Travel Management Company
Here is a quick checklist of things you can do to screen and choose a travel management company:
Review their website to understand their services
Ask for a demonstration of their travel software
Assess their solutions against your greatest needs
View sample reports
Read case studies
Ask for references
Check online reviews
Inquire with an RFI
Why Choose Christopherson Business Travel As Your Travel Management Company
Christopherson Business Travel is the travel management company you need to manage your travel program. What sets us apart is our unique approach to balancing the need for personalized, consultative service with technology that leads the way in this fast-paced world and ever-changing industry.
We take pride in improving our clients’ travel management programs and providing best-in-class service to meet the needs of their business travelers.
Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s Chief Operations Officer, Nathan McClellan. Nathan shared his optimism for the future of business travel as well as what’s needed in order to deliver the right service experiences for that future.
Q: In a recent leadership meeting, you outlined three things management team members can express to effectively lead their teams—reality, vision, and hope. Can you share a bit more about how those three things can help us all as our industry recovers?
A: I have always liked the quote attributed to Napoleon who said, “The leader’s role is to define reality, then give hope.” Reality is seeing the world as it actually is. Defining reality creates trust within the organization that its challenges are known, understood, and quantified. This need not be bleak, nor should it be covered up.
A leader’s role is also to give hope. Hope provides confidence that positive outcomes are achievable. When leaders cast the vision for employees, outline the path forward, and set clear expectations, hope is felt.
As the travel industry recovers, new challenges arise. Every leadership challenge has its own set of constraints. Constraints catalyze creativity. People are the source of creativity. When people understand the problems and are engaged in their work, good things happen. Defining reality and giving hope fosters this environment. This simple leadership skill can turn into a very tangible competitive advantage.
Q: Why do you feel hope and optimism for the future of Christopherson and business travel in general?
A: Conducting business face-to-face remains as essential for companies now as it did before the pandemic. It is true some travel will be displaced through technology and virtual interactions. However, business conferences, networking events, sales calls, special projects, consulting engagements, and recruiting trips, to name a few, still have value.
Company policies regarding when travel will take place are evolving, but travel itself is a mainstay. Companies will leverage future travel as an investment in their business with a clear ROI, as opposed to simply viewing it as an expense. This type of purposeful travel recognizes that personal relationships enable companies to transact business.
I am optimistic for our industry because of the power behind these relationships. Travel is a key component for building and leveraging relationships.
I am also optimistic for our own company due to the investment we are making to meet the expectations and demand of the future while also reinforcing our own relationship-based service model.
Q: What changes are you seeing in operations as recovery begins and business travel rebounds?
A: The service industry is shifting from a transactional model to a consultative model. This is true whether engaging in a digital or human channel. Travelers are increasingly comfortable with technology to book their own trips. This is ideal for simple itineraries. When things become more complex, customers want the confidence of working with a trusted professional.
A next generation travel advisor cannot simply be an order taker possessing technical proficiency and industry knowledge. They must also be problem solvers, offer useful advice, consult proactively, and take ownership of the traveler experience.
A next generation digital experience will use predictive analytics to streamline the interaction, anticipate customer needs, match preferences, and optimize the traveler journey.
Q: Christopherson has communicated that it’s undergoing a human and digital transformation. Both of these things affect operations. How are you and your team positioning your side of the transformation?
A: Operations is an exciting part of a company where the human transformation and digital transformation come together to create the best possible service experience for customers. Many companies have perfected the human experience, and others have mastered the digital experience. Few, if any, are able to deliver on both. Enter Christopherson Business Travel.
Our investment in the digital transformation is two-fold. First, we are investing in the technology used at traveler touch-points to make things easy for our customers. Second, we are investing in behind-the-scenes technology to facilitate the service experience. This is how the human transformation and digital transformation come together. The easier we make it for our employees to take good care of our customers, the more likely we are to consistently achieve this goal.
In addition to our technology enabled human transformation, we have also restructured our organization to focus on the human-to-human customer experience. The tenets of our coaching framework enable advisors to create positive connections with customers, create trust and confidence, and create value. This approach seamlessly integrates both the digital and human components of our business transformation efforts.
Q: Why is accessibility/availability so important for customers and how is Christopherson making it happen?
A: Our goal in operations is to provide the right service in the right moment. We don’t choose those moments. The customer dictates the terms of an interaction. They determine when to contact us, in which channel to contact us, and whom to contact. The role of operations is to be available to provide an excellent experience whenever, and wherever those interactions take place.
Online interactions are managed through automation. Offline interactions require a human touch. Metrics like accessibility and availability enable Christopherson to more accurately forecast our staffing needs to accommodate anticipated business volume. They also ensure we do a better job matching the utilization of our existing staff to the contact arrival patterns of our customers. This translates to a better experience for customers who can quickly have their needs resolved.
Our travel advisors are the ones making this happen. We have invested heavily in creating an environment of intrinsic motivation where employees use self-discovery and self-management to maintain high levels of engagement. Engaged employees give discretionary effort to their work and exude a love for what they are doing. Our customers notice the Christopherson difference.
Q: What is your vision for the future of Christopherson’s operations?
A: Our vision in Operations is to continuously improve our capabilities. It’s one thing to talk about continuous improvement, and another to build the kind of infrastructure where it permeates our DNA. Someone once said, “a good customer experience anywhere changes customer expectations everywhere.”
The service experience of the future is evolving quickly. Walker Information, an experience management consulting firm, has noted that the furiously fast pace of innovation will continue and that customers expect companies to keep up.
Our vision at Christopherson is not only to keep up, but to set the pace. We can’t do this by relying only the things that have made us successful so far. We are never done getting better. This environment of constant refinement requires a commitment to change across the entire organization. Accomplishing this vision starts by increasing our advisor capability, followed by expanding our customer capability, and finally by growing our operational capability.
Q: Nathan, thank you for sharing your thoughts about Christopherson’s operations. One final question just for fun: What’s your favorite travel destination and why?
A: The more I travel, the more I learn about the world around me. The more I learn about the world around me, the more I want to travel. It is a virtuous cycle. Traveling to Thailand exemplifies everything I love about travel. It’s rich in natural beauty and culture.
For western societies, Thailand has been a well-kept secret—although I think it is starting to get out. In addition to the jungle scenery, mountain terrain, vibrant cities, and delicious miniature pineapples, I am most impressed with the people. Thai people are some of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met. Yes, the country as a whole is amazing, but it is the people that make it beautiful. Through them, I have been inspired to become better myself.
For more than 25 years, Christopherson has supported CHOICE Humanitarian’s mission to end extreme poverty in remote and under-served communities around the world.
According to CHOICE Humanitarian Board Member and Volunteer Chief Financial Officer Bret Backman, the corporate impact award “recognizes a corporate partner that has really gone above and beyond in supporting CHOICE and its programs. Christopherson Business Travel has been a committed business partner of CHOICE Humanitarian for more than 25 years.”
Through a commitment to quality-of-life improvements in the broader community, Christopherson enables voluntary employee contributions to CHOICE and provides a 2:1 match. The company also sends a rotating group of employees on a week-long, international humanitarian expedition each year.
“They firmly believe [in] sharing the wealth and taking care of the global community,” continued Backman. “Christopherson also offers travel services for our expeditions . . . through their CV Humanitarian Travel [division] and helping get the best prices for our travelers and also returning part of the proceeds to CHOICE.”
Christopherson’s involvement with CHOICE began when CEO Mike Cameron participated in one of their expeditions to a small village in central Mexico with two of his brothers, three of their sons, and their father. After experiencing how CHOICE carries out its model in the field, Cameron selected CHOICE as the non-profit organization Christopherson would work with and became a corporate partner.
“We’ve had all sorts of opportunities to be blessed as a family by serving and participating with CHOICE,” Cameron said. “There is no better way for your employees to build relationships than to go on a company humanitarian expedition.”
Cameron also notes that “as a father and grandfather, it is incomprehensible to watch children go to bed hungry.” He concluded his award acceptance with a quote from his granddaughter, Alyssa Murray, after her CHOICE expedition to Guatemala: “I thought I was going to help end poverty and change the lives of people, but in the end they changed mine. They taught me how to be happy, they taught me how to be happy with very little. We all have an opportunity to come together and learn from each other.”
Christopherson Business Travel, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the independently owned leader in business travel management, digital travel tools, and business travel resources. With more than 350 team members located across the country, Christopherson supported $687 million in annual travel bookings in 2019 for more than 1,000 successful companies and organizations. Christopherson is an affiliate of BCD Travel. To learn more, visit cbtravel.com.
Christopherson Business Travel Unveils New Logo and Website, Affirms Commitment to Delivering a Transformative Human and Digital Experience
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Christopherson Business Travel, the independently-owned leader in intelligent business travel management, announced a rebrand of its visual identity with the unveiling of a new logo and website that reflect the company’s commitment to developing a transformative combined human and digital experience.
“Our new logo and redesigned website are just one piece of a larger transformation,” said Christopherson CEO Mike Cameron. “As our industry emerges from the dark tunnel of COVID, we are reinventing our products and services to more seamlessly integrate the personal, human experience with an innovative, digital experience. The balanced combination of those two elements is the future of business travel management and it’s essential for organizations that want to run cost-saving, traveler-friendly business travel programs in this post-COVID world.”
The new Christopherson logo is an evolution of the company’s previous logo, with a look and feel that illustrate Christopherson’s dedication to delivering insight, innovation, and global travel management through a committed, consultative partnership.
“The individual logo elements are a nod to Christopherson’s human and technological foundation,” noted Mike Harris, one of the logo’s designers, “with one oval representing their customer-focused approach to business travel and the other oval representing their powerful technology and analytics tools. Linking those two shapes further illustrates that symbolism, with the final icon representing the partnership and value Christopherson provides their customers.”
Christopherson’s newly-redesigned website features updated, simplified messaging and easy navigation. The visual design showcases the company’s consultative, strategic approach to customers, while the layout is structured to deliver a seamlessly organized user experience.
“We look forward to building upon this brand refresh with products and services that make it easier for companies to manage their business travel,” Cameron said. “We may have changed our logo, but we haven’t changed our commitment to finding new ways to serve our customers’ needs with the value we create.”
Christopherson Business Travel delivers integrated, intelligent corporate travel management solutions to more than 1,000 clients throughout the United States. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, the company has nearly 300 team members located in 30 states across the country, as well as 20 client-dedicated on-site locations. Christopherson is a certified, woman-owned corporation, and upholds its mission to connect people and places through its core values of creating value and valuing people. For more information, visit
During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses learned how valuable face-to-face interactions are to promote the development of business relationships.
The value of business travel for corporations is immeasurable and it is clear that travel is an essential business function. However, as we return to normal business operations and travel, corporations are reevaluating their corporate travel policies to include sustainable business travel.
While conversations about sustainability were being had before the pandemic, changes in work environments, operations, and HR practices put “green” corporate travel into sharper focus. As corporations shifted to remote work, the environment experienced the benefits of reduced congestion and emissions with less commuters on the road.
Conscious of the impact of travel on the environment, business travelers and their companies are seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint. To create a sustainable business travel program, enlist a travel management company such as Christopherson Business Travel.
What does sustainable business travel mean?
Sustainable business travel is the conscious effort to travel in an environmentally friendly way that reduces impact on the environment. From selecting carbon-neutral travel options to purposeful business travel, sustainability requires the responsible consumption of resources.
For example, air travel is responsible for 12% of all CO2 emissions globally, and 80% of those emissions are emitted by flights over 1500 kilometers, for which there are no other viable means of transport according to the Air Transport Action Group.
In an active effort to reduce aviation-related CO2 emissions, sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) can reduce the carbon footprint of aviation fuel by up to 80%. Choosing airline partners that are committed to reducing their carbon footprints is one way to support sustainable business travel.
Ways to implement sustainable business travel
There are various ways to implement sustainable business travel practices into your corporate travel program. Here are a few suggestions:
Implement Purposeful Travel Policies
Adopting a purposeful travel mindset encourages companies to look at travel as an investment rather than a cost. Identify the types of travel your company does and evaluate its importance. Can certain meetings or trips be combined to conserve resources and reduce carbon footprint? Could some business trips be shortened? Is there a way to identify objectives for each business trip to measure effectiveness? Asking these questions and others will help you keep conservation at the heart of your business travel program and make the most of your travelers’ time on the road.
Use apps and other digital options to reduce paper waste from printing tickets and itineraries. Christopherson’s integrated software platform AirPortal provides a central, digital source for booking business travel, managing trip plans, and keeping track of itineraries.
Use Sustainable Transportation Options
Encourage, and maybe even reward, travelers for selecting hybrid or electric rental cars. Require the booking of direct flights. Ask travelers to consider rail travel for shorter trips. While carpooling, public transportation, and rideshares may be the right options to meet your sustainability requirements, be sure to evaluate the impact of those services against your risk management plan and corporate culture.
Partner with Travel Vendors Committed to Sustainability
Book hotels that are LEEDS-certified and are conscious about water usage, plastics, and have environmentally-friendly practices, such as buying local soaps, lotions, and food. Request CO2 reporting from your preferred airlines and check their rankings on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Select rental car companies that offer hybrid and electric vehicles.
Educate Travelers on Sustainable Business Travel
Inform business travelers of your newly-adopted practices and teach them how to travel sustainably themselves. Organizations can even implement reward programs to encourage adoption of your company’s sustainable business travel practices.
While there are many ways to travel with an eco-friendly mindset, here are a few practical suggestions for business travelers:
Pack lighter to lessen fuel burn and decrease emissions
Use earth-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics like metal or silicone straws and wooden cutlery
Bring your own water bottle
Hang up hotel towels to use again the next day
Forgo daily hotel cleaning services to reduce water usage
Eat at locally-owned, locally-sourced restaurants rather than chains and/or select organic food options from local farm-to-table providers
Avoid purchasing individually-wrapped products or travel-sized shampoos and soaps
Why is sustainable business travel important?
While business travel is often a key measurement of economic success, it’s important to remember that travel also has social and environmental impacts.
For the altruistic, sustainable business travel practices protect and preserve our natural resources for the future. For those more driven by bottom-lines, sustainability sells. Business Insiderreports that today’s shoppers “want more than just quality, often looking for products and brands that align with their personal values. … Protecting the environment topped that list.”
While there are many additional reasons to adopt sustainable business travel practices, your team needs to understand why it’s something your company is advocating for. Getting your employees on board with what you are trying to accomplish is the best way to reach your goals of a more environmentally-friendly corporate travel program. Once educated, your business travelers will more aware of and make greener choices that benefit your company, their travel destination locales, and the environment at large.
How to make air travel more sustainable
While air travel does have an impact on the environment, sometimes it is the only choice for business travel. When this is the case, here are five things you can do to make your air travel more sustainable:
Pack as light as possible to reduce the weight of your luggage and its impact on fuel use and emissions.
Choose direct flights. Since take-off, taxiing, and landing a plane require the most fuel, reducing the number of times you take off and land can reduce your overall carbon footprint. In fact, choosing a direct route can reduce emissions by up to 50%.
Select flights that will be flown by fuel-efficient aircrafts, such as the Airbus A350 XWB and Boeing 737 Dreamliner.
Select flights that will be using biofuel blends. Nearly 170,000 flights from airlines such as Qantas Airways, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and Alaska Airlines use blends.
Don’t print boarding passes, itineraries, or maps. Use digital apps and alternatives instead.
How can sustainable business travel save money?
Not only is sustainable business travel good for the environment, it can also be good for a company’s bottom line. Here are a few ways sustainable business travel policies save you money:
While the cost to rent hybrid or electric vehicles may be higher, you will save on fuel expenses in the end.
Ride-sharing options could be a cost-saving business travel practice but be sure it’s in line with your risk management plan.
LEEDS-certified hotels can sometimes be less expensive than hotels that are not LEEDS-certified.
Locally-sourced food is often cheaper as it cuts out long-distance distribution and transportation.
Identifying yourself as an environmentally-friendly business can improve your company’s reputation as consumers are increasingly interested in doing business with organizations that align with their personal values.
How can a travel management company help your business implement a sustainable business travel policy?
Christopherson’s corporate travel experts can help you implement green corporate travel policies that encourage eco-friendly behaviors while traveling.
As your corporate travel management partner, we will collaborate, guide, and assist as you seek out vendor partners who meet your sustainable business travel goals.
Our experienced corporate travel agents and your integrated online booking tool can help travelers book sustainable hotels, flights, and ground transportation.
And our AirPortal technology digitally aligns your entire corporate travel program by integrating those policies and plans so you can succeed.
To learn more about Christopherson, contact us today.
With vaccines being quickly distributed, COVID numbers going down, and governments around the world easing restrictions, business travel is definitely on the uptick again. But even if road warriors are dusting off their suitcases, there’s no denying that business travel looks different now, after a global pandemic.
So how do you book business trips in a post-COVID world? Here are three things corporate travel managers and their travelers should consider as they resume travel.
1. Be Purposeful: Book Trips That Have an ROI
Throughout the pandemic, most companies either eliminated or significantly reduced the amount of business travel they approved. But even businesses that continued to travel, whether in part or in full, still had to determine what travel was permissible.
Permissible travel, according to the consulting firm Festive Road, is business travel that is government approved, company approved, and employee agreed. But as the amount of permissible business travel increases, corporate travel managers will need to pivot once again in order to successfully manage the return.
One aspect of that pivot is determining how to identify, support, and manage business travel that actually provides a return. While the convenience of Zoom highlighted the savings to be had in not traveling over the last year, it also showcased how important face-to-face meetings are. Companies realized the significance of in-person interactions because they build trust, aid in closing deals, and solidify relationships. Those high-value meetings are the sweet spot of business travel because they have purpose.
What Is Purposeful Travel?
Identifying purposeful travel entails corporate travel managers working with other stakeholders in their company to determine what types of travel are valuable. This may require a shift in focus:
While some may have seen business travel simply as a perk or status symbol before COVID, purposeful travel requires a reason and ROI.
Where business travelers may have previously jumped on a plane at any chance, purposeful travel asks that they consider the possibility of a virtual meeting first.
Where companies may have previously deemed travel as an expectation or requirement of a role, purposeful travel swings the balance back to considering employee well-being and work/life balance.
While limited consideration may have been given to the impact of business travel on the planet in the past, purposeful travel places the value of sustainability at the center of an organization’s conversation.
Where travel may have been a cost center before the pandemic, purposeful travel now identifies it as an investment.
As corporate travel managers outline what purposeful travel looks like for their organization, they will also want to consider company culture, competitors, and clients. Purposeful travel policies should:
encourage the corporate culture.
allow you to maintain a competitive edge.
meet client expectations and maintain strong relationships.
What that looks like from company to company will vary. Festive Road provides a review model to help companies evaluate and identify how to be purposeful as their corporate travel resumes.
Booking purposeful business trips will look different for every company. It may mean fewer, but longer trips with more meetings. It might require goal-setting or identifying desired results prior to travel. It could encourage the implementation of new accountabilities to measure success and ROI.
2. Be Safe: Book Trips That Align With Risk Management Plans
Organizations are now more aware of the need to be prepared for the unforeseen situations that can arise when business travelers are on the road. They see the importance of policies and technology that allow them to maintain constant awareness of their travelers’ location. They have a greater appreciation for the value travel management companies (TMC) provide as partners who can assist and advocate for them during crisis moments.
10 Business Travel Safety Considerations for Corporate Travel Managers
As travel resumes, maintaining the safety and security of your business travelers begins with a strong risk management plan that’s supported by real-time technology. As road warriors begin booking trips again, here are ten things corporate travel managers might consider doing to better manage risk moving forward:
Update risk management plans.
Ensure that corporate travel policies are aligned with the risk management plan.
Identify communication strategies for future crisis possibilities.
Evaluate the company’s need for any travel to high-risk locations.
Assess travel approval settings.
Remind travelers to update the contact information in their traveler profiles and require the inclusion of mobile numbers and emergency contacts.
Work with their TMC Account Manager to make sure any new policies are integrated with their booking tools.
Turn on safety notifications and alerts for business travelers.
Re-communicate the organization’s safety procedures and travel policy to their traveling workforce. You may also want to consider mandating the policy.
Provide safety, security, and policy training to business travelers so they feel supported and informed.
3. Be Informed: Book Trips Knowing What to Expect
Companies and their travelers are now more aware of what can happen when they don’t have all the information they respectively need when crises arise during business travel. Some organizations struggled to bring travelers home when COVID lockdowns began and countries closed borders around the world. Other companies had a much easier experience because they had the resources, information, technology, and support to make it happen quickly.
Similarly, some business travelers faced repatriation with uncertainty and perhaps a measure of anxiety, while others knew exactly who to call to change their plans and make it home safely.
While companies have a duty of care responsibility to inform and educate their travelers and ensure their safety on the road, there are things business travelers can also do to successfully book business travel in a post-COVID world.
Review Risks and Know Restrictions
By being aware of the risks associated with a particular destination, you can make plans with your company for your safety. Additionally, not all restrictions have been lifted around the world. In fact, some are still changing with frequency. Rely on real-time tools and your company’s TMC resources to know what’s required before you book a business trip.
Use Your Company’s Approved Booking Process
Whether it’s online or with a corporate travel agent, booking through your company’s approved process ensures that your manager and travel team can locate you and help you if you encounter an uncertain situation.
Know Your Company’s Travel Policies
When you understand and follow your company’s corporate travel policies, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing what to do and how you will be supported if you encounter a crisis like COVID on the road.
Keep Contact Information Updated
Before going on a business trip, make sure the contact information in your travel profile is current and includes your mobile number and emergency contact. Also make sure you take with you (or can easily locate offline) contact information for your company’s travel department as well as your company’s travel management company agents or support team.
Ultimately, booking business trips in a post-COVID world will require companies and their travelers to rethink how corporate travel fits into their strategies and provides a return.
Christopherson Business Travel’s corporate travel experts can evaluate your travel program to encourage purposeful travel. Our Account Managers provide customized travel management plans that help you integrate the policies, partnerships, and technology you need to successfully navigate the new business travel landscape.
To learn more about Christopherson’s services and technology, contact us today.
Complimentary Corporate Programs from the Airlines
One way to achieve cost savings on airfare is by taking advantage of airlines’ complimentary corporate programs designed for small and mid-size enterprises. Enrollment is free. Both your company and your travelers can still earn points and miles. And it can save you money. To sign up, speak with a Christopherson Account Manager today.
Earn JetBlue Points on American Airlines and Vice Versa
Business travelers can now earn JetBlue TrueBlue loyalty program points on all American Airlines-operated flights. The new accrual agreement covers American flights operating with the JetBlue code within the carriers’ Northeast Alliance, as well as on all other American flights operating anywhere in the world.
At the same time, American’s AAdvantage members can now accrue miles on all JetBlue flights within and beyond the Northeast. Read more here.
Win Free Flights for a Year on United
United Airlines announced that MileagePlus members who upload their vaccination card to their account by June 22 will be automatically entered for a chance to win one of five grand prizes offering free flights for a year or one of 30 roundtrip flights for two. Enter the sweepstakes here.
Two Concur Travel Changes You Should Know About
1. For Concur Expense users: Concur Travel is retiring the support and functionality of forwarding confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org on July 22, 2021. Users can still forward confirmation emails to email@example.com. Users should link their TripIt and Concur Travel accounts so that any emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org sync to Concur Travel.
Concur reports that change provides a richer service through TripIt Pro while allowing the same functionality. Additionally, they noted TripIt improves travelers satisfaction.
2. For Concur Travel customers who offer the “refundable” option box to their travelers: Last month, Concur updated the Refundable Only Air Fares feature and renamed it “Include Additional Refundable Air Fares” to reflect the modified functionality. Instead of hiding entire flights, users can initiate a refundable search request that returns additional refundable options along with the branded non-refundable and refundable fares.
Hilton Fast Tracks Elite Status
Hilton has updated the Fast Track to Gold offer for all our clients’ travelers. Travelers only need 4 nights within 90 days of registration to be awarded Gold status. Learn more and sign up here.
Advice for Travelers: Getting Back to Business Travel [INFOGRAPHIC]
BCD Travel, our global affiliate, created this helpful infographic with information travelers can use as they return to business travel.
Second Baggage Fee for Delta-Marketed Itineraries
Delta has implemented a second bag fee for Transpacific economy class travel on Delta-marketed flights. With this change, passengers with tickets purchased on/after May 3, 2021, and a first flight marketed by Delta, including flights operated by partners, will now be charged $100 to check a second bag.
Passengers traveling in Delta One and Delta Premium Select will continue to receive two checked bags for free. SkyMiles Medallion Members get additional free checked baggage across all classes of service.
To review a list of markets and itineraries where this baggage fee will apply, click here.
A corporate travel manager oversees their company’s business travel program and facilitates the organization’s relationship with their travel management company.
Through the travel management company partnership, corporate travel managers are able to develop a strategic plan for their travel program, outline and enforce travel policies, oversee and monitor employees’ business travel activity, negotiate vendor relationships and rates, create risk management plans for employee travel safety, align expense and reporting needs, ensure the ROI of the overall travel program, and more.
For organizations with extensive business travel requirements, or who need to facilitate group travel, or that plan conferences, retreats, and other corporate events, a strong relationship between the organization’s corporate travel manager and a travel management company is essential to the success of the corporate travel program.
What Does A Corporate Travel Manager Do?
A day in the life of a corporate travel manager revolves around aligning the needs of their business travelers with the needs of the company. This alignment occurs in myriad ways, although business traveler safety and ROI are often the highest priorities.
Typically, a corporate travel managers tasks involve:
Building a strategic partnership with a travel management company
Ensuring traveler safety through risk management plans
Budgeting and measuring the ROI of the corporate travel program
Negotiating rates for air, car rental, and hotel vendor contracts
Developing travel policies and enforcing compliance
Overseeing their organization’s booking channels and approval process
Creating and analyzing reports to understand patterns, find ways to reduce spend, and identify opportunities
Integrating corporate travel software that saves time and money
Training employees on their corporate travel program’s policies, processes, and technology
Because business travel safety is among a corporate travel manager’s top priorities, daily tasks may also include awareness of travelers on the road and global security issues. And because generating a positive ROI for a company’s travel program is so important, a corporate travel manager is constantly looking for opportunities to streamline costs and manage efficiencies.
Why Corporate Travel Managers Need a Strong Travel Management Company
Any organization that requires business travel should partner with a corporate travel management company. In addition to the support this relationship provides to the corporate travel manager, travel management companies have the expertise and buying power to:
Transform Your Corporate Travel Program and Improve Performance
A travel management company not only helps you find the best rates on business travel, but works with your corporate travel manager to understand your organization’s needs, outline goals, develop a travel management plan, and identify key performance indicators that showcase how well your travel program operates, reduces corporate travel spend, and delivers an ROI.
Save Money on Corporate Travel
By relying on the expertise of a travel management company, corporate travel managers are able to leverage their organization’s buying power to negotiate the best deals with airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and other business travel service providers. Additionally, travel management companies help corporate travel managers integrate travel policies with booking options to ensure compliance, monitor the reuse of unused airline tickets, and provide both data and consultative services that ultimately save money.
Serve Business Travelers 24/7
When employees are business traveling, concerns and needs can arise anytime of the day. This means corporate travel managers need the 24/7 service travel management companies provide. In an emergency, your employees must have a line of communication to solve the issues they may face on the road and around the world.
Save Time Managing Your Corporate Travel Program
Corporate travel managers wear many hats. They do not have time to research the countless vendors, rates, and reviews to ensure employees are using the best airline for your company, staying in safe lodging, and renting from the car company that aligns with your goals for every trip. But corporate travel management companies have technology, experience, and expertise to automate your program’s processes, find best rates, and assure that employees are safe.
Keep Business Travelers Safe
A strong risk management plan is essential to keeping travelers safe. Corporate travel managers can implement and execute that plan with support from a travel management company who has the technology and relationships required to maintain awareness of global risks, locate travelers, and communicate alerts. And because your corporate travelers have access to 24/7 business travel support, you can be confident that issues will be resolved no matter where they are in the world.
Deliver Travel Management Software that Facilitates a Strong Corporate Travel Program
Corporate travel managers need software solutions that facilitate success and make their job easier. By utilizing Christopherson’s integrated business travel technology, corporate travel managers can work more efficiently, access real-time data, and often reduce travel spend.
As for your travelers, road warriors can also easily manage their business travel with Christopherson’s technology. Through convenient booking options, a traveler-centric dashboard, and mobile apps, they can view itineraries, check in for flights and hotels, integrate trip plans, receive alerts, and communicate with your corporate travel agent team.
What Should Corporate Travel Managers Look for in a Travel Management Company?
Corporate travel managers should look for one thing when partnering with a travel management company—proven experience.
A travel management company that has a strong history of client retention will undoubtedly deliver the critical support corporate travel managers need to manage a successful business travel program.
The ideal travel management company will also provide corporate travel managers with:
An understanding of and responsiveness to your travel program’s unique needs and goals
In researching travel management companies, corporate travel managers should first determine their travel program’s needs, goals, and priorities. Then research and develop a list of potential partners. As you refine that prospect list, you can request demos and presentations, or send an RFI or RFP to help you rank respondents. Ultimately, the best travel management company will be able to prove the value of their partnership and answer the vital question—Why should I choose you?
Christopherson Business Travel—The Leading Corporate Travel Agency
While there are dozens of corporate travel management companies, only one provides the unique intersection of personalized support and digital solutions that can propel your travel program forward. With a client retention rate of 97%, Christopherson Business Travel has proven its value and expertise for more than 60 years.
As many of our clients have begun traveling again, here are four things you should do this month to keep the startup streamlined and easy to navigate:
1. Update Travel Profiles
Have your travelers update their travel profiles to include both their mobile and office phone numbers (and any other applicable lines). Doing this will help their calls route properly to your preferred advisors regardless of the phone they call from.
While they are updating phone numbers, they should also review their entire travel profile to add or delete any new or outdated information. For example, their credit card may have expired. As a reminder, online bookings cannot be issued if the credit card is expired and will require a manual intervention.
2. Turn Booking Site Back On
If you removed the ability to book in Concur in 2020, or your Concur site is currently locked against traveler use, notify your Account Manager that you’re ready to turn the site back on and test it to ensure it’s working correctly.
Additionally, if you’ve changed any of your travel policies in the last year, your Account Manager can help you align your online booking tool with those new policies. Of course, such changes can be made at any time and do not have to be done when you are ready to turn your booking site back on.
3. Check Traveler Programs & Passports
Remind business travelers to check their trusted traveler and passport status. If their TSA programs have expired, they may have lost their Pre-Check benefits and cannot regain them until they renew that service.
Passport status will be of particular importance for some travelers. A passport is typically valid for 10 years, however nearly all countries now require at least a 6-month validity period in order to be admitted. Since passport services were suspended for a large portion of the pandemic, you should anticipate for longer-than-normal processing times for renewing these documents.
4. Review Unused Tickets
Transferable unused tickets (i.e. tickets issued in one person’s name being designated for use by another person) are now offered by some airlines. Airlines providing this type of exchange usually charge a service fee unless certain requirements are met or if you have a partnership agreement in place.
There may be instances where transferring a ticket may not be financially prudent or even possible. Christopherson’s clients can always view any transferable tickets in AirPortal and Account Managers can provide additional support as needed.
For more tips on how travel managers can be ready to support travelers and successfully manage their travel program this year, check out this blog post.
Additional Travel Industry News as of May 3, 2021
While the Real ID requirement is still in the works, the deadline was extended once again. Travelers should have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license by May 3, 2023. We’ve got the full scoop here.
We’ve continued our Executive Q&A interview series with our Chief Technology Officer. Click here to read his thoughts on the role of artificial intelligence in business travel.
We updated our Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide last month to include new information. Both the guide and our state/country restriction database are always accessible from the Info Hub on our website.
Good News Break
Here are a few fun, non-travel-related stories to enjoy:
Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s Chief Technology Officer, JB Walsh. JB shared his expertise and insight on artificial intelligence (AI) and its place in business travel software.
Q: Before diving into the application of artificial intelligence in business travel, let’s just start with your thoughts on where things currently stand with AI.
A: AI has been in the media for years now, but several factors have more recently allowed it to mature to a level where it is being used prevalently across multiple industries. Being comprised of multiple sub-disciplines, AI required advances in deep learning, machine learning, and even natural language processing to really take hold.
Q: For any of us non-tech people, can you explain a bit more about deep learning, machine learning, and natural language processing?
A: Sure. Deep learning are the advances in hardware and cloud services that have allowed real-time analysis of much larger data sets than ever before. Machine learning is the result of the rapidly growing marketplace of off-the-shelf machine learning tools that have opened the doors to inexperienced users wanting to experiment. And natural language processing refers to the advances in natural language processing engines that have allowed developers to easily apply AI services in a variety of new platforms such as mobile devices, bots, etc.
Ultimately, all of these advances mean it’s much less expensive today to invest in AI than it was 5 years ago, so the adoption of AI is growing rapidly.
Q: So how do you see AI being used in the business travel industry?
A: Travel companies across all verticals in the industry have troves of anonymized data available to them for use in business travel-related AI applications and services. An example of this would be the personalization of products and services where anonymized business traveler data is being segmented into various profile types and is then used to predict everything from flight, room, and car preferences, to the best times to offer value added products and services.
Another example would be self-service offerings where AI is used to create bots that can interpret natural language input from business travelers to help them self-service their bookings and other travel needs.
Reputation management is another example. In this case, AI-based applications monitor social networking feeds to determine real-time customer sentiment and automatically intervene where appropriate to abate potentially negative situations.
As a travel management company with industry-leading proprietary software and an in-house development team, we are consistently evaluating where our technology can benefit from AI and in turn restructuring the data we store. Doing this allows us to provide clients with continually better tools that actually help them make informed decisions for their travel programs.
Q: What do you think are the most important benefits of AI for business travel managers?
A: One of the great benefits of AI is the ability to self-serve. Servicing individual traveler needs can be very time consuming for corporate travel managers and can create a work load that fluctuates dramatically. By using technology that employs AI to allow business travelers to self-service their bookings, travel managers can save a lot of time and help mitigate large fluctuations in workload.
Another benefit would be the ability to better evaluate their travel program more quickly. One key success metric for travel managers is to achieve cost savings while retaining high levels of service. While some changes to a travel program may be obvious, AI can uncover seasonal or other less obvious trends that could lead to big cost savings.
Q: From your perspective, do you have any predictions for AI progress or applications in the near future?
A: Today, AI requires large sets of data in order to find meaningful patterns. Additionally, the data still needs some level of intervention by people in order to identify what data is important and what data isn’t. I think the focus over the next five to ten years will likely be to improve in these two key areas. Advances in these areas would allow AI applications and services to run on less powerful devices and make real-time decisions with less historical information. These advances would also help alleviate the growing issues around storing large amounts of personal data while also opening the doors for more advanced self-service bots, innovative disruption management services, and new fraud detection techniques.
Q: Do you have any tips or advice for business travel managers regarding AI?
A: The starting point for travel managers is to understand the data they have available to their organization. Then they need to identify how it can be used to drive additional revenues or lower expenditures. If they’re unsure of how to do this, Christopherson’s Account Managers work closely with our clients to do exactly this. I would also encourage travel managers to utilize our software integration with Domo, to better understand and visualize their data, so that they can in turn make data-driven decisions that benefit their travel program.
Did you know that nearly 1.3 million business trips are taken in the U.S. every single day? According to the Global Business Travel Association that number is expected to rise. Yet, only 60% of companies have a corporate travel policy, the lack of which exposes their company to unnecessary risks like legal complications or overspending. Incorporating a corporate travel management plan can help a company realize a positive ROI on their travel, protect employees while on the road, and improve morale and employee retention rates.
So what is corporate travel management?
Corporate travel management is more than the simple act of booking flights and hotels. It is the integration of an organization’s travel program with a travel management company that can provide expertise in managing travel risks, logistics, budgets and reporting, company travel policies, VIP travel services, unused tickets, and more.
A well-run corporate travel management program empowers employees with industry-best technology, mobile access, and data-based decision making that increases the value of business travel.
What Does A Corporate Travel Management Company Do?
Corporations, non-profits, universities, government agencies, and private businesses of all sizes hire corporate travel management companies to facilitate their corporate travel program. For companies with large travel programs or extensive travel needs, an in-house, on-site travel team may be an ideal service set up, while smaller companies might rely on the corporate travel management company’s agents and online booking tool. Regardless of company size, all clients enjoy the convenience and cost-savings that are accessible through a corporate management company and prefer the peace of mind that comes from having experts handle their business travel needs.
Other benefits of hiring a corporate travel management company are:
Reduced costs—From booking airline tickets and hotels to car rentals and insurance, utilizing the leveraged negotiating power of a corporate travel management company helps organizations reduce overall travel expenses. Integrating travel policies and better managing unused airline tickets all lend to reduced costs. Plus, utilizing the expertise of a corporate travel agent means better planned business trips, access to low fare searches, and other money-saving/time-saving opportunities the most savvy business traveler may not be aware of.
Managed policies—Corporate travel policies protect your company from unnecessary risk and inform your business travelers of your expectations. These policies are in place to avoid legal problems, meet government and local regulations and requirements, and provide for your employee’s safety while traveling. A well-run corporate travel program that maintains strong risk management and enjoys greater cost savings is based upon travelers’ compliance with a well-written, well-communicated, and fully-integrated corporate travel policy.
Time management—Leaving business travelers on their own to plan their trips and find low fares across myriad internet sites with a plethora of options ultimately wastes time. By employing the expertise of experienced corporate travel agents who have the technology and know-how to quickly plan and execute on your travel plans means both time and money is saved with a corporate travel management company.
Integrated Online Booking—While there are multiple online booking websites as well as options to book directly with a vendor, doing so potentially means you’ve got reservations in multiple locations for one business trip. A better option is to provide corporate travelers with an online booking tool that is integrated with your program, policy, and negotiated rates so they can still have the autonomy of booking travel online, while keeping those bookings in a centralized location. This also allows the corporate travel manager to maintain duty of care standards and locate travelers in an emergency. A corporate travel management company can provide this technology and assist with full integration.
Data & Reporting—Measuring the success of your travel program is critical to justifying travel costs and prove the ROI. A corporate management company will provide the data you need to make informed decisions and deliver the right reporting tools to track spend, savings, traveler behavior, and more.
24/7 365 Day Traveler Support—When your travelers are on the road, they may encounter situations that require support at any hour. By partnering with a corporate travel management company that delivers support 24/7 365 days a year, they can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having the assistance they need when they need it.
Mobile Technology—With mobile technology, your travelers can access their itineraries from anywhere in the world, receive alerts to breaking conditions, and immediately contact support. A mobile access point that has all the needed information at their fingertips is critical when searching for hotel confirmations, car rental locations, and flight information.
What Is The Difference Between a Corporate Travel Management Company and a Travel Agency?
If one word were used to explain the difference between a corporate travel management company and a travel agency, it would be “partnership.”
By partnering with a corporate travel management company you have a relationship you can rely on to help you create and implement travel policies, negotiate vendor agreements, access and integrate the latest trends and best practices, fulfill reporting requirements, and more.
While a travel agency may seem similar, travel agencies typically only manage the booking of travel and do not provide in-depth management, analysis, or expertise on how to build a thriving, cost-effective corporate travel program.
Ultimately, with a corporate travel management company, you get a high level of care and concern for the health and success of the entire corporate travel program as well as the experience to manage it with expertise.
What Tasks Will A Corporate Travel Management Company Perform?
A corporate travel management company ultimately provides the corporate travel software, services, and solutions that help manage business travel spend, traveler bookings, travel policy, unused tickets, vendor relationships, and more. Along with delivering support 24/7 365 days a year, a corporate travel management company also provides risk management tools and support so you know where your travelers are in real time in the event of an emergency.
A few of the tasks corporate travel management companies assist with include:
1 – Book travel and provide itineraries. Whether booking business travel online or with a corporate travel agent, the arrangement of your logisitcs—from flights to hotel to ground transportation—are organized for a seamless travel experience. All bookings are also integrated with corporate travel policies for cost-savings, compliance, and risk management.
2 – Expert vendor negotiations. A key benefit of corporate travel management companies is having the expertise of an Account Manager to assist you in vendor negotiations. Through their expert analysis of your travel program’s patterns and volume, they can leverage your spend with airlines, hoteliers, and car rental companies to get better rates and perks for your travelers.
3 – Traveler profile management. Today’s travelers are savvy. They want to maintain and enjoy their reward program status and be able to count on experiencing their travel preferences even when they’re on the road for work. A corporate travel management company can help you manage those individual and unique traveler profiles so every reservation is booked with those preferences and membership numbers integrated. Perks, rewards, and points are earned and travelers don’t have to enter their info every time they book. It’s a win-win.
4 – Arranging business meetings and events. Whether you are planning a small executive retreat or have a 50,000 person conference to arrange, a corporate travel management company often has a dedicated meetings and incentive trip team to help you handle the unique needs of planning a corporate event. From coordinating audio visual equipment to arranging the shipments of displays to managing attendee registration, a corporate travel management company can direct every detail of the experience you are trying to create.
5 – Integrating corporate travel policy. Having access to integrated corporate travel technology allows you manage a more sophisticated, streamlined, cost-saving travel program. One of the most important things to integrate when you begin working with a corporate travel management company is your travel policy. Doing so allows you to take advantage of your negotiated corporate rates, ensure that you aren’t overspending, maintain better duty of care, and more easily track and report on spend.
What Challenges Do Corporate Travel Management Companies Help Companies Overcome?
As mentioned previously, one of the greatest benefits of partnering with a corporate travel management company is being able to rely on their experience and expertise. This becomes particularly valuable when challenges arise for business travelers on the road. Here are just a few difficulties organizations may face and how a corporate travel management company can help.
Cancelled trips or delayed flights – On average, a cancelled business trip costs a company around $900. Corporate travel management companies help mitigate that cost by:
providing ‘round-the-clock service so travelers have rebooking assistance in the moment
providing technology to manage unused airline tickets if the trip is cancelled
providing assistance in working with vendors for refunds, vouchers, or any recourse available
In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold, the partnership of a corporate travel management company proved to be essential with the flurry of cancelled business trips.
En route support – Any company with multiple travelers on the road in either domestic or international locations (or both) experiences the challenge of providing support to everyone at all times. A corporate travel management company with 24/7 365 day traveler support mitigates that challenge by delivering assistance to your travelers no matter where they are in the world. For example, if an employee is delayed due to weather conditions or misses a flight or forgot to book a hotel, support can be facilitated, flights can be rebooked, or accommodations quickly made.
En route safety – Duty of care should be a top priority for any company with business travelers. By employing comprehensive travel policies, communicating safety protocols and emergency plans, and utilizing risk management technology, companies can decrease the risks associated with business travel in measure. And if a safety or emergency situation does arise en route, corporate travel management companies can provide the support companies need to get their business travelers home safely.
The New Reality of Business Travel in A Post-COVID World
Managing traveler safety, wellness, and the overall experience throughout the next decade is going to be a top priority for corporate travel managers. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the necessity of better managing risk, increasing policy compliance, and implementing strong communication plans.
As we move farther into 2021 with the rollout of vaccines and a return to more normal life, business travel has already begun to resume. Companies are eager to make up lost ground in developing business relationships. After all, nearly ? of business travelers believe that it is difficult to build working business relationships via Zoom calls.
But business travel will certainly look different and any employee hesitation to travel will need to be addressed. Companies need to communicate how their preferred travel vendors are complying with COVID-19 regulations for safety and cleanliness. Companies will also need to take into account border restrictions or required quarantines on either end of a business trip.
A corporate travel management company can provide the resources travel managers need to keep travelers well-informed and make smart, safe decisions for their travel program.
How To Choose A Corporate Travel Management Company
Whether you’ve supported your business travelers internally for two months or twenty years, contacting a corporate travel management company to learn how they can service your unique needs is an essential step to streamlining your travel program.
Here are a few things to look for in a corporate travel management company:
Innovative technology with mobile access for travelers
Online booking tools and experienced corporate travel agents
24/7 365 customer support
Account management to guide your program
Extensive vendor networks and leveraged connections
Data analytics and reporting tools
Global travel expertise
Why Christopherson Is Your Corporate Travel Management Solution
Christopherson Business Travel delivers the industry-leading technology companies need to save money on business travel, achieve their corporate travel program goals, and meet their travelers needs. We also employ the expertise of Account Managers who develop unique travel management plans that help clients deliver an ROI on their business travel. And we provide an easy, integrated booking experience both through the online booking tool or with our corporate travel agents that leaves business travelers satisfied.
To schedule a demo of our program and tools, click here.
Editor’s Note: Since the time of posting, the Department of Homeland Security announced a 19-month, pandemic-related delay of the deadline to obtain compliant Real IDs. The new deadline is May 3, 2023.
READY TO TRAVEL? YOU CAN’T TAKEOFF UNTIL YOU’RE REAL ID READY
Vaccinations, laptop, sunscreen – check. REAL ID. What? You might be ready to travel, but starting October 1, 2021, you’ll need a compliant REAL ID or another acceptable ID form for domestic travel. Here’s what you need to know before you take off.
A QUICK BACKGROUND OF THE REAL ID ACT
The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005 in response to 9/11 Commission recommendations to prevent terrorism, was designed to make our forms of personal identification more consistent and secure.
But enforcement of the Act has been a long time coming. According to the New York Times, “The rollout has been delayed many times over the years after some states complained that the original deadline of 2008 was unreasonable.”
Timing may not have been the only factor. The cost, about $3.9 billion, was largely footed by the states, as federal aid to implement the Act totaled only $225 million. States also had difficulty getting the databases used to verify residents’ paperwork to function correctly.
And just as states were lining up their ducks for the Act’s enforcement deadline in 2020, a global pandemic blew them out of the water.
Many states responded to the pandemic by closing their Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices, the agencies largely responsible for issuing REAL ID-compliant documentation.
State and federal agencies responded by granting grace periods for expiring driver’s licenses to minimize in-person contact and its inherent risk of infection to DMV employees and the general public.
THE CURRENT STATUS OF REAL IDs
In response to the pandemic, the National Governors Association sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March 2020 requesting a minimal year-long extension of the REAL ID enforcement deadline.
That time is almost up: enforcement of the REAL ID Act begins on October 1, 2021.
According to the Federal Register, “Beginning on that date, federal agencies may not accept a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for official purposes from any individual unless such license or card is a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that DHS has determined is in full compliance.”
Without a REAL ID, you will be unable to travel within the United States by air—or enter certain federal buildings, Department of Defense installations, and nuclear power plants.
To prepare for Act enforcement, the DHS maintains a map showing state compliance. If your state is compliant, and your driver’s license or non-driver identification card is due to expire before the October 1, 2021, deadline, the new ID issued to you will have a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip, indicated by a star symbol, or will be “enhanced,” depending on your location.
A compliant license will be marked with one of the star symbols shown below, and an enhanced license will be marked “enhanced.”
Since many driver’s licenses lapsed during the pandemic and resultant REAL ID-enforcement grace period, travelers should ascertain the status of their documentation and act quickly. The DMV lines are likely to be long—and we all want to get back in the air.
To help you become compliant, questions regarding REAL ID enforcement are addressed in the following FAQ section. Additional information can be obtained from your state or local DMV office and the DHS.
REAL ID FAQS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS
When is the Real ID deadline?
All driver’s licenses will be accepted until October 1, 2021. On that date, TSA will only accept compliant state-issued IDs.
Passengers without a compliant form of ID will not be allowed through TSA security checkpoints beginning October 1, 2021.
Who needs a REAL ID?
All U.S. travelers flying domestically need a REAL ID or other acceptable form of ID unless they are minors traveling with a REAL ID-compliant adult.
Christopherson Connections: A Virtual Event SUCCESS!
Thank you to everyone who attended our first-ever Christopherson Connections virtual event! Here’s what a few attendees had to say:
“Thank you! Great sessions filled with helpful information.” -Jennifer B.
“This conference has been wonderful! Great job! Love the DJ!” -Amy M.
“This is the most fun I’ve had all year!” -Teri S.
If you were unable to attend or would like to watch the keynote or breakout sessions again, please reach out to your Christopherson Account Manager for the event links. Each session provides key information about purposefully returning to travel and what our vendor partners are doing to support and protect your travelers.
CDC Says: Vaccinated People Can Travel
The CDC has said that fully-vaccinated people can resume domestic travel and do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
As for international travel, they said fully vaccinated people do not need to get tested before leaving the United States (unless required by the destination) or self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States. Although you do still need a negative test to board an international flight to the U.S.
Executive Q&A: Christopherson’s CCO Talks About the Era of Purposeful Travel
We continued our Executive Q&A series last month by interviewing Christopherson’s new Chief Consulting Officer, Matt Cameron. We sat down with Matt to get his thoughts on the travel industry entering “The Era of Purposeful Travel.” What is it and how do organizations implement it? Read the interview here.
5 Major Pains Travel Managers Face as Travel Resumes In 2021 (& How To Overcome Them)
Strong Customer Authentication: All your Questions Answered
Paying for travel in Europe has become more complicated following the introduction of mandatory cardholder verification known as Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). SCA is straightforward for consumers but, when it comes to corporate travel, an authentication step makes matters messy because third parties are often involved in the reservation and payment process. Read this Q&A to learn what you need to know.
Back to Travel Guide: 2021 Updates on Vaccine Programs, Digital Health Passes & More
This Back to Travel Guide, created by our global affiliate BCD Travel, helps travel stakeholders lead their companies and travelers to safe, efficient and necessary travel decisions. These What You Need to Know reports are also helpful, timely resources.
Good News Break
Here are a few non-travel-related stories our team members enjoyed and wanted to share.
Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s Chief Consulting Officer, Matt Cameron. We sat down with Matt to get his thoughts on the travel industry entering “The Era of Purposeful Travel.” What is it and how do organizations implement it?
Q: Can you share your perspective on how companies and organizations reacted to what happened in the travel industry over the last year?
A: Traditionally, most organizations based their travel budget on the previous year’s budget, plus or minus a bit. If the organization was growing, then it made sense that the travel budget should also grow. If they were consolidating and cutting costs, then it made sense to tighten the travel budget up. Travel was viewed as a cost to be managed.
That status quo changed on March 11, 2020—the day that shocked the travel industry when international travel to Europe was halted by the US government in response to the growing concern over the COVID-19 virus. In an instant, leisure travel, business travel, and group travel came to a screeching halt. Nobody knew what the impact of the virus would be. Would people die? Would the economy be sent into an unrecoverable tail spin? Or would it all be over in a couple months? Amidst these concerns, organizations acted to protect their employees and their liquid assets. As we all experienced—employees were sent home to limit their exposure. All unnecessary costs were eliminated. And the world went into lockdown.
After the initial shock wore off, it became clear that some travel was still necessary. This was the start of what was dubbed “permissible travel.” There were still questions: Which governments would allow travel into their countries and if so, under what guidelines and restrictions? How would organizations manage the health risks and financial risks of sending their employees on business trips? Would employees even be willing to travel with all of the unknown risks and personal fears? Travel in 2020 was characterized by these shifting sands in the travel landscape.
Q: So after a year of permissible travel, what comes next?
A: It’s now been a year since COVID-19 changed the world. It’s also springtime, a season of new growth and opportunity. With this new season, I’d say we’re also entering a time that marks “the era of purposeful travel,” to use a term coined by Festive Road, an influential thought-leader in our industry.
“Purposeful travel” is the idea that all travel must have an ROI and relies on zero-based budgeting. Travel is an investment to be made to drive business results. Corporate travel programs need to be asking who, where, why, when, and how about their business travel. And every trip should support an organization’s objectives, drive strategic initiatives, build important relationships, or generate revenue and growth.
Q: How then, can companies and organizations make the shift to implementing purposeful travel?
Corporate travel managers should work with their leadership teams to consider several key questions: What is the best way to achieve our objectives? Will a video call suffice or would it be more powerful to meet in person? What is the level of influence needed to meet our objective? What is our competition doing and could we get a competitive edge by being in the room with the client or prospect? Who should be in the room, i.e. do we need the full team or could we be as effective with a smaller team? What is the most efficient way to get there—air, train, or car? Can we accomplish multiple objectives in one long trip or should we focus on shorter day trips?
All these elements and more should be considered as organizations think about aligning travel with business results and achieving more purposeful travel in 2021. Of course, Christopherson’s Account Managers are ready and available to help our clients explore the concepts of purposeful travel and successfully implement this idea.
You might say everything has been a challenge for travel managers since the beginning of the pandemic. They’ve coped with staff reductions (and may have been laid off or furloughed themselves), lost vendor contacts (but are simultaneously bombarded by vendor calls and emails touting their properties and discounts), and are taking more administrative and managerial approaches to travel management as they integrate with corporate stakeholders to examine and revise travel policies—all while preparing to resume traveling at a somewhat nebulous point in the future.
To help smooth your transition back into traveling, we reached out to several travel managers and asked what major pain points they face as they contemplate getting employees back on the road. Here’s what they said.
1. How do we overcome the fear of traveling?
In October, a Harvard study asserted that, as far as contracting the coronavirus is concerned, flying with proper precautions is less risky than a trip to the grocery store or your favorite restaurant. That assertion doesn’t reassure most business travelers, though, or their corporate travel stakeholders.
Domo’s Global Travel Manager, Denise Daniel, says that overcoming traveler and management concerns over potential risks to employees on the road is one of the biggest challenges currently facing travel managers.
And even when you have some road warriors who want to get back out there to visit clients and make sales calls, the pandemic makes other employees “reluctant to come in for an office visit,” said Gordon Cowley, Director of Travel, Operational Services, at CHG Healthcare.
For Rimini Street—and many other businesses—the decision to resume travel is tied to the global roll-out of vaccines, but it is challenging to track global vaccination progress. “We need a benchmark to evaluate our return to travel,” said Debbie Welder, Rimini Street’s Global Corporate Travel Manager. “Vaccinations aren’t proceeding smoothly, and there’s a lack of knowing how many people are vaccinated.”
Maureen Sullivan-Esola, Senior Travel Manager at NICE Systems, agrees that access to the vaccine, as well as better dissemination of information through the media, will help travel resume. “That’s the feedback I’m getting from our travelers, by the way.”
As your stakeholders consider returning to travel in conjunction with vaccination roll-out, you can inform your decisions using the COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage Index, a tool many government decision-makers rely on, to track vaccination barriers and progress. With a U.S. level-of-concern map and county-specific search options, travel stakeholders can obtain information for specific areas (e.g., branch offices, client sites) or get a high-level view of progress by looking at how many residents in a particular state have received one and two doses of the vaccine in each state.
If your firm is encouraging, or even requiring, vaccinations before allowing travel, sharing vaccine availability with your travelers may help you meet your objective. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), Harvard Medical School, and other collaborators created the VaccineFinder site, which shows types of COVID-19 vaccines available, gives contact information for vaccination sites, notes their hours of operation, and provides instructions on how to obtain a vaccination. The site also allows selection of vaccine by brand and shows its availability using a zip code-centered radius.
2. How do we know our travelers’ destinations are safe?
Whether it’s a meeting at a client’s office, nearby hotel conference room, or other facility, face-to-face interactions require that travelers and travel managers prepare for whatever the traveler may experience at their destination.
“How do we determine what is being done at the other end when we send out our travelers?” said Welder.
Vendor policies and the health and safety measures vendors implement to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can be inconsistent across the globe. They can also vary between hotels in the same chain, which is another issue for travel managers and travelers.
As part of your vetting process, research recent reviews of individual properties where you’re considering sending travelers. Forbes and ReviewTrackers ranked Google and TripAdvisor as the top two hotel review sites.
Additionally, Christopherson offers the COVID-19 Travel Vendor Health and Safety Guide to inform the vendor vetting process as you compare protocols across brands. Use the guide to develop questions for individual hotel properties so you can ascertain which protocols are and are not being followed before adding the hotel to your preferred vendors or making reservations.
After you’ve vetted and selected your preferred hotels, let your travelers know what to ask on arrival and to look for signs that indicate cleaning protocols are being followed.
Request a room that has not been stayed in for a few days.
Look for a cleanliness certificate at the front desk or in the room.
Check the room for dust, including the heating vents.
After your traveler returns, ask for feedback about the property and its health and safety measures and adjust your preferred vendors as needed.
Cowley, whose medical staff has been traveling throughout the pandemic, says he only uses vendors that meet or exceed the CDC’s COVID-19 standards. “I get occasional feedback from travelers when there is an issue. We haven’t had to change any vendors, but we shifted our airline preference to Delta Air Lines when Alaska Airlines stopped blocking middle seats.”
As far as hotels are concerned, Cowley says they are really delivering on their cleaning promises, and Sullivan-Esola says the airlines are successfully conveying their protocols to customers.
“Fortunately, I think the airlines have done a great job in communicating to us, and the TMCs, with all of the actions that all of the vendors are taking to mitigate the fear and some of the tangible COVID issues,” said Sullivan-Esola. “So I think that’s been really helpful to us.”
3. How do we keep track of changing border restrictions?
Tracking fluctuating border closures and regulations across countries, states, counties, and vendors is an arduous task for travel managers.
According to GBTA’s poll, 56% of travel managers and stakeholders said border closures and restrictions “significantly impacted” business travel and increased confusion, contributing to the uncertainty of when business travel can resume, among other impacts.
“Many jurisdictions have their own health and safety protocols. For example, different Hawaiian islands have different protocols and restrictions,” said Welder. “There are even different county guidelines for meetings and events.”
To help travel managers and stakeholders keep tabs on border restrictions, Christopherson provides clients with access to a state and country entry restriction database on the COVID-19 Travel Information page of our website, includes a link to the database on every itinerary we send, and embeds the link in the online booking tool so your travelers can check border restrictions at time of booking.
Another good resource is from Global Rescue, who provides global travel risk and crisis management services and offers a free subscription to daily coronavirus alerts, which are sent directly to your inbox. The alerts include U.S. and international border restrictions, lockdowns, curfews, and stay-at-home orders, as well as testing and self-isolation regulations.
U.S. News & World Report also addresses state-by-state mask mandates in a recent article that provides links to regulations and additional state-specific COVID-19 information.
5. How do we handle airline tickets and credits that expire before travel resumes?
One of Daniel’s current challenges is “trying to use up expiring airline ticket credits that have vastly different rules by ticket, even on the same airline.”
Many travel managers are facing this dilemma, as unused tickets purchased before the pandemic creep nearer to their expiration dates.
“This year we had a ton of cancellations in February and March with COVID. We had intentions of going to New Zealand, so we’ve got UATP cards for Delta and United,” said J. Ross Salmon, Director of Administrative Services at Nu Skin Enterprises, “ . . . as well as AirBank credits.”
As Salmon mentioned, Christopherson’s AirBank tool is available to help travel managers track the life cycle of unused tickets, send automated alerts regarding ticket expiration, and ensure the use of these tickets when new flights are booked, regardless of whether they are booked online or with a travel advisor.
However, if your unused tickets approach expiration and your company hasn’t resumed traveling, your account manager wants to hear from you.
“If you find an unused ticket that doesn’t have an extended expiration date or is expiring, reach out to your account manager to see what options are available,” said Client Consultant Services Manager Dallas Stewart. “If you have a corporate agreement with the airline or a high-value ticket, we can try to get waivers for name changes or extend the ticket’s expiration date.”
A monthly roundup of business travel news, featuring important technology updates, helpful links and resources, and the latest from the industry.
FAQ: Top 15 Things Travel Managers Ask About Concur Travel
Whether you are new to Christopherson Business Travel or Concur Travel, new to managing travel, or you are a seasoned professional, our goal is to make your job easier.
To this end, we queried our account managers, support specialists, and business development managers to find out which questions travel managers are asking most frequently about Concur Travel. You can read the FAQ roundup here with all the answers.
Executive Q&A: Christopherson’s CRO Shares What Companies Really Need From TMCs
We continued our Executive Q&A series last month by interviewing Christopherson’s new Chief Revenue Officer, Kathleen Roberts. She shares her thoughts on what organizations really need from corporate travel management companies, the value of partnership, and the opportunities that lie ahead for the business travel industry. Read the interview here.
Carry On: How Travel Advisors Will Get You Back to Traveling
Research Snapshot: North American Airline Performance Q4 2020
COVID-19 continues to take its toll on airline performance. This new Research Snapshot from our global affiliate BCD Travel takes a closer look at the financial and operational performance of North America’s largest airlines in Q4 2020.
Good News Break
A few non-travel-related stories our team members enjoyed this week.
Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s new Chief Revenue Officer, Kathleen Roberts. She shares her thoughts on what organizations really need from corporate travel management companies, the value of partnership, and the opportunities that lie ahead for the business travel industry.
Q: As we come through to the other side of the pandemic, there seems to be a shift occurring in how organizations manage their business travel. Can you share your insights on what you’re seeing as you help these organizations find solutions?
A: The majority of business trips taken during the pandemic have been business critical. As companies prepare for a broader return to travel we are seeing increased interest in traveler safety and well-being, as well as the employees’ overall disposition to traveling again. The sharp decline in 2020 travel budgets is leading to increased awareness from finance and leadership around the value of each trip. And while the industry has made significant advances in duty of care, there are new expectations emerging. These factors are leading to an increase in pre-trip authorization requirements, ease of access to planning tools and travel vendor safety information, and improved risk-management resources.
Q: What seems to be most important right now for organizations as they revamp their travel programs?
A: Travel policy. Historically, travel policy review often centered around cost-savings and reimbursement. The current environment requires a more holistic approach involving additional topics and stakeholders. HR, security, and legal teams may become involved or at least topics relating to the areas of traveler safety, risk management, and liability.
Q: What do you think is the greatest value a travel management company (TMC) brings to the table to meet these pressing needs?
A: Partnership. By using a TMC, organizations are able to consolidate travel spend, vendor negotiations, risk management, policy compliance, data, and reporting into a trusted partnership. They gain integrations with industry-leading technology, improved traveler experience, and significant cost savings. We’re able to customize travel programs that align with our customers’ culture and corporate objectives. We’re then able to quantify the value of our partnership through detailed scorecards and traveler surveys.
Q: You’ve worked in travel for a while—what are the biggest opportunities you see today in business travel?
A: Consolidation. The pandemic has organizations of every size evaluating how they purchase and manage travel. Existing customers that allowed outside booking methods are directing travelers to utilize our services to ensure program consistency, compliance, and consolidation. Prospective clients with travel budgets of various sizes and who have not previously worked with a TMC are eager to engage with us. They found themselves facing numerous challenges at the start of the pandemic and are seeking a better solution post-pandemic. Providing the benefits of a managed travel program and assisting them with developing solutions that address organizational requirements, improve the traveler experience, and help them prepare to return to travel is absolutely rewarding for both parties.
Q: Not only have you worked in travel for a while, but you’ve been with Christopherson for 15 years now. How has the company changed or evolved?
A: Growth. I joined the Christopherson team in 2006 as they became the largest travel company in the state of Utah with $125 million in annual bookings. We ended 2019 at nearly $700 million and in the top 15 travel firms nationally. While 2020 was a detour from our revenue growth, we successfully implemented 96 new accounts last year, most of which have yet to resume traveling. With a solid financial plan in place, we have maintained our momentum and growth strategy.
Q: As a sales executive, you traveled frequently before COVID. Why do you think travel is so important for doing business?
A: Relationships. Virtual meetings have provided valuable connection throughout the pandemic, but they’re not a substitute for in-person interaction. The following scenario may be overused, but it’s a valid point: “Once the person who presents over webinar loses a deal to the competitor who presented in person, they’ll get back out on the road.” This applies beyond sales to include most business interactions. The Global Business Travel Association reported in their January 2021 survey results that 49 percent of business travelers are currently “somewhat willing or very willing” to travel for business. As the vaccine rollout continues, I expect that percentage to increase.
Q: And finally, just for fun, what are your favorite business and leisure travel destinations?
A: Business travel has taken me to exciting places that I may not have otherwise experienced. Memorable business trips in recent years included traveling to interact with Christopherson team members in Colorado and Alabama. I’ve also enjoyed amazing leisure travel experiences. Some of my highlights include Africa, Australia, and Europe. But I think my first post-pandemic, international vacation might be my most appreciated. I’m ready to travel again!
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: COVID-19 TRAVEL VENDOR HEALTH & SAFETY GUIDE
“COVID-19 will reinvent the travel process around safety, cleanliness, and virus transmission protection. Terms like social distancing, personal protection equipment (PPE), and antibody immunity testing are now part of our new travel vocabulary. We are up for the challenge, and we will reinvent ourselves to help you and the travelers for whom you have a duty of care responsibility.”
– Mike Cameron, CEO, Christopherson Business Travel
Cleanliness is Key to Safe Travel
Do I need to wear a mask at the Delta terminal? How crowded is United’s economy class? Is Marriott practicing social distancing? Has Hilton discontinued breakfast or housekeeping? Will National sanitize my rental car?
There is a lot of apprehension about the safety of travel during this coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, you need to know what steps travel providers are taking to keep their airline cabins, hotel rooms, and rental cars clean.
A Comprehensive Guide to Travel Vendor Cleanliness Standards
We want to help corporate travel managers make smart decisions with their business travelers. To that end, we created a COVID-19 Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide. This in-depth resource will be updated regularly. It provides relevant information about travel vendors’ health and safety standards. You may want to bookmark this page and share it with your business travelers.
Vendor Health & Safety Measures
In the COVID-19 Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide, you’ll find a list of the steps travel providers are taking to keep travelers healthy. The guide begins with links to major sources of pandemic safety guidelines and TSA protocols. It then moves on to measures being implemented by major airline, ground transportation, and hotel brands.
If you have questions or concerns about cleanliness and health in regards to business travel, we invite you use this guide. Doing so will allow you to review and compare vendors’ overall efforts to provide a safe travel experience.
A monthly roundup of business travel news, featuring important technology updates, helpful links and resources, and the latest from the industry.
A New AirBank for Superior Unused Ticket Management
Phase one of the update to our unused airline ticket management tool, AirBank, is complete. Users will continue to access the tool via AirPortal. AirBank’s enhancements are the result of our new integration with Magnatech, a leading developer of travel management software. This integration strengthens AirBank to provide:
Superior data accuracy
Greater visibility into your unused ticket funds
Improved management of non-profiled travelers’ unused funds
Additional updates will continue to be made throughout the month. We’ll keep you informed as those enhancements go live. If customers have any immediate questions, please reach out to your Account Manager or our Account Support Team.
State/Country Travel Restriction Database
Use Christopherson’s new travel tool, powered by Sherpa, to help you quickly see the current COVID-19 travel guidelines, entry restrictions, risk levels, quarantine measures, and more for domestic and international destinations. We invite you to bookmark the link and share it with your travelers.
Negative COVID Tests Required for International Travelers Coming to U.S.
For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, all travelers age2 and older boarding international flights to the United States must present a negative coronavirus test taken no more than three days before their flight or proof they recovered from the virus within the past three months. Here’s how to do so.
We took the opportunity to sit down with our CEO, Mike Cameron, to get his reflections on the challenges of 2020, learn how Christopherson is currently doing, and find out what he sees for the future. Check out the interview here.
Are you using all the technology Christopherson provides?
Countries have begun their vaccination programs. But how long will it take to vaccinate entire adult populations? What plans do governments have and what progress have they made so far? Based on official data and government declarations, our global affiliate BCD Travel put together two Research Snapshots to provide a quick look at what may lie ahead for some European countries and a small selection of countries outside of Europe.
WEBINAR: iBank Training
Did you miss our iBank training webinar last month? Customers can reach out to their Account Manager or our Account Support Team for the recording link. The presentation provides an overview of the updated interface and outlines what’s new in the tool.
Good News Break
Because we all need a break sometimes, here are a few non-travel-related stories our team members enjoyed:
Our goal is to make your job easier, whether you are new to Christopherson Business Travel or Concur Travel, new to managing travel, or you are a seasoned professional.
To this end, we queried our account managers, support specialists, and business development managers to find out which questions travel managers are asking most frequently.
1. What is the difference between Christopherson and Concur?
Christopherson is a travel management company (TMC) that provides clients with a consultative approach to travel management, including developing and refining travel programs and policies to meet an organization’s travel goals and budget. Concur is software as a service (SaaS) that provides a website for booking travel. As a TMC, we provide clients with access to this website, which is also referred to as an online booking tool.
Essentially, Christopherson is the bridge that connects Concur to the global distribution system (GDS), a large computer network and reservation tool where air, lodging, transportation, and other travel vendors upload their inventories for booking purposes.
Clients access Concur by either logging into Christopherson’s proprietary AirPortal platform, which integrates with Concur in the cloud, or by logging into Concur directly, depending on account configuration. Although clients use the Concur tool, we provide support for it, regardless of whether the booking is made online or through one of our travel advisors.
2. What is Christopherson’s relationship with Concur?
Concur ranks its TMC partners according to their proficiency with the online booking tool. Our Elite Partner status, which is the top tier in the Concur program, means that Christopherson (1) provides clients with the highest possible integration with Concur, (2) provides in-house Concur-certified support, and (3) offers travel management expertise and reporting tools that complement Concur’s functionality.
3. How does Christopherson provide technical support for Concur?
Christopherson supports our Concur customers with the specialized expertise of our online support team and online technology team.
Online Support Team
The online booking tool is intuitive and user friendly, but if travelers have an issue while booking travel they are directed to Christopherson’s online support team, a team that was specifically formed to help travelers navigate the booking process. The team’s purpose is to help every traveler become comfortable and proficient with using the online booking tool so they can make their own reservations.
The online support team also assists travelers with error messages, which saves travelers time and alleviates frustration. Team members provide tips that enable travelers to get their desired results when booking online, such as teaching travelers to return a broader search result and then narrow it to locate their desired options.
Our online technology team operates behind the scenes to ensure that automated processes function correctly. While we expect that every reservation proceeds smoothly, manual intervention is occasionally required.
As needed, team members will open a case with Concur and work with their technical team to resolve an issue so your travelers can continue working on their own projects.
4. How can travelers prevent issues when using Concur?
Our support teams recommend using Google Chrome or Firefox with Concur, as they are more reliable than Internet Explorer.
Also, clearing the temporary data cache and cookies from your computer or mobile device often resolves issues.
5. Do you support Concur Expense?
While Concur’s Travel and Expense tools are fully integrated, the Expense module is supported by your organization or in direct partnership with Concur. Our teams support the Travel module, as detailed above.
6. How does Concur handle travel policy?
Concur facilitates enforcement of travel policies by allowing custom definitions of the following:
rules for each travel policy, such as approval hierarchies, authorized vendors, and spending limits;
actions to take in the event of policy violations;
exceptions that merit overriding the approval workflow; and
role-based security within the application.
Concur uses visual guilt features to guide users to select airlines, hotels, and car suppliers that are within policy. Users are notified when a travel segment is out of policy in several ways:
In-policy options display a green checkmark and can be configured to include messaging to guide user selections.
A yellow triangle denotes when a segment is set for reporting or manager approval purposes.
A red stop sign signals that the trip cannot be booked online.
Clients may customize the messaging that explains violations and company policy. This configurable solution not only allows clients to control policy rules across their organizations but also gives them the ability to create unlimited policy rule groups by location, role, department, and more.
7. How can I encourage travelers to book within policy on Concur?
The easier planning is for travelers, the more likely they are to comply with policy. There are several methods you can use to increase compliance:
Filter choices. The tool can be configured to display only your preferred vendors and highlight your preferences, so the options offered to travelers are all within policy.
Direct choices. Instead of limiting the content a traveler can view, you may opt to direct their choices using behavioral science. The visual guilt approach suggests to travelers that they reconsider out-of-policy choices by displaying messages encouraging them to stay within policy and alerts that their selection is non-compliant.
Demonstrate safer choices. Showing your travelers how Christopherson’s SecurityLogic tool provides them with travel alerts and allows location tracking in case of emergency is also a valuable reminder that staying within policy is a safer choice and booking off-channel carries inherent risks.
8. How can trips booked in Concur be funneled to managers for approval?
Concur’s approval tool can be configured so that a ticket will not be issued until the booking is within policy parameters or has been approved by a designated manager. When there is a policy violation, travelers will be required to select reason codes and provide comments regarding the violation for notification, approval, and reporting purposes.
All travel policy violation comments, reason codes, and the policy-compliant options presented to the traveler but not selected are routed to the approving manager via email. Upon notification, the approving manager can accept or reject the trip via email, browser, or the Concur Mobile application. If no action is taken, the reservation will be held until the ticket time limit forces trip cancellation.
Policy rules can also be configured so that reservations within policy are also forwarded to the traveler’s manager.
9. What should be included in a Traveler Profile?
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations require that a traveler’s profile contain the traveler’s name (must be identical to the name on the driver license), gender, date of birth, and one contact telephone number. Additional profile information can be chosen by you and your travelers.
We recommend that travelers customize their profiles to include all travel preferences, frequent-traveler program memberships, preferred method of payment, and traveler number for TSA PreCheck. The name used for travel program memberships must also match the traveler’s ID.
Encourage travelers to verify their profile information before booking to proactively eliminate errors that can delay the process, and remind them that profiles must be updated using the Concur web version and not the mobile app.
10. How can I delete a Traveler Profile?
Travel managers can deactivate Traveler Profiles in AirPortal and the AirPortal 360 mobile app. You may also contact Christopherson and we will deactivate profiles for you.
11. What mobile apps are available for Concur?
Concur Mobile. This user-friendly mobile app allows travelers to book travel and view reservations. If travelers have the Expense module, they can also manage receipts and expense reports on mobile devices.
TripIt. Concur integrates with the free version of the TripIt app. When your profile is connected to TripIt and Concur, you can view your trip plans on any web-enabled device and access features like airport maps and neighborhood safety ratings.
TripIt Pro. Integration with Concur’s premium service paid app, TripIt Pro, includes additional features like real-time flight alerts, airport navigation assistance, and automated distribution of travel-plan updates to your designated recipients.
12. How do you guarantee reservation accuracy?
Christopherson uses Concur’s mid-office quality-control tool, Compleat, which automatically checks reservations for errors at milestones during the booking process and runs hundreds of other intelligent processes. Compleat is used when tickets are booked online or through a travel advisor.
13. Can I streamline booking repeated trips to the same destination?
If your travelers regularly go to the same destination on the same flights, you can save time by building a company travel template to use for that particular trip. The air, car, and hotel search criteria will default to your template settings. Only travel administrators can edit company templates.
14. What is the best way to book the same trip for several travelers?
If you are a travel arranger for other employees and/or guests and have two or more travelers heading to the same destination who want the same itinerary, you can save time by using the “clone a trip” option.
15. How does Concur handle traveler data?
Credit card and transaction data are handled by Concur and the GDS, both of which are payment card industry (PCI) compliant. These data are encrypted within Traveler Profiles to meet PCI standards.
As we begin a New Year, we took the opportunity to sit down with our CEO, Mike Cameron, to reflect on the challenges of 2020, learn how Christopherson is currently doing, and get his take on what he sees for the future.
Q: Mike, as you reflect on the last year, what are your thoughts about what we’ve collectively been through?
A: Early on I used a metaphor with our team that enduring COVID-19 would be like driving through the long tunnels in Switzerland where there is no obvious end in sight but you have confidence that that part of the journey is temporary and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been just as confident there will be light at the end of this tunnel. The vaccines have definitely created some visible light.
When the pandemic hit, we had to be decisive, conservative, and compassionate. We immediately made a pivot from our growth strategy to a protection strategy–one that protected our people, our clients, and our customer experience–while also protecting our cash.
Although it has been painful, I’ve had a calm feeling during the past ten months that our strategy was solid, our liquidity was adequate, and we were going to come out stronger and better than before the pandemic began. Fortunately, we are still ahead of the plan.
Q: What did you find to be the most difficult aspects of the year?
A: As a family owned company,?we had?to reach deep into our souls?to?accept the reality of what was happening?and?find?solutions that would be as compassionate?as possible,?but?also?realistic to ensure that the company would survive. My wife and I had to make?the most difficult?decisions we’ve made?in our 30 years of owning the business. It was gut-wrenching to ask our team members to embrace sacrifices that would impact their personal lives in dramatic ways.
We took decisive action and made the necessary furloughs, layoffs, and pay cuts all at once in that first week as the pandemic wreaked havoc in the U.S. We got some bad press for doing so, but we have since been able avoid making any more significant personnel changes relating to the economic pressures of COVID-19.
Decisive action early on also gave us the luxury of steadily improving things over the last 11 months. It allowed us to avoid the alternative of asking our employees to face continual rounds of layoffs or “death by a thousand cuts.” I believe this helped make our team’s morale more positive, and thankfully, we still have more than 50% of our team intact even though our bookings are less than 25% of 2019’s.
Q: How do the challenges 2020 brought compare to previous challenges Christopherson and the travel industry have faced??
A: Previous challenges, including the airline commission cuts that began in 1995, the launch of Expedia (the first major online travel competitor) in 1996, the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and the financial collapse in 2008 were nothing compared to last year. We were able to adapt and navigate the other four major challenges with relative ease. In 30 years we never had a non-profitable year or even a half-year until 2020.
That said, we’re prepared to lose money, or as I like to call it, “make investments,” in 2020 and 2021. We hope to be profitable again in Q4 of 2021 and for sure by 2022. In either case, we’re prepared to make whatever investments are necessary.
Q: Did anything positive come out of 2020 for Christopherson?
A: There has been so much positive that came out of our most difficult year ever. We started with a focus on managing the travel crisis, taking care of our people, and stabilizing the business. As soon as we felt confident that we had a solid plan for long-term viability, we started investing in strategies to be leaner, smarter, and better.
To be leaner, we created a smaller footprint with less office overhead. To be smarter, we eliminated costs that didn’t create value and replaced some of the technology we previously built with best-in-class, third-party alternatives. To be better, we began reinventing a better digital and human customer experience.
Q: How does Christopherson stand today as a company?
A: We now have more people working on our team than we had after the initial layoffs and furloughs. We’ve called some team members back, and we’ve also recruited from outside for the digital reinvention in which we’re investing. We still have the liquidity to weather the rest of the storm.
Q: What do you think are the greatest impacts the pandemic had on the travel industry?
A: The most significant by far is the human cost. The layoffs, furloughs, and compensation reductions have impacted tens of millions of people in what was previously a fairly stable, robust industry. There are countries and even U.S. states where travel and tourism was their leading economic driver. It has been devastating for everyone.
Q: What are your goals for Christopherson in the coming year and beyond?
A: Two weeks before the pandemic began, we had just announced a billion-dollar booking/sales goal. Frankly, it didn’t seem like much of a stretch, based on our 30-year trajectory. What a difference two weeks makes! We know we will be back on track soon to reach that goal. We’ve had bit of a detour, but our journey forward will be more secure with us being leaner, smarter, and better.
Q: In your opinion, what should companies do to position themselves for success in 2021?
A: At a high level, don’t forget about the people that helped you become successful and don’t forget about the strategies that made you successful. While many of the cost cuts everyone made were necessary to survive the crisis, don’t assume that they can all be permanent. Some will be because we had to become smarter.
To that point, even travel cuts, which were made for safety reasons and did provide budget-cut benefits, will not likely all be permanent. While we probably won’t see many people traveling for a one-hour internal meeting because Zoom is a much better alternative, when it comes to winning new business, organizations will quickly see the ROI on travel when a competitor does their presentation in person and you do yours on Zoom. We may also find that where some organizations bring their teams together for collaboration, engagement, or performance rewards, and others don’t, Zoom may be a losing strategy when trying to outpace competitors. Ultimately, no one knows how much travel will be forever reduced.
Q: What new opportunities do you think the pandemic opened up?
A: The pandemic accelerated digital adoption. It transformed business forever and created both the need and the opportunity for travel management companies, or any company really, to accelerate and transform their own digital and human customer experience in order to remain competitive.
Those who have the ability to meet that need will be more successful than others. Those who can find the right blend of both a digital and human customer experience service model will grow faster than others. We can no longer do business as usual.
Managing corporate travel can be complex. Travel managers need solutions that actually make their job easier, not more complicated. Technology is key to making that a reality. When innovative digital solutions are seamlessly woven into a corporate travel program, travel managers are able to more successfully manage the daily details and data that inundate business travel. They’re able to better manage costs, decrease spend, and ultimately work more efficiently. They’re also able to provide a frictionless travel experience to their travelers.
Developing corporate travel technology to meet the evolving needs of travel managers is one way Christopherson Business Travel leads the business travel industry. The foundation of all our digital tools is AirPortal, an integrated software platform that delivers secure, real-time visibility into an organization’s entire business travel program.
AirPortal is provided to Christopherson customers at no cost, allowing corporate travel managers to fully utilize the entire suite of AirPortal’s intelligent tools. These tools help them:
This is because AirPortal’s powerful collection of corporate travel management tools provides specific solutions to a wide array of travel program challenges while generating cost savings.
Another valuable feature exclusive to AirPortal is that it directly maps to the structure of individual organizations. This means travel managers can oversee travel for their entire company, or that responsibility can be distributed accordingly based on the business structure. It also means you have the ability to manage and report company-wide travel spend or by department or division.
“Clients who use the full range of AirPortal’s tools have a better understanding of their organization’s travel program, including traveler safety and security, spend, and unused tickets. This level of visibility provides peace of mind, convenience, and savings.”
-Adelina Littler, Manager – Implementation & Account Support
Dashboards for Travel Managers & Travelers
To meet the specific needs of users, AirPortal provides customized dashboards for travel managers and travelers:
AirPortal 360 – travel manager dashboard and app that deliver a 360° view of entire travel program + the tools to manage it
My Travel – traveler dashboard that delivers the tools and booking options to manage individual travel
With one login, users can access their intelligent dashboard through which any combination of Christopherson’s technology tools are provided. For instance, with AirPortal 360, travel managers have all the tools, data, and reporting they need to manage travel spend, traveler safety, unused tickets, travel policy, traveler profiles, and more. With My Travel, business travelers have instant access to booking options, itineraries, mobile syncing, and more.
Simply put, AirPortal opens the door to valuable corporate travel software, essential benchmarking and reporting tools, online booking tools, and mobile applications.
Key Features of AirPortal
With a suite of customized tools for both travel managers and travelers, AirPortal delivers solutions for:
Managing Unused Airline Tickets
Traveler Safety & Risk Management
Advanced Profile Management
Travel Policy & Vendor Program Integration
Travel Approval Processes
AirPortal’s advanced technology also provides the following additional benefits:
Compliant Travel Booking
AirPortal has your travel vendor contracts, approval system, and travel policy built in. This allows all travel bookings to filter into custom reports and align with your managed travel program.
My Action Items, a standard feature on both dashboards, acts as a digital administrative assistant that transforms business data into actionable intelligence so you always know what business travel tasks need to be done next.
AirPortal 360 Mobile is the first and only comprehensive mobile app that allows travel managers the ability to manage their entire travel program from a mobile device.
AirPortal integrates seamlessly with other industry-leading technologies, opening the door for smarter digital business processes and practices.
To learn more about how AirPortal can help you manage a seamlessly integrated, cost-saving travel program, visit our Technology page.
Twenty-twenty was an unprecedented year in the travel industry in many ways, one of the most surprising being what the Hotel Reservation Service (HRS) calls “the dawn of a buyer’s market” in the hotel industry.
Like all dawns, this one was preceded by darkness. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the hotel industry have been numerous, including:
overhauls to cleaning protocols;
implementation of social distancing and touchless options;
reducing and revamping food and beverage offerings and service;
revamping and limiting housekeeping services;
closing and reopening fitness centers, spas, and pools;
and, most importantly, numerous hotel closures, staff layoffs and furloughs, and impending bankruptcies.
In his annual trend analysis report, Bjorn Hanson, adjunct professor at NYU’s School of Professional Studies Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, says most hotel vendors are suddenly facing “the lowest occupancies in history (generally forecast to be 50 percent for the US for 2021) and the largest decrease in average daily rates in history (20 to 35 percent).”1
With health and safety protocols driving booming Zoom sales and other virtual meeting options like GoToMeeting, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams, the pandemic has impacted travel buyers and managers, too, as they struggle to forecast when, where, and how much their employees will travel in 2021.
“It’s a buyer’s market. This is a certainty that may be clouded by the reduced level of corporate demand today, but it is nevertheless true. With rates down, occupancy down, and too much supply, travel buyers have the power to ask for better terms with hotels, which are desperate for volumes,” says TRIPBAM. “Yet, with the majority of corporates still halting or significantly holding back on business travel, delivering volume or providing accurate projections of expected volume for when travel resumes becomes difficult.”
In spite of these uncertainties, there are some concrete steps travel managers can take to secure better hotel rates in 2021.
1. Evaluate Changing Business Travel Patterns
If your employees frequently travel between your branch offices or to and from specific project sites, your 2021 hotel offerings may look similar to your 2020 or 2019 program’s.
However, Account Manager Carol Del Giudice suggests that most business travel patterns will be significantly different post-pandemic. “Companies that shut down physical offices now have virtual ones, so travel patterns are changing. They are meeting clients in neutral places because of those office closures.” And “neutral places” often means areas with hotels outside of negotiated contracts, so many travel managers should shift lodging options accordingly.
The question is whether you should respond to the shift by increasing or decreasing the number of hotels in your program, or both.
2. Assess Your Corporate Hotel Needs
Consider revising the number of properties/vendors in your hotel program if:
You are no longer traveling to a particular area as a result of office closures (yours or your client’s), a change from in-person to virtual meetings, a change in project location, border closures, etc.
You need to concentrate room nights at fewer properties to negotiate better rates
Your vendor has permanently closed a preferred property
You are willing to adjust your hotel program, including changing the number of properties and renegotiating rates, as the pandemic evolves and your travel needs change
Your vendor contacts have changed and you are no longer satisfied with the service
Your vendor is refusing to negotiate lower rates for 2021
Your employee duty-of-care policy requires properties with cleanliness/safety certification or accreditation
Your travelers have provided negative feedback regarding a vendor’s health and safety measures
You have new projects or offices requiring more convenient lodging locations
You can negotiate lower rates or different types of rates to decrease your hotel spend
3. Understand Your Rate Choices
Static rates—a flat rate implemented for an agreed-upon term but with seasonal fluctuations and date exceptions—are the most common type of negotiated rate. In addition to being available only 60–85 percent of the time, static rates may be a vestige of another era in travel. But they could still have a place in your travel program. As part of a dual-rate strategy, static rates can serve as a rate cap that controls travel spend when the market fluctuates.
For example, the Company Dime reported that TRIPBAM’s static rates were an average 3 percent higher than market rates in September 2020. That’s why TRIPBAM CEO Steve Reynolds suggests treating your negotiated static rate as a rate cap.
“In January, travel buyers were getting a 25–30 percent discount off market rates; now they’re getting 2 percent, or maybe even [sic] negative discount, because market rates have dropped 35 percent on average,” said Reynolds.
Dynamic rates—normally a percentage off the best available rate (BAR) that is negotiated with individual properties—are applicable 100 percent of the time. There are no room-type restrictions, blackout dates, or seasonal fluctuations. And when the market is difficult to predict, a dynamic rate lets travel managers take advantage of bargain basement room prices.
“We recommend a shift to dynamic rates,” said Client Consulting Services Manager Dallas Stewart. The discount won’t always be as high, but you’re still getting a better rate than BAR on blackout dates. It’s pretty standard for dynamic rates to be 10–15% off BAR.”
Chainwide rates—a flat percentage off BAR that is applicable to all hotels within a specific chain—generally don’t include amenities or provide last room availability. According to Stewart, chainwide discounts are most applicable to high-volume programs with an annual spend of $250,000 or more within the same chain family. They are also advantageous when your travelers stay at one hotel brand in various locations and may be more relevant in a pandemic market that emphasizes consistent health and safety measures above cost.
Amanda Hyun, Director of Sales and Marketing for Cambria Hotel Napa Valley, says that travel buyers’ number one concern is currently health and safety and notes that in this market it is “crucial now more than ever to outline the different cleanliness standards.”
4. Consider Using a Blend of Rate Types
As mentioned earlier, a dual-rate strategy may provide the best cost-control option in 2021. Implementation and Account Support Manager Adelina Litter suggests that travel buyers negotiate static and dynamic rates for 2021 to take advantage of the lowest rates throughout the year.
In September 2020, BCD Travel surveyed travel buyers to ascertain trends in rate sourcing. As shown in the graphic below, a significant majority—82%—said they would use a mixture of static and dynamic hotel rates in their 2021 travel programs.
“Creating just the right mix of rate types and amenities included in the negotiated rate process has always been a balancing act, even for the most seasoned sourcing professionals,” said Business Travel News in a recent white paper. “But in the next year or two, as the impact of the pandemic unfolds, the pressure to mix savings with safety, and flexibility with perks, will require even more finesse. Luckily, the vast majority of organizations are already starting from a good place in their programs—they just need to keep evolving in changeable times.”
According to Del Giudice, hotels are keeping lines of communication open to help travel managers understand these changes.
“Most hotels are reaching out to clients with an existing program. They are lowering rates and trying to get travelers back into their hotels. The onus is on the hotelier to make stays more appealing to the traveler, so they are offering more points, more amenities, and lower rates,” she said.
Hyun agrees that price is always near the top of travel buyer’s want lists. “One way we are combatting this for those who are on a static rate program is to offer the lowest rate guarantee at time of booking. Many of the national accounts are on this program now as it will default to the lowest rate available when searching on booking platforms and the GDS.”
5. Reconsider the Hotel RFP
With decreases in staff and fewer operating hotels, many relationships essential to the RFP process have dissolved. So travel managers must reach out to unfamiliar contacts and, in some cases, contacts in different positions within the company, to complete the RFP process.
“Travel managers are finding that some of their contacts are on furlough or have been let go. This makes it even harder to know who to reach out to and find a contact that’s familiar with them and their program,” said Client Consulting Services Manager Adelina Littler.
Hyun estimated that only 33% of RFPs were released during the traditional season and that “many are waiting until Q1 to submit or do a roll over with rates.” Hyun sees more companies—about 60%—switching to a dynamic pricing model “with anywhere from 10–25% off BAR on net, non-commissionable rates.”
6. Use Your Data
Whatever rate strategies you implement, keeping a close eye on travel patterns and travel spend enables you to adjust your program as the pandemic situation evolves and better prepare for 2022 rate negotiations. Littler and Stewart advise travel managers to audit hotel rates using benchmark options in the Prime Analytics reporting tool available in AirPortal.
“Track your discounts through your Domo and Prime Analytics reporting tools. Look at year-over-year spend and savings by benchmark, as well as by preferred properties. Track the savings at least every six months in preparation to negotiate rates for 2022,” said Littler.
According to a BTNGROUP white paper, most travel buyers agree with Littler’s recommendation: more than 50% of them review their hotel rates two to four times annually.
7. Consult Your Account Manager
If you’re unsure how to pursue rates for your travel 2021 program, take advantage of the consultative services offered by your account manager.
“We can offer the best approaches and give clients guidance whether they want to negotiate new rates or even pursue a hotel RFP,” said Stewart. “While we suggest that clients skip the RFP this year, since many hotels don’t currently have the sales reps to manage the RFP process, we can give them access to an RFP tool if they prefer.”
Suggested Strategies and Best Practices
With so much fluctuation in the travel industry, it’s important to remain focused on your lodging goals, whether that’s sourcing safer hotels, improving traveler satisfaction, or getting lower rates—or a combination of those elements. Keep these strategies and best practices in mind as you tailor your hotel program for 2021:
Use dynamic rates or a mixture of rates.
Review hotel health and safety measures before you roll-over or negotiate new rates.
Remove from your program hotels that don’t have pandemic-related health and safety accreditations or prominently displayed health and safety measures on their websites.
Concentrate your room nights at fewer properties to obtain greater savings.
Review and audit rates often—at least twice annually.
Use a hotel RFP tool only if absolutely necessary.
Keep abreast of ongoing marketplace changes.
Use benchmarking to audit hotel rates.
Evaluate the need to improve hotel attachment rates.
Educate travelers regarding the increased safety and savings that come with booking compliance using preferred vendors.
Mandate use of preferred vendors and consider implementing a liability waiver if travelers book off-channel.
Be prepared for hotel satisfaction metrics to change as hotels respond to returning business travel—your program may determine whether you negotiate contracts for shorter or longer durations.
Be prepared to add hotels to and remove hotels from your program as needed.
Verify that required amenities are included in your negotiated rates so your travelers don’t incur additional charges.
Consider obtaining lower rates for extended stays that result in less frequent travel for your employees (e.g., office to project base trips).
1 Hanson, Bjorn, PhD. US Corporate and Contract Hotel Rate Negotiations for 2021 Forecast – Negotiating at a Time of Unprecedented Uncertainty. Trend Analysis Report. September 22, 2020.
Disclaimer: As business travel needs vary from corporation to corporation, changes in vendors are company-specific managerial decisions, not a result of Christopherson Business Travel publications.
The pandemic yanked travel manager and arranger positions from the office periphery to its center. The effort to bring travelers home before borders closed and lockdowns began demonstrated the need to verify traveler locations, check on their well-being, ensure their safety, fulfill duty of care responsibilities, and manage risk. And addressing this situation required developing new teams consisting of travel managers, HR, upper management, risk management, and other stakeholders.
While returning to travel is an office-specific effort, there are general traveler health and safety program modifications to involve your team in now. You’ll emerge on the other side of the Covid tunnel with a program that emphasizes traveler care and addresses their concerns about resuming travel, making it easier for employees to leave the office—even if they work from home.
1. Review your corporate travel insurance.
For many businesses, the coronavirus pandemic revealed just what was—and was not—covered by their travel insurance. As a result of the pandemic, some insurers quit selling travel insurance altogether and others excluded particular coronavirus claims, according to Forbes.
With business trips averaging $1,293, trip delay and cancellation insurance may be worth investigating, but travel insurance definitely helps fulfill employee duty-of-care responsibilities, as well as protecting your investment in the equipment your travelers take on the road.
Take advantage of travel downtime to review your coverage and ensure it aligns with your corporate needs, HR requirements, and emergent world situations, then stipulate a timeframe to regularly review your insurance coverage and a method of communicating your insurance coverage to your employees, such as in your benefits manual or as part of your traveler training program.
2. Revaluate how your program addresses traveler well-being.
Business travel can be stressful. According to On Call International, more than a third of business travelers said work-related travel increases their stress level—and that was before the pandemic.
“Businesses must consider and prioritize employees’ health, safety, and personal comfort levels as travel resumes,” Mike Koetting, SAP Concur chief product strategy officer told Fortune. “It’s the right thing to do, on top of having duty of care responsibilities to meet.”
As you anticipate sending employees back on the road, consider how being on the road impacts them. Query your employees about their travel concerns and wellness needs and make adjustments in your travel program to safeguard their mental, physical, and social welfare.
“Employees with high wellbeing are more resilient during widespread or personal tough times, are less likely to have unplanned days out of the office and have better performance than those with low wellbeing,” said Ryan Wolf, physical wellbeing lead at Gallup.
More information on how investing in employee well-being benefits your business and ways to create a traveler-friendly policy can be found here.
3. Implement a travel-approval tool.
The coronavirus revealed the need to review many travel program aspects, but none so much as duty of care and risk management. A recent SAP Concur survey showed that “ensuring personal health and safety while traveling is most important to business travelers, with 65% placing it in their top three considerations.”
According to HMHF Travel’s Terri Dembs, “Upper management wants to be involved in the decision as to whether or not trips are essential, and they want to be aware of where their travelers are going. Companies want their travelers to be safe, and they have a legal and moral responsibility to do so.”
Implementing a pre-trip tool, such as Christopherson Business Travel’s Travel Approval, which tracks the approval process digitally, gives managers and travelers the ability to keep tabs on not only approvals but also modifications and cancelations, and even helps enforce travel policy compliance. The Travel Approval dashboard also can be viewed by others in your organization who have access to AirPortal 360.
Has your team determined that some destinations are too high risk for your travelers? Block-listing destinations provides an additional way to approve travel. Our technology team can configure your SAP Concur online booking tool to block countries, cities, regions, and even continents, according to your travel policy.
4. Evaluate your preferred vendors’ health and safety measures and develop a contingency plan.
You’ve established preferred airlines, hotel chains, and rental car companies and even negotiated rates for your travel program, but have you checked on these vendors since the pandemic began to review their health and safety measures?
Some airlines are capping occupancy or blocking middle seats. Hotel chains may let rooms “rest” between occupants or seal doors after cleaning. Many suppliers have apps for contactless check-in and -out and car rental and drop-off. Most vendors require that their employees and customers wear masks in public areas, and cleaning frequency has been increased universally. But protocols differ between vendors, so now is a good time to review your suppliers’ efforts and determine your health and safety comfort level, using travelers as a sounding board if needed.
Christopherson’s Covid-19 Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide provides an overview of vendor-specific measures so you can determine what is acceptable for your travelers and policy. Review health and safety measures now and revise your vendor preferences accordingly, with an eye on rate negotiations in 2021 or earlier.
Business Travel News’ Michael Baker says that this is also a good time to build supplier relationships, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises. “Hotels, for example, are not only hurting for business, but also have sales teams that likely are not occupied with large corporate clients, as they would be in a seller’s market. Not only will there be a long-term benefit in building the relationship, but it also will benefit short-term should issues arise as hotels face lower staffing levels and reduced services.”
On the road, your travelers may find discrepancies between a vendor’s intended safety measures and their actual application. It’s wise to do some advanced planning in case travelers don’t feel safe on a particular flight or at a particular property. What if the parking lot is uncomfortably packed when you arrive at the hotel, the employees aren’t adhering to mask mandates, or your room is dirty? Can your traveler opt to stay at an off-channel property or with another preferred vendor but at a higher rate? Deciding how to handle the situation—and communicating this to your travelers beforehand—eliminates some of the wariness of post-pandemic travel.
5. Develop a post-travel return-to-work plan.
With health and safety at the forefront of every travel decision, take this opportunity to consider what your travelers should do when they return from a business trip.
Legal firm Farella Braun & Martel suggests considering whether traveling employees will be allowed to return to the office and interact with coworkers. “The most cautious approach would be for the employee to work from home for two weeks to minimize their risk of infecting anyone else. Employers can also require employees to undergo COVID-19 testing before returning to the workplace so long as the testing is job-related and consistent with business necessity, and any out of pocket costs are reimbursed.”
Implementing a post-travel plan safeguards all employees from the potential spread of Covid-19, as well as other illnesses. Protocols to consider may include:
following state-mandated post-travel protocols
taking a mandatory Covid-19 test upon return
taking a second Covid-19 test 5–7 days after return
working remotely for XX days
screening health daily for XX days
filling out a return-to-work questionnaire
allowing PTO days following a trip
providing trip feedback including vendor safety
6. Communicate your duty of care policy and technology.
With border closures and quarantine mandates making return trips difficult for business travelers, the pandemic made travel managers, HR departments, and upper management acutely aware of employee duty of care.
But employees are also emphasizing their safety needs. In the SAP Concur survey, 96% of travelers said they “expect their employers to proactively take steps to improve traveler safety and lower the stress associated with travel.”
Before your employees begin traveling, communicate your duty of care approach by:
educating your travelers on your duty of care policy
training your travelers on your duty of care technology
demonstrate access to real-time Covid-19 information via Airtineraries
use SecurityLogic to demonstrate how off-channel booking increases traveler risk
Developing and completing an employee pre-travel checklist helps ensure that your employees are trip-ready while contributing to your duty of care obligation. While your checklist should follow your specific corporate policy, standard items to consider include:
traveler’s name and vital information as it appears on official identification
photocopies of traveler’s current travel IDs (visa, passport, REAL ID)
travelers current emergency contact and backup contact information (name, phone number, email address)
trip-specific insurance information
verification of vaccinations required per destination
confirmation of employee’s safety/duty of care training, including emergency communication protocols
confirmation of hygiene kit distribution (hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, masks, etc.)
verification that employee’s AirPortal Traveler Profile is current/complete
confirmation that traveler downloaded necessary apps and received training on their use
verification of traveler’s completed health evaluation/testing as required per destination
shared pertinent information regarding any extended personal travel at the destination
Preparing now for the return of business travel ensures we stay safe out there!
Disclaimer: Business travel needs vary from corporation to corporation. This blog does not provide specific travel-restriction advice, and the information provided is not exhaustive. Changes in vendors are company-specific managerial decisions, not a result of Christopherson Business Travel publications.
Last-minute bookings, flight changes, additional amenities, hotel and airfare market rate fluctuations, and passenger changes can bloat your travel spend allowance, leaving you with expenses upper management may find hard to digest.
While business travel is notoriously hard to budget, travel management companies (TMCs) combine expert personnel with software and reporting tools to keep costs in check and align your travel program with your travel budget, no Alka-Seltzer® required.
In fact, the Global Business Travel Association estimates that TMCs save companies who spend at least $250,000 in annual travel from 5% to 50% of their travel spend, which is a significant savings.
Christopherson Business Travel can help you realize savings and reduce corporate travel spend using these seven methods.
1. Manage Unused Tickets
Before 2020, it was commonly estimated that 10% of business travel airline tickets went unused. However, the pandemic’s travel restrictions flooded many businesses with unused tickets, some with a total value of more than $1 million. That’s definitely an expense worth tracking and managing.
According to Christopherson Account Manager Patti Bragg, “The number one travel issue right now is unused tickets, especially when a company has guest travelers or non-profiled travelers. You need an unused ticket tracking and reporting system to see those tickets, be able to reuse them, and get those funds back. This one travel management feature really provides a lot of savings.”
You can reduce the rates you’re paying for airfare, lodging, and transportation by taking advantage of a TMC’s affiliate memberships and corporate buying power.
Our memberships in the BCD Travel Global Hotel Program, Virtuoso, and the THOR Hotel Program provide clients with discounts, enhanced amenities, and benefits at more than 86,100 properties spanning 189 countries and 6 continents.
Depending on the property, our memberships can provide benefits such as free upgrades, breakfast, and Wi-Fi, as well as reductions on best rate pricing. So while you’re saving money, your travelers will enjoy additional perks.
“Our hotel programs really benefit clients who do lots of conference travel or group travel, clients for whom lodging is the major travel expense, and clients who don’t regularly log enough room nights to get company-specific rates. These clients can access our consortia rates. It’s a great value we bring to each account,” said Bragg.
As an industry leader, Christopherson receives priority privileges and benefits from major carriers, which we pass on to you to improve your service and save you money.
You’ll also get preferred seating on multiple fare classes and exclusive access to international airfare, and your travelers will access Southwest Airlines’ full content, including Wanna Get Away fares, as well as TMC-only change and cancellation perks on major airlines, such as Delta, United, and American, that result in cost savings.
If you don’t have company-specific negotiated rates, you can capitalize on Christopherson’s corporate buying power and standing negotiated rates with all major rental car companies, including National, Enterprise, Avis, Hertz, Budget, and others.
Your account managers may also help you obtain better rates by introducing you to additional vendors who can give you deeper discounts.
For example, a client who preferred renting cars from a particular company asked Christopherson Account Manager Susan Moon how they could reduce their rental car costs. Moon was able to look at the client’s travel spend and identify savings opportunities. By engaging two other vendors in the discussion, she introduced the client to other companies that could provide lower rates.
3. Obtain Automated Savings
Rate Monitoring Tools and Services
Finding a lower price after you’ve made a purchase is one of the most frustrating scenarios for consumers. That’s why we provide expert travel advisors and automated tools to ensure you receive lower rates when they are available for the trip options you’ve selected.
We use a quality control fare-checking module to automatically search every itinerary for lower fares until the time of departure. When lower rates are found for an identical itinerary, that booking is returned to your travel advisor or our online team for review and response, ensuring that you receive the lower fare.
Like the airline industry, hotels raise and lower their prices based on market conditions and inventory. Our hotel rate monitoring tool screens travel advisor-booked reservations for lower rates. Rates are checked 72 hours prior to travel and, if a lower rate is found for an “apples to apples” comparable room, your reservation will be changed and the savings tracked and reported.
To increase your savings through use of preferred vendors and negotiated rates, Christopherson also offers a tool that automates hotel program compliance and simplifies duty-of-care requirements.
After identifying itineraries without hotel bookings, the tool sends automated reminders to travelers requesting that they fill in this gap in their travel plans, which ultimately helps you get more bookings with your preferred hotels and increases your negotiating power.
4. Negotiate Lower Rates
Based on your travel spend and volume, Christopherson’s account managers can assist with hotel rate negotiations or provide you with automated tools to obtain the lowest possible rates within your travel policy parameters.
For example, one of our account managers used a tool to help a large account consolidate a 100-property hotel program that resulted in a 38.9% cost savings in hotel spend.
Moon reported a similar rate-reduction experience: “Earlier this year we negotiated with United Airlines on behalf of a client. Because of the client’s travel volume, we were able to save them $100,000 on airfare alone,” she said.
5. Receive Consultative Services
Providing consultative services—such as getting to know the client’s culture, discussing their travel policy and budgetary goals, and conducting account reviews—is a vital component of reducing corporate travel spend.
“Every account needs consultative services. Having a ton of preferred hotels isn’t necessarily best, because booking more nights at the same hotel chain increases the client’s buying power. We look at these kinds of travel patterns during the client’s travel program review to help them reduce corporate travel spend,” said Christopherson Account Manager Paul Foster.
6. Book Online
For many businesses, reducing corporate travel spend includes getting travelers to use an online booking tool. When travelers use an online booking tool, rogue travel spend—travel booked outside of your TMC—is brought back under the TMC “umbrella.”
The benefits of reigning in rogue travelers include booking more nights with your preferred hotels, which in turn leads to better rate negotiations, and accruing fewer booking fees, as all travel segments are booked at the same time, during a single transaction.
“If a client has a high number of bookings with travel advisors, we discuss the nature of their business and whether they can save fees by using the online booking tool more. We provide training as needed to make sure their travelers and travel managers have the necessary expertise to book online,” said Christopherson Account Manager M’Liss Hunter.
7. Act on Your Data
New clients and those with previously unmanaged programs are always surprised at how much information we can give them. We provide a platform that collects and consolidates your real-time travel data in one accessible place, offers powerful reporting tools, and can even alert you if your monthly travel expenditures exceed your year-to-date budget.
If your data reveal that “Matt” in “Department XYZ” is booking business class, you can act on those data to reduce your corporate travel spend by (1) revising your travel policy so business class isn’t an available option, or (2) you can discuss booking comfort class only with Matt and back up that conversation with visible, data-at-a-glance dashboard cards.
“If companies aren’t aware of their data, they can’t use it to reduce corporate travel spend,” said Hunter. “If they know about it, they can track it and analyze it.”
Data analysis is the confluence of consultative account management and data reporting tools: this combination of service and technology allows you to capitalize on your travel program and reduce your corporate travel spend. And that’s nothing to bellyache about.
After a year and a half I can clearly see the value based on the level of customer service and the transparency into our company’s travel spend.”
Jared Hughes, CFO, Forefront Healthcare
Want to reduce your corporate travel spend even more? Mandate your travel program, as explained here.
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.
Your evaluation team should look something like this, depending on your organization’s structure and travel needs:
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:
Service level agreement
Client success stories
Account review example
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=”https://staging.cbtravel.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/SAMPLE-TMC-RFP-TEMPLATE_Provided-by-Christopherson-Business-Travel.pdf”][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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 Delta.com or AA.com. 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:
Did you know that protecting the well-being of your business travelers benefits your company? Here’s how:
Your people are your most prized asset. But expecting one of your business travelers to take red-eye flights, then come in to the office after days on the road, and produce an implementation plan en route to the conference treats your valued employee more like software than a software developer.
Comparing business travelers to “athletes in a suit” during a recent GBTA webinar on reducing traveler stress and anxiety, Dr. Lucy Rattrie said that companies often have unrealistic expectations for their employees. “You’d never expect your favorite sports team to get up at 3 a.m., fly somewhere, ace a sports game, fly home, and get up for training at 6 o’clock the next morning.”
The stress associated with frequent business travel—compounded by the duress of productivity, performance, and personal sacrifice—leads to traveler burnout, especially for employees who travel 14 or more days per month. This duress can be demoralizing, causing depression, job dissatisfaction and disengagement, resulting in the expensive process of employee replacement.
Ensuring employee well-being—safeguarding their mental, physical, and social welfare—is a common law duty of care responsibility that applies to traveling employees, whether they are meeting a prospective client across town or presenting at a conference across the globe.
“Employers have the moral and legal responsibility and obligation for the health, safety and security of their employees, especially those traveling on behalf of the employer.”
– Stephen Page, Assistant VP, Lockton Companies Insurance Brokerage
Here are three ways companies can increase traveler satisfaction and well-being and enjoy the benefits that come from happy, healthy business travelers:
1. Communicate Your Concern
Letting your travelers know you’ve got their backs alleviates many travel-induced stressors, so communicating this concern is vital. Yet 61% of business travelers surveyed by Amadeus said either their company “doesn’t take steps to actively improve traveler well-being or they are unsure whether the company does.”
In another study, only 44% of international business travelers said they were offered real-time information on security issues and only 43% were given tracking information for their business trips, leading more than half of these employees to believe their well-being is of little consequence to their employer.
“People are spending time away from their lives for your business, and if you treat [travel] as just a cost center, eventually those employees will treat your business as just a job. Ignoring that for any company that is investing in developing and retaining talent is a huge risk.”
You can communicate your commitment to traveler well-being by:
Verifying key health and safety information, such as emergency contacts and personal itineraries, before each trip
Holding traveler training to discuss your emergency plans/protocols
Empowering travelers and travel managers with mobile apps that provide security alerts, destination maps, and links to their itineraries, like SecurityLogic.
Lessening the headaches of travel by allowing travelers to rebook canceled or delayed flights through travel advisors
Reviewing and discussing your travel policy at least annually to ensure it’s in line with institutional and personnel changes
“Employers can further support a culture of health by adopting policies that mitigate the wear and tear of business travel and by providing their travelers with tools and training for handling stress while on the road.”
Although booking a 5 a.m. flight for a 9 a.m. meeting may save the cost of an overnight stay at the Marriott, Amadeus shows that poor traveler well-being can “create costs for employers through higher medical claims, reduced employee productivity and performance, absenteeism, presenteeism and short-term disability.”
Maintaining traveler well-being means making accommodations in your policy, but this actually benefits businesses. Having a “very attractive travel policy” interested 84% of business travelers when considering a different job requiring a similar amount of travel. According to 83% of respondents, a better travel policy would be equal to or more important than pay and responsibilities, so factoring employee well-being into a travel policy is essential to employee retention and recruitment.
According to ARC, allowing non-stop flights is the most preferred way to ease business travel friction, followed by providing better/more convenient lodging options, allowing business-class travel on extended flights, and allowing paid time off after long trips.
Lodging affects travelers throughout their stay, so a pleasant experience—or a bad one—has a big impact on well-being. If the hotel has limited options, travelers are more likely eat junk food, drink heavily, and be sedentary, all of which lead to burnout, an “occupational phenomenon” recognized by the World Health Organization.
Employees suffering from burnout or fatigue are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors that they might not participate in at home, according to International SOS. And burnout often requires an extensive recovery period.
“It took about six months for me to recover from what was considered burnout by my doctor. When I got to that point, it felt like chronic fatigue.” – Dr. Lucy Rattrie, Psychologist & Founding Partner, Business Travel Wellbeing Community
However, you can mitigate travel impacts on employees by aligning accommodations with your travelers’ needs. To promote well-being, select hotels with facilities and services such as:
Easy access to conferences and meetings
Fitness facilities and / or pool (or reimburse travelers for memberships to national gyms)
Healthy onsite and nearby dining or in-room meal prep options
Employee-paid relaxation services such as massage and yoga
Mia Kyricos, global head of well-being at Hyatt Hotels, told the New York Times that our 24/7 world places increasing demands on work and life, so “well-being is top of mind for everyone today, and we think that’s going to continue in the future.”
3. Combine Business with Pleasure
If you’re looking to increase traveler well-being, allowing a “bizcation” or “bleisure” travel—personal days before or after a business trip—may make your travelers more willing to leave home and increase their productivity. Since business travel reduces social and personal time, adding bleisure provisions to your travel policy promotes a better employee work/life balance, which in turn facilitates employee well-being.
Employees also benefit from bleisure opportunities by reaching destinations they might not otherwise afford, such as Europe or Asia, and by accessing bucket list entertainment and activities like visiting the Museo del Prado in Madrid, ziplining Arebak Volcano, Costa Rica, or seeing Lady Gaga live in Las Vegas.
A study of international business travelers found that while 74% of respondents “saw business travel as an opportunity for adventure and exploration,” the corporate decision to include bleisure time “was inconsistent and at the direction of individual managers.”
Developing a bleisure policy for employee well-being doesn’t have to hurt the bottom line if its provisions are thoughtfully implemented, such as:
Allowing employees personal days if their originating or returning flight falls on a cheaper travel day
Providing bleisure opportunities if employees subsidize their travel insurance and / or any travel changes that increase trip costs
Defining employee responsibilities for bleisure travel including duty of care, expense tracking, communication, and travel arrangements
Permitting employees to travel with a self-paid companion to enjoy bleisure time and increase their connectivity with family or friends
Using bleisure travel as a benefit for employees who save your business money by complying with corporate travel policies
“Bleisure travel is ultimately a win-win for employers and employees,” said Chubb insurers. “By providing guidance and extending protection to employees taking bleisure trips, companies can safeguard their greatest assets, address issues before they arise, and reap the financial benefits of their support.”
Well Travelers = Willing Travelers
Since comfort and support are critical to traveler performance, implementing a travel policy that accounts for employee well-being not only lessens travel impacts on employees but also benefits the bottom line. Allowing travelers to maintain elements of their normal routines and have some travel-related personal or downtime means they will be better rested, eat healthier meals, exercise more, and feel more positive about their job and their time away from home—all of which means they’ll be more likely to travel again.
“Whether we give them an upgraded seat, or extend their trip for leisure, it’s the little things like that that play into the role of overall satisfaction of the traveler.” – Harmony Miller
As travel managers approach the end of this challenging year filled with a pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, riots, murder hornets, and all, it’s important to identify ways to strengthen your organization’s travel program, prepare for the return of travel, and plan for the future. To that end, we sat down with a few members of our Account Management Team to discuss what travel managers should be doing now as you move towards the fourth quarter and set your sights on a New Year.
1. Review & Update Your Corporate Travel Policy
Many companies have travel policies, but quite often, they were written years ago and haven’t been reviewed since.
“I think the biggest thing companies learned from COVID-19 was that they have to have a solid travel policy in place,” said Dallas Stewart, Christopherson’s Manager of Client Consulting Services. “Those who did fared much better at keeping their travelers safe as the pandemic began to spread. Organizations that review their policies regularly, enjoy peace of mind and have clear risk management plans.”
Account Manager Susan Moon agreed, “Now is a good time to evaluate your travel policy and make sure you are prepared should something like COVID-19 arise again in the future.”
Every organization should review their policies to make sure they’re current and relevant. Christopherson’s Account Management Team continuously collaborates with clients to evaluate old policies, draft new ones, create addendums to existing policies, and share best practices.
Here is a sample of an addendum Christopherson developed for a customer as they revised their travel policy during the pandemic:
2. Organize Your Unused Airline Tickets
Unused airline tickets are top-of-mind for most companies, and understandably so. It’s a big piece of cleaning up from COVID-19. Companies are overflowing with unused ticket credits as travel was cancelled or postponed. Travel managers want to know: How do I find out about my organization’s unused tickets? What do we do with them? How do we make sure we don’t lose those funds?
“First and foremost, we want our clients to know we are here to help,” said Adelina Littler, Manager of Implementations and Account Support. “Travel managers don’t have to know every detail of every unused ticket, how to apply them, or all the changing rules each airline has. That’s what we’re here for as their travel management company. As their partner we can help them generate the list of their unused ticket credits in our tracking tool, AirBank. That report outlines which travelers have unused tickets on which airlines, when the credits expire, and the value of the ticket. And our travel advisors know exactly how and when to apply those unused ticket credits when travelers start booking again.”
Account Manager Valerie Buckler continued, “Travel managers should definitely take this opportunity to review their unused ticket credits before the end of the year. While AirBank will track the ticket, apply the airline rules, and encourage the reuse of those funds, your company may have credits attached to the profiles of team members who are no longer traveling or who aren’t with the company anymore. By knowing who has what, you can work with your travel management company to do any necessary name changes or review other options so you don’t lose those funds. It is so important to us that we help our clients use the full extent of their unused tickets that came from COVID-19.”
While Christopherson’s AirBank technology alerts travelers of soon-to-be expiring funds and will prompt reuse at the time of booking, travel managers may also want to communicate any company-specific instructions in the event a traveler isn’t able to use the ticket before expiration.
Many organizations might have previously balked at the idea of consolidating (or mandating) their business travel. But in light of the challenges experienced in 2020, companies with non-mandated programs have realized they don’t always know where all their travelers are or how to track them and ensure their safety in an emergency. It is undeniable that organizations that consolidate save money on travel and have better risk management plans.
“COVID-19 proved just how priceless it is to have all travel booked and reported through one agency and one source,” Susan said. “Doing so allows you to know where your business travelers are, how they’re being affected by extenuating circumstances, and report on every detail of your program and your travelers.”
“The benefits of consolidation are real,” continued Manager of Client Consulting Services, Sue Schroeder. “You have better risk management. You’re able to track and ensure the reuse of unused tickets so you’re not losing money. In fact, you enjoy cost savings because you can use the full extent of your vendor contracts. And you have an agency with advisors on your side to help you when flights are cancelled or pandemics hit and you need to get home.”
4. Clean Up Traveler Profiles
Cleaning up traveler profiles isn’t something that happens on a regular basis. But as many companies are still not traveling at full capacity, now is a perfect time to sweep the profiles.
Some organizations reorganized their workforces during COVID-19 while others may have been forced to downsize due to the economic pressures of the pandemic. Some employees who previously traveled may no longer be doing so, now or in the future. Our Account Managers outlined the following steps to ensure a clean traveler profile database:
Review your list of employees approved for business travel.
Identify any travelers who are no longer traveling. Make sure you transfer any unused ticket credits they may have before deactivating or deleting their profiles.
Set up profiles for any new travelers.
Have travelers review their traveler reward numbers to ensure they are capturing the full extent of their rewards, miles, and benefits once travel resumes.
Ensure that credit cards used for bookings and virtual payments are correct with expiration dates updated.
Verify that every traveler has an emergency contact listed in their profile.
“Maintaining a perfect profile bank is always a moving target,” Valerie shared, “but your Account Manager can help you with this and it’s great to start a New Year with a fully audited list of travelers.”
5. Take Advantage of Technology & Learn How to Use Your Full Suite of Tools
“Now more than ever, travel managers should be leaning on the technology their travel management company provides,” said Sue. And indeed, technology delivers the most up-to-date access to unused airline tickets, traveler safety, data, reporting, itineraries, and more. Technology allows you to work smarter and faster and run a more streamlined travel program.
Developing technology for corporate travel management has been core to Christopherson’s value proposition for more than 20 years. Our software platform, AirPortal, generates considerable cost savings for travel programs by delivering immediate access to valuable data and essential travel management tools.
Now is a perfect time to connect with your Account Manager to learn the ins and outs of a particular tool you may not be using or to dive deeper into the capabilities of one you use every day. Another way to take full advantage of the tools available to you is to evaluate your reporting.
“Many companies receive the same reports month after month for years, never stopping to think if it’s truly helpful,” Adelina explained. “I’ve encouraged my clients to review their reporting and ask themselves if these are the right reports and if they need any new information with everything that’s transpired over the last six months. Then I work with them to fill any gaps so they have the data and information they need once they resume traveling.”
6. Communicate with Your Travelers
Travel managers need to be communicating regularly with their travelers. They understand the uncertainty surrounding the travel industry and want clear messages from management as to how their organization is handling business travel and their safety.
“By committing to routine communication,” Valerie said, “you’ll get a better sense of how your travelers are feeling about the current environment. It also helps them know the company cares about them and their well-being.”
“Traveler well-being is becoming a buzz word in the industry and with good reason,” Dallas continued. “Companies need to understand how their travelers feel about business travel in the wake of the pandemic. Travel managers may want to consider sending out a traveler survey to get a pulse on what travelers are comfortable with. Their input will be invaluable.”
Travel is a very personal thing, even if it’s for business, and providing employees an opportunity to weigh in on policies and procedures will go a long way to increasing good will toward any changes that result from COVID-19.
7. Collaborate Within Your Company
As travel managers face a new, post-pandemic landscape, many are experiencing shifting realities or responsibilities. Travel managers may even feel the need to reinvent their position. We encourage you to lean into those changes and work with other departments to collaborate and improve the value of your travel program and department.
“Travel programs often ran independently, or siloed, from other departments in the past,” Dallas explained. “But the pandemic made it increasingly apparent that there needs to be more collaboration between travel, HR, legal, procurement, reporting, and executives. Doing this allows everyone to focus together on helpful creating policies and procedures that mitigate both traveler risk and company risk, while keeping employees safe and healthy.”
Christopherson delivers a bi-weekly email to clients with the latest developments and important information about how COVID-19 is impacting travel. This post was last updated on August 25, 2020.
Christopherson Expands COVID-19 Resources
We are pleased to offer even more support as you work to get your travelers back on the road. Visit our new COVID-19-dedicated webpage to access reliable resources and updates on the pandemic and how to travel safely for business.
Included on this new page are our regularly updated Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide, our travel partner updates, a state/country entry restriction database, and current COVID-19 numbers and statistics.
Delta Extends Middle Seat Blocks Into January 2021
American Airlines has extended its offer to waive change fees for customers who purchase tickets by Sept. 30, 2020 for travel through Dec. 31, 2020. The offer is available for any of American’s fares.
Q&A: How Border Control Technology Could Ease COVID Spread
The return to an open and robust air travel industry is dependent on many factors including containment of the virus, development of vaccines, a resumption of corporate travel, strong consumer confidence and the lifting of travel restrictions.
Technology can help to facilitate this process by enabling contract tracing that correlates passenger data with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Read more in this Q&A.
Scientists Say Odds are Slim of Catching COVID on Plane
CNN reported that according to some experts, who point to the very few documented cases of in-flight transmission, the chances of catching COVID-19 while on board a flight are actually relatively slim. According to findings, the odds of a passenger catching COVID-19 on a flight and dying from the virus are less than one in half a million. Read about the study here.
TSA launched their “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure.” campaign, which details proactive and protective measures they have implemented at security checkpoints to make the screening process safer for passengers and our workforce by reducing the potential of exposure to the coronavirus. Here’s a helpful infographic about the program.
TSA also announced they will be installing acrylic barriers and associated equipment at checkpoints in 37 priority airports nationwide, with wider rollout this fall.
Christopherson Named No. 1 Woman-Owned Company
We are honored to have been ranked No. 1 on Colorado Biz Magazine’s list of Top 100 Woman-Owned Companies in 2020.
The information here is up-to-date as of August 25, 2020 and is provided for general information purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice. Christopherson does not provide recommendations on the prudence of travel to an affected location. We do seek to provide pertinent information, allowing organizations and travelers to make informed decisions regarding travel.
One of the biggest conundrums COVID-19 caused for travel managers was the deluge of unused airline tickets. As the pandemic spread and business travel was cancelled at an alarmingly rapid pace, companies and organizations of all sizes saw their accounts of unused credits balloon far beyond normal. The question on every travel manager’s mind then became: How do we track and manage all the unused airline tickets? How do we make sure we don’t lose those funds?
A Solution for Managing Unused Airline Tickets
Keeping up with the various airline policies for cancellations, refunds, and exchanges can be confusing at best. Compound that with the airlines’ frequent changes to and extensions of those policies during this time of coronavirus and travel managers have a recipe for a potentially significant loss of funds.
Because managing unused airline tickets even in the best of times can be difficult, Christopherson built AirBank. Travel managers can use AirBank to successfully track the entire lifecycle of unused tickets to ensure their reuse, save money, and eliminate waste. AirBank is accessible via AirPortal, our integrated software platform for travel managers and their travelers.
As airlines continue to revise their rules in response to the pandemic, AirBank remains up-to-date. Every shift in expiration (per airline, per ticket date, per travel date) is being extracted and applied to the tool’s tracking.
How does AirBank work?
When a flight is cancelled, unused ticket credits, including valid partial credits, are immediately available in AirBank. AirBank then comprehensively manages your unused tickets in the following ways:
Audits tickets to confirm whether they were used and determine any unused value
Automatically captures your unused tickets in a centralized database to prevent their loss
Updates unused ticket status continuously
Reports all unused tickets
Enforces the use of unused tickets
At any given time, travel managers can see all unused tickets and, with our AirBank widgets, can also drill down from a company-wide view of all unused tickets to single transactions for greater detail.
Ensuring the Reuse of Unused Tickets
Both travel managers and travelers can see unused tickets via their respective AirPortal dashboards. This allows and encourages everyone to be active participants in the reuse of those funds.
To ensure reuse, AirBank is integrated into your travelers’ booking options. If a traveler books with one of our full-service travel advisors, AirBank prompts the agent at point-of-sale to use the available ticket. If the ticket was not used, AirBank requires documentation of the reason. AirBank also integrates with Christopherson’s online booking tools and prompts travelers who book their own tickets.
AirBank also sends email reminders to individual travelers and travel managers 120, 60, and 30 days prior to ticket expiration.
If you have any additional concerns about managing and reusing airline tickets, we welcome your questions. We are here to deliver the tools and support you need to manage a stress-free business travel program and help you successfully begin traveling again.
Are you still trusting your gut rather than making data-driven decisions? Even in our tech-savvy world, that’s a common conflict. But Christopherson is resolving data doubt for corporate travel managers through our integration with Domo, the leading business intelligence and data visualization software. With our Domo integration, you can see the story your data tells through real-time analytics and act on data insights that benefit your travel program today.
Assessing the Data Conflict
Data is one of your business’s most valuable assets (85% of us believe this), but surveys show that U.S. businesses don’t trust 32% of their data because it’s “dirty.” And this figure is rising. Dirty data—outdated, inconsistent, inaccurate, or inconsistent data—results from many factors.
What contributes to “data grunge?” Many things:
Merging data from multiple sources
Human error in data entry and interpretation
Disparate data processing methods
Lag time between data generation and reporting activities
Sharing data from different departments or “data silos” across the workplace
Even simple differences, such as showing dates in different formats (YYYY-MM-DD in accounting but DD-MM-YY in HR) may muddy your data and cost you money. In fact, IBM estimated that dirty data costs the U.S. economy over $3 trillion annually.
Data may also cause inefficiencies just because there’s so much of it. Most companies are engaged in nonstop data accumulation, leaving decision makers drowning in the very figures that should provide management insights. Disparate data sources compound the problem. If managers can’t align data from HR with data from accounting, they can’t see the story their data tells.
As a result, data-related careers are booming. However, many who work with data lack the training to understand or interpret it well enough to use it as a basis for arguments and decisions, making data literacy a problem for many businesses.
And if you can’t visualize or understand your data or you doubt its accuracy, you can’t implement data-driven decision making.
Providing a Domo-integrated Data Solution
This data conflict left Christopherson with a real conundrum. We wanted to provide clients with real-time, aggregated, accessible travel program data in a visual format that turned data users into data experts.
“We were looking for speed to data. A good BI tool allows you to build charts and infographics quickly, with speed to creation much quicker than with Excel spreadsheets.”
Josh Cameron, head of strategic initiatives, Christopherson Business Travel
With an established approach of reviewing technical enhancements through the lens of “buy or build,” we looked for an existing business intelligence (BI) solution that would benefit customers and integrate with our proprietary AirPortal travel management platform.
The BI solution, we knew, had to connect to accounting, finance, marketing, and travel systems, and use real-time data analytics for the visualization and report building that would enable data-driven decision making.
A BI solution would also resolve the aging data issue businesses faced when reviewing static reports broadcast on monthly or weekly basis by providing real-time analytics and empowering data-driven decision making. Real-time analytics eliminate the worry that data will change in the middle of collecting statistics or obtaining a report and provide current, actionable data for data-based decision making.
“With instant reporting I can see what was spent yesterday. I don’t need to wait until my credit card statement or any other report to come out at the end of the month.”
Gordon C., Travel Manager, CHG Healthcare
Data access was also key. If businesses have hands-on, self-service reporting capabilities, it eliminates the lag time between client questions and account manager responses. Instead of reviewing travel programs monthly and annually, with data and travel spend monopolizing the conversation, the relationship between account and travel managers could be more consultative, more about increasing efficiency, setting goals, and aligning policy, and less about reviewing numbers.
Delivering Real-Time Data Analytics
Domo delivered what we were searching for: real-time data analytics in a dashboard that gives clients and internal employees better insights into travel budget spending.
“It’s great for travel managers and account managers. Since everything is already populated there’s no of running reports. We used to run 20–25 reports for account reviews, processing them by hand. Now these same reports can be downloaded into a presentation and we can focus on addressing client questions.”
Adelina Littler, Account Support Manager, Christopherson Business Travel
In addition to essentially quadrupling the data available to businesses at a glance, our Domo partnership provides clients with an all-encompassing BI tool that gathers, aligns, and connects those data while making real-time data analytics visible, beautiful, and easy to use. Visible data, in turn, fosters data-driven decision making.
“In today’s world, you have to bring technology to the front and provide meaningful tools to move business forward. Without it, travel managers will fall behind.” We find clients often avoid analyzing their travel data altogether, never seeing the insights that their program and travelers really need. That was our motivation behind developing a solution that makes travel data easier to understand. “Being able to visualize the story their data tells allows them to take informed action that ultimately helps them run a more cost-effective travel program.”
Mike Cameron, CEO, Christopherson Business Travel
“I am using the data to track the volume of travel per each contract we have, track and assess the impacts of ticket changes related to advance ticketing—which allows me to evaluate our recommendation for advance booking—and track volume of travel per individual.”
Stephanie P., Director of Administration/Facilities/Security, Sigmatech
Converting Travel Data into Travel Insights
Domo’s data cards, which are visual aggregations of data, provide high-level travel program views and the ability to drill down data to a granular level.
With this data visibility, businesses can easily identify and rectify data anomalies. An actual hotel error that resulted in a $59 million nightly charge was easy to pinpoint and correct because it produced a giant spike in a three-year data period.
Domo data summaries also reveal that modifying travel patterns can result in savings. By looking at advanced purchases and ticket exchanges, a travel manager determined that their employees were purchasing nonrefundable tickets too far in advance, resulting in a pattern of rescheduling travel, rebooking travel, and ticket loss. Waiting until travel schedules solidified resulted in cost savings for this client.
Conversely, another travel manager looked at cost percentages for flight bookings and acted on the data by identifying booking procrastinators and altering their pattern of last-minute airfare bookings. Booking further in advance brought this company better rates.
Speaking of travel costs, would you be surprised to discover that your most expensive traveler isn’t your most frequent traveler? By drilling to the granular level of the “top travelers” data card (clicking on a pie chart, clicking on a slice of pie, and clicking on an individual traveler), you can identify your costliest traveler and determine what inflates their expenses.
Maybe it’s an increase in international airfare rates, but perhaps Ryan is booking business-class flights and renting SUVs out of policy. Or Angela has 97 separate bookings for only 30 trips because she’s booking in stages—airfare, then hotel, then rental car—and you’re paying a fee for each booking.
Data visualization and drilling insights empower your conversations with travelers and inform your travel policy. You’ll realize savings when Ryan scales back to policy-approved comfort economy flights and smaller vehicles or your policy is amended to require that Angela book airfare, hotel, and rental car in a single transaction.
“Domo makes it extremely easy to identify problem areas—how many exchanges, and who violates the most often.”
Gordon C., Travel Manager, CHG Healthcare
In addition to providing actionable data, Domo can automate event-triggered notifications. Say you want to keep your travel spend in line with passing calendar time. Domo can provide a “gas gauge” of travel spend, notifying you that you’re over budget year-to-date.
“By continually visualizing their travel spend, travel managers have a lighter load. Instead of downloading and analyzing spreadsheets, they have a good, instant snapshot of how they’re doing on travel spend, which lets managers focus on other things but gets them the same information.”
Taylor Daily, Business Intelligence Analyst
Informing Data-driven Decision Making
Like the travel manager and traveler relationship, Domo’s data visibility changes the dynamic between upper management and travel managers. Since decision makers can access, visualize, and share real-time data, it’s easier to reach a consensus for action.
This evolution was demonstrated by a travel manager who, using visible data in Domo along with Concur Travel and Expense, showed potential savings if her company moved to an online booking tool. Not only could management see more was currently being spent for full-service bookings, they could also see travel spend was leaking outside of negotiated contracts and the Christopherson umbrella. Adding this rogue travel spend to contractual agreements improved the client’s negotiating power to justify lower rates because they used real-time data analytics to inform their decision. That’s data-driven decision making.
Negotiating power can also be drawn from viewing and acting on travel vendor data. Looking at hotel bookings by state and then by chain may reveal that you need to request/require travelers to book with your preferred vendors or you need to negotiate a contract with a vendor in a new area. One client discovered savings by requesting that travelers book a hotel in a different zip code—right across the street from the property where they were staying.
“We can easily see how much we are spending in each category (air, car, hotel) and/or with each vendor. For example, if we need to increase spending with a certain vendor to reach a threshold we can easily see where we are. Also, we can compare costs and see any potential problems. For example, in a specific city we can compare our hotel spend and identify properties that are more expensive and exceed our caps.”
Gordon C., Travel Manager, CHG Healthcare
Christopherson uses Domo not only to assess how your travel program is running but also as an internal resource for our own data challenge—assessing constant feedback on our travel management services.
“Domo is one of the most important things we done in last few years, because analyzing travel spend is core to managing a successful overall travel program.”
PANDEMIC UNDERSCORES NEED TO IMPROVE BUSINESS TRAVEL DUTY OF CARE AND RISK MANAGEMENT
As 2020 illustrates, business travelers face unforeseen risks when they take their jobs on the road.
And travelers have a lot to be anxious about. In just a few months, they have been impacted by the worldwide coronavirus, Australian bushfires, Mississippi’s tornadoes and storms, floods and mudslides in Brazil, tsunami warnings in Russia, earthquakes in Croatia and Albania, and the list goes on.
To provide your road warriors with adequate safety and security in this environment, you need to up your duty of care and travel risk management game.
The Difference Between Duty of Care and Risk Management
Workers are pretty safe in the office, thanks to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act of 1970. Its general duty clause requires employers to provide a hazard-free place of employment.
But what protects business travelers on the road? According to Forbes, “OSHA’s requirements that employers must keep employees safe at work isn’t just limited to the employer’s offices or places of business. It can also apply when an employee travels overseas as a part of the job.”
This duty of care is the moral and legal obligation to be responsible for employee safety. It’s the “why” of the relationship.
The “what” of the relationship, travel risk management, is the strategy and action plan employers implement to reduce travel-related risk and fulfill their duty of care obligation.
“Duty of care has traditionally applied to protecting travelers and mitigating risk related to events that might occur during the flight or while at the destination. The coronavirus brings a whole new meaning to traveler safety. Now duty of care will likely cover traveler safety for the entire journey, from transportation to the airport until they return home.”
– Mike Cameron, CEO, Christopherson Business Travel
How Businesses Benefit By Providing Duty of Care
Duty of care is the number one priority for 80% of travel buyers, according to BCD Travel. While employers are legally obligated to provide it, duty of care benefits businesses by increasing employee engagement and improving their productivity.
Beyond reciprocation from employees, duty of care can increase an organization’s value. A study tested the hypothesis that reductions in a workforce’s health and safety risks are tied to increases in the company’s stock market performance. Companies with exemplary safety, health, and environmental programs outperformed the S&P 500 by 3?5%.
Chubb’s Pan-European study also shows that businesses benefit from implementing duty of care, including improved profitability, increased productivity, and attracting and retaining employees.
Telecom, construction, real estate, logistics, and distribution industries had the strongest correlation with duty of care increasing profitability. And 78% of all companies with a holistic approach to duty of care said it reduced employee absence.
If there is such a strong relationship between providing duty of care and improving employee performance–and even increasing a company’s value–why do so many organizations allow employees to book travel off-channel, outside the safety of their travel management company’s (TMC’s) umbrella?
Booking Off-channel Increases Risk
Whether you call it rogue booking, off-channel booking, or travel leakage, booking with outside vendors increases the probability of duty of care and risk management failures.
A live audience poll of travel managers at an Association of Corporate Travel Executives conference shows that risk management—the ability to locate employees in an emergency—is the number one concern generated by off-channel bookings. When travelers book on consumer sites, travel managers lose visibility and control.
Booking in-channel with a TMC provides managers with an employee’s itinerary and allows them to track and contact travelers during emergencies. The traveler, in turn, gets peace of mind and experiences less stress by knowing their employer is aware of and can contact them.
“Providers must have access to the traveler’s full itinerary including all work sites, stopovers, likely side trips, and potential itinerary changes.”
– CDC Yellow Book 2020
If an employee books off-channel and fails to provide an itinerary, forgets to update their itinerary, or doesn’t engage in a risk-monitoring discussion, employers may fail in their duty of care obligation: they can’t manage risk because they can’t locate the traveler.
“Coronavirus has highlighted that businesses didn’t know where their travelers were because they booked outside the system.”
– Matt Cameron, COO, Christopherson Business Travel
Booking In-channel Reduces Risk
Tracking your travelers is paramount to ensuring their safety. To provide real-time data on traveler location and the ability to filter travelers by events they might encounter (e.g., when will that tornado strike Alabama and which of our 17 traveling employees are going to, near, or through that area?), we developed SecurityLogic, which allows managers to track travelers, monitor their safety, and communicate with them in an emergency.
Companies Need Risk Management Technology
SecurityLogic, Christopherson’s risk management tool, provides time windows that look forward and backward (3 and 1 weeks, respectively) at each employee’s trip and its applicable travel alerts. Since some events can be anticipated—like hurricanes that are tracked as they develop—it makes sense to look forward to predictions for landfall, see who is traveling at that time, and determine whether their trip needs to be rerouted. The system updates travel alerts every 10 minutes via a data feed to keep travelers and arrangers apprised of world situations.
Using a series of filters, managers can view specific scenarios. For example:
If an airline’s reservation system is down, you can look for your employees traveling with Delta to see who is impacted.
If a flight were to crash, you can check to see whether you have travelers onboard that flight.
In the case of a terrorist event, say in Hanau, Germany, you can filter travelers by city to see travelers who are in or near the area.
In the case of a hotel fire, you can look at each hotel to see whether any of your travelers are staying at that hotel.
SecurityLogic’s world map gives you a high-level view of the traveler’s trip, such as the area of travel, and allows you to drill down to specifics, like the hotel where that traveler is staying. Through map links to itineraries, travel managers can find all travel and location information for each employee.
In addition, the map shows filterable past, current, and future safety alerts, as well as safety checks that were sent to travelers. Safety alerts are matched to trips and their geographic locations, including places of departure and destination, as well as segments that go through areas of concern.
Travel arrangers can customize the map by choosing which alert categories are shown (health, weather, transportation, natural disaster, security, political, other). These alert categories are further defined by four levels of severity (information, caution, warning, disaster). Each alert includes a link to its source, providing travel arrangers with more detailed, current information.
The map’s radius function allows you to draw and drag a circle to show only travelers within its radius, a function that is valuable when there are regional issues such as April’s earthquakes in Salt Lake City, Utah.
World-wide weather and U.S. doppler overlays can be applied to the map to track events. For instance, during hurricane season you can see the eye of the storm and follow the storm’s progress as it is affected by trade winds and high-pressure systems.
By turning on the map’s Global Disaster Alert Coordination System (GDACS) overlay in map options, you’ll access a government feed for natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, and volcanos. Clicking on the alert icon provides a link to the warning’s source so you can get a situational overview and drill into details, like wind patterns for hurricanes.
Although SecurityLogic was designed to provide disaster alerts for travelers and travel arrangers, clients also use it to track travelers, whether they have travel-related questions or need to see where someone is traveling on a given day.
Check Traveler Safety in Real-Time
SecurityLogic’s Safety Check tool allows managers to filter their list of travelers to travelers of concern level, then select “Safety Check” and prepopulate an alert notification for travelers at risk. The notification contains a link to alert information, a customizable message (for instance, stay out of this area or come home early) and find out whether they are currently safe.
The alert is sent via text, email, or both, depending on the traveler’s preferences set in our proprietary AirPortal software platform.
After receiving an alert, travelers can respond with “I’m safe” or “I need assistance.” If they click the need assistance option, a text box allows them to communicate their needs to the travel arranger. If they select either option, the tool requests permission to use their real-time location. Once they give permission, they are geotagged on the map.
According to Christopherson COO Matt Cameron, about 80% of travelers are generally safe. Of the other 20%, some may not have cell service, and some might need assistance. Safety Check’s functionality allows elimination of safe travelers so managers can focus on those who might need assistance.
For quickest resolution, a team can be used to eliminate travelers as they are contacted and their status updated by marking “resolved.”
Organizations Must Document and Verify Traveler Communications
According to International SOS, it is very important to have a program setup that ensures “each action can be documented and verified to reduce corporate exposure in case an incident does occur.”
“Businesses with any traveling workforce need to get out ahead of the duty of care . . . The goal, of course, is protecting both the employee and the employer.”
SecurityLogic provides documentation and verification of alerts sent to travelers: the travel alerts page shows all alerts matched with specific travelers, along with links to the alert sources, and the notifications page shows the alerts sent to specific travelers, allowing you to verify the information they received.
These functions are extremely helpful when conducting a historical audit to confirm travelers received notices for alerts, such as the closing of the Canberra Airport in Australia, the suspension of European travel to the United States to stem the spread of coronavirus, a tornado warning in Stephens County, Oklahoma, or cautions about potential domestic terrorism in Santiago, Chile.
“With SecurityLogic, you add security component without incurring additional cost, so it’s a good value.”
– Matt Cameron, COO, Christopherson Business Travel
Implementing a Pre-trip Approval Process Reduces Risk
According to Business Traveler USA, more than 66% of American travelers had trips affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet 40% of GBTA members said they either have no travel risk mitigation program or have not reviewed their program since its implementation.
Developing and continually updating these plans is a fiscal no brainer, as duty of care negligence verdicts can impact the bottom line. For example, in 2017 a student who contracted a tick-borne illness during a study abroad trip to China was awarded $41.5 million.
With the potentially devastating financial consequences of duty of care negligence and the high risk associated with coronavirus, it’s no wonder organizations are hustling to implement trip approval procedures that mitigate travel risk.
“Pre-trip approvals are often a cost-control mechanism, but many organizations also use the process to watch for travel planned to risky destinations. This helps them ensure travelers are up to date on relevant vaccinations and can account for other safety and security concerns.”
– David Jonas, The Company Dime
An Automated Process Tool Makes Travel Approval Easy
To implement pre-trip approval for risk management and travel policy compliance, Christopherson provides the Travel Approval tool.
Travel Approval settings can be automated so organizations can determine whether trips to high-risk areas require approval or are not permitted. In the first case, trips requiring approval can be routed to a risk manager or risk management team. Managers also can track approvals throughout the process via an automated series of digital notifications.
Assess Your Plan with This Travel Risk Management Kit
If you’re among the 75% of organizations that rely on a booking tool to track employees, the 53% that don’t have or don’t know if they have the resources to assist employees in an emergency, or just think it’s time for a review, we offer a free risk management kit to assess and improve your duty of care program.
“September 11th reinvented the process for protecting airplanes. Covid-19 will reinvent the travel process around safety, cleanliness, and virus transmission protection. Terms like social distancing, personal protection equipment (PPE), and antibody immunity testing are now part of our new travel vocabulary.
We are up for the challenge, and we will reinvent ourselves to help you and the travelers for whom you have a duty of care responsibility.”
– Mike Cameron, CEO, Christopherson Business Travel
Benefits of partnering with a corporate travel management company (TMC) include: access to a dedicated support team, reduced travel spend, risk management assistance, access to travel technology, enhanced reporting, travel policy creation and integration, and time savings. Read on to see how each of these benefits relates to both the travel manager and the business traveler.
7 Benefits of Using a Corporate Travel Management Company are:
Access to a Dedicated Support Team
Cost Saving Strategies
Assistance with Risk Management
Access to Technology and Tools
Travel Policy Creation and Integration
Time Savings for Travel Managers and Traveler
1. Access to a Dedicated Support Team
Benefits for the Travel Manager
A corporate travel management company (TMC) should offer its clients a dedicated support team. As a travel manager, you are responsible for creating and maintaining an evolving, complex program. Working with a dedicated support team to help manage your program has many benefits.
First, you can lean on a team of experts. Whether you are creating a new travel program or you are looking to improve your current one, a TMC should be able to make recommendations to help you meet your goals.
At Christopherson Business Travel (Christopherson), our travel management experts average more than 25 years of experience in business travel. We have helped hundreds of organizations overcome the challenges of business travel and achieve a variety of goals. Not only do we recommend adjustments our clients can make to their programs, but we also specifically point out how we can help them get there.
Another benefit of having a dedicated support team is that travel managers can rely on experts to provide best practices, industry updates, and seasoned expertise. When a business travel program is outdated, corporate travelers become frustrated. In a dynamic industry that changes rapidly, it’s important for travel managers to stay informed about current and emerging trends.
Benefits for the Business Traveler
Depending on your booking and service needs, your travelers might have access to a dedicated travel advisor team, a certified online support team, or a combination of the two. By partnering with a corporate travel management company, your business travelers can feel confident knowing they always have trusted experts to turn to 24/7, 365 days a year.
Having a dedicated support team to assist with travel challenges (like delayed flights or overbooked hotels) significantly improves the overall traveler experience. A TMC also considers traveler preferences and loyalty information when helping them book travel within policy. At Christopherson, your travelers can access a small, dedicated team of travel advisors, so they always know who to contact for support.
Some TMCs offer support via a call center, which can be frustrating. Call center agents won’t be familiar with your travel preferences or policies, and travelers often don’t receive the level of customer service they deserve. With a dedicated team, you’ll have personalized service and relationships you can count on.
Another benefit of having a dedicated support team is providing VIP services for your executive travelers. At Christopherson, priority response time, requesting special accommodations, and frequent traveler enrollment assistance are just a few of the VIP services we provide.
2. Cost Saving Strategies
Benefits for the Travel Manager
Corporate travel management companies help businesses save money by securing the lowest possible rates on travel. Consider the following hypothetical scenario: You reach out to a large hotel chain to negotiate a corporate rate for your business. You attempt to use your predicted number of reservations of 150 nights as leverage for a lower rate. The hotel is able to offer you a discounted rate of $160 a night.
Now imagine that your corporate travel management company reaches out to the same hotel chain. Instead of 150 nights, your TMC is leveraging the 15,000 nights they anticipate booking among 75 different accounts. It probably comes as no surprise that the hotel is able to offer your TMC an even lower rate of $140 a night.
This example illustrates how working with a TMC increases your buying power and, ultimately, saves you money. Also, by consolidating your hotel spend, a TMC can continue to negotiate lower rates on your behalf year after year.
When it comes to your travel policy, corporate travel management companies make compliance effortless through integrated technology. You can find more details about this below, but one of the reasons travel policies exist is to help manage costs. If your travelers are booking outside of your policy, chances are they are paying more than you would like because they’re not accessing your negotiated rates.
Next, let’s consider unused airline ticket funds. It’s inevitable that business travelers will have to cancel trips due to scheduling changes, which can potentially leave money on the table. Nearly 10% of all business travel airline tickets go unused. As a travel manager, how do you ensure these unused ticket funds aren’t impacting your bottom line? A TMC can monitor these funds, helping ensure they are used before they expire.
Christopherson’s AirBank tool is our solution to managing unused airline tickets. AirBank captures those funds in a centralized database and then prompts travelers to reuse them during their next booking. AirBank’s transparency encourages active participation in the reuse of the ticket. This helps prevent loss of funds, cut costs, and eliminate waste. Managers can also access real-time status updates and reports on those unused tickets and the subsequent available funds.
Lastly, when partnering with a corporate travel management company that charges fair and transparent fees, travel managers are able to more accurately budget for their travel program costs. Christopherson’s all-inclusive pricing structure includes all account management, technology, integrated reporting systems, and tools. Some TMCs operate on an “a la carte” model which can quickly become costly and unpredictable making it more difficult to budget.
Benefits for the Business Traveler
By negotiating lower rates, travelers are often able to choose from higher-end hotels than they would be offered without the purchasing power of a TMC. This improves their overall travel experience and makes for happy travelers.
Unless a tool or system like AirBank is in place, it is easy for travelers to forget about the unused airline tickets they have at their disposal. By providing travelers with money-saving tools like AirBank, travelers can easily cash in on those tickets whether booking online or with an advisor.
3. Assistance with Risk Management
Benefits for the Travel Manager
Businesses have a legal and moral responsibility to keep their travelers safe from threats while they are on the road. Threats can range from something as serious as an outbreak of an infectious disease to losing a passport. Regardless of the circumstance, it’s important that travel managers are aware of threats as soon as possible and have a process in place to keep their travelers safe.
Assistance with risk management is a huge benefit of working with a corporate travel management company.In a recent study, only half of the travel managers surveyed felt confident that they could locate their travelers within two hours of an emergency. When working with a TMC, travel managers often have access to risk management tools that make them more efficient and effective in times of crisis.
For example, Christopherson’s SecurityLogic tool (available within our AirPortal platform) provides travel managers real-time information regarding which of their team members are currently traveling and where those travelers are. SecurityLogic allows you to quickly see if your travelers are in or will be in an affected area.
SecurityLogic’s alerts inform travel managers of events that could impact employee travel or compromise their safety, and the Safety Check feature can be used to verify traveler safety.
Benefits for the Business Traveler
When businesses utilize the full range of benefits tools like SecurityLogic provide, travelers feel safe and secure while on the road. When traveling, staying up-to-date on breaking news can be a challenge. Travelers will find comfort in knowing that if they are in or traveling to a potentially dangerous area, their employer is proactively warning them of any threats and has a plan in place to keep them safe.
4. Access to Technology and Tools
Benefits for the Travel Manager
Without updated technology, travel managers are left to manage their travel programs manually using spreadsheets and emails, which can be time-intensive. Integrating best-in-class technology into your travel program is a sure way to save you time and money.
Corporate travel management partners streamline your processes for requesting travel, approving travel plans, and expense reporting. Christopherson’s AirPortal software platform has your negotiated vendor contracts, travel policy, and travel approval system built-in, ensuring compliant travel booking. All reservations filter into your custom reports and align with your managed travel program. AirPortal can be integrated with valuable benchmarking tools, preferred booking tools, and your HR feed. These technologies make your program efficient and integrated.
AirPortal 360 Mobile, the mobile version of our travel manager dashboard, is the first and only comprehensive mobile app for travel managers that allows you to manage your entire travel program from the palm of your hand. With AirPortal 360 Mobile, travel managers can locate travelers in real-time, verify their safety, view itineraries, monitor travel plans, enroll/deactivate travelers, and manage traveler profiles from anywhere.
When working with a corporate travel management partner like Christopherson, you will also have access to tools like Virtual Pay. Virtual Pay eliminates faxing credit card information to hotels by creating single-use credit cards for each hotel booking. The unique card is then sent to the hotel for booking payment. This process helps eliminate traveler reimbursements, improve billing accuracy, and consolidate hotel spend.
Benefits for the Business Traveler
With access to a robust set of tools and technology, travelers are more organized, efficient, and satisfied with their travel program. Booking compliant travel, reimbursing expenses, and locating travel plans becomes a breeze. Traveler profiles ensure that loyalty programs and preferences are always considered at the time of booking.
5. Enhanced Reporting
Benefits for the Travel Manager
Arguably the most important aspect of any successful program is the ability to access, aggregate, and visualize the data to inform decisions. Some corporate travel management companies offer reporting tools that allow you to view your entire travel program in one location.
Domo, AirPortal’s integrated business intelligence and data visualization program, delivers real-time insights that help you take action and manage a smarter travel program. By aligning metrics that matter to you in one centralized location, you can start to visualize the story your data creates.
With complete visibility into your travel program, you can quickly identify the departments that spend the most on travel or which hotels are booked the most. This allows you to draw meaningful conclusions that help you improve processes and save money.
With Christopherson’s ValueLogic technology, travel managers can also assess the ROI of our partnership. Customizable reports show exactly how and where we’re saving our clients’ money.
Benefits for the Business Traveler
While travelers don’t necessarily need access to the full range of reporting options that travel managers need, data from these reports is essential to your travelers’ ability to book within policy, reconcile credit cards, monitor unused tickets, and identify when their profile information needs to be updated. Good data also makes life easier for travelers in the long run.
6. Helps Create and Maintain Your Travel Policy
Benefits for the Travel Manager
When creating or updating a policy, it’s helpful to have experts consult with you on current best practices in your industry. A travel policy should be a living concept and evolve with the industry. Corporate travel management companies help ensure your travel policy is up to date and integrated throughout your booking tools, benchmarking tools, and HR feed.
Benefits for the Business Traveler
Keeping your travel policy current is a great way to keep your travelers happy. And with policy integration, travelers can be confident their bookings are always compliant.
7. Saves Travel Managers and Travelers Time
Benefits for the Travel Manager
Streamlined and integrated travel programs save travel managers time by keeping them organized and efficient. Whether you’re managing the ins and outs of a large global travel program or have a small team of road warriors, working with a TMC makes your day-to-day efforts easier by helping you implement the processes and plans that will help you reach your goals and support your travelers.
Benefits for the Business Traveler
Centralized, integrated travel programs save travelers time by simplifying the booking process, making it easy to get travel approved, providing the resources and service needed to make their actual trip a breeze. Gone are the days of frantic inbox searches for flight plans, not knowing whether your booking falls within policy or where your frequent flyer number is. Travelers can spend time actually doing what they were hired to do rather than wasting time weighing the costs of different flight options or figuring out logistics of an upcoming trip. A travel management company has the expertise they can rely on.
Originally published Feb 27, 2020 at 4:02 PM, updated March 09, 2020
As the coronavirus continues to affect business travel, we want to provide corporate travel managers with helpful tools, resources, and information to best support their travelers. For the most up-to-date information on the coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)website.
CDC Travel Guidelines
The following warning and alert classifications have been outlined by the CDC. We encourage travel managers to review the warnings and make informed decisions to protect their travelers.
Due to sustained community transmission of the virus in Japan, the CDC recommends that older adults and those suffering from chronic medical conditions postpone travel to these areas. Corporate travel managers could also consider adding an additional level of approval for these business trips by having senior leaders review them on a case-by-case basis.
Watch Level 1
The CDC recommends practiving usual precaustions when traveling to Hong Kong at this time. The CDC will continue to update its recommendations on their website. Companies with employees traveling to level 1 watch areas may want to consider implementing additional health and security protocols to ensure traveler safety.
While personal travel does fall outside the realms of a corporate travel manager’s purview, companies may want to encourage employees to travel with caution and remain aware of this ongoing situation. If an employee has personal plans to visit or has visited one of the warning level areas, you could consider having them self-quarantine for 14 days. If an employee participates in any travel, regardless of the area, and shows signs of being sick, you could also ask them to follow the same 14-day self-quarantine.
Reminder to Only Book Within Approved Corporate Tools
Travel managers should reiterate the importance of booking business travel within the organization’s approved corporate booking tools and enforce these policies. Booking within policy ensures you always know where your travelers are so that you can best support them and communicate critical information in a timely manner.
Review Your Risk Management Policy and Update if Needed
Be sure you have included a protocol for an infectious disease outbreak like this in your risk management plan. Events that could trigger action include travelers becoming infected or being stranded in an infected area. Do you have a plan in place to quickly and appropriately support your travelers?
Remind Travelers to Follow These Best Practices While Traveling
The information presented here is up-to-date as of March 9 and is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Christopherson does not give recommendations on the prudence of travel to affected areas. Our aim is to provide helpful information that allows companies and travelers to make informed decisions. As the situation continues to unfold, companies can access real-time information through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization website.
A travel management company (TMC) is a travel agency that provides extensive business travel support to organizations of all sizes. A TMC can simplify your workload, help you manage travel risks, reduce travel spend, serve your travelers, and provide integrated and centralized data reporting.
1. Simplifies and Streamlines Your Workload
Corporate travel management is complex. As a travel manager, you are often juggling a lot of different tasks within your company. Trying to keep track of employee travel preferences, travel plans, unused tickets, and more can be a daunting task. Travel management companies streamline your processes and support your business travel program through service and technology.
Christopherson Business Travel understands that technology is key to simplifying your workload. That’s why we built our AirPortal software platform. AirPortal provides customized dashboards for both travel managers and travelers with access to all the tools each stakeholder needs to manage the travel program and their business travel, respectively. This suite of tools within AirPortal streamlines the ability to manage risk, spend, profiles, travel plans, unused tickets, booking options, and more.
Each traveler is able to create a unique profile within our travel management platform that securely stores their travel preferences and loyalty program information. These profile details are fully integrated to ensure ease and convenience at the time of booking. When working with a TMC, travelers are able to book travel online or with an expert travel agent, based on your unique service needs. Your company travel policy is also custom-built and integrated to ensure all bookings are compliant.
AirPortal uses artificial intelligence to show the user what’s most important. On both the travel manager and traveler dashboards, AirPortal provides My Action Items, a feature that lists pressing or time-sensitive tasks and reminders so you always know what’s most important today. For example, if a traveler books their flight and rental car, but not a hotel reservation, a line will populate in their My Action Items alerting them of this gap in their travel plans. Or maybe a travel manager missed a travel approval request. This too will appear in the My Action Items feature of their dashboard, along with any other pressing tasks.
Some travel management companies like Christopherson also integrate their travel management software directly into valuable benchmarking tools, preferred booking tools, and your HR feed. Facilitating these integrations allows you to access everything you need from one centralized location, saving travelers and travel managers time, and ultimately money.
Providing guidance through account management is another way a travel management company can streamline and focus your travel program toward reaching your goals. Account managers should work with you to carefully analyze your program to see where you’re succeeding and where the gaps are. Based on that analysis, they should then provide a custom travel management plan to help you know where improvements can be made. This kind of consultative account management allows travel managers to lean on the expertise of seasoned industry professionals
2. Helps You Manage Risk
Duty of Care is the legal and moral responsibility each organization has to keep its employees safe from threats. Such threats could include extreme weather or natural disasters, political strikes and civil unrest, car accidents, theft, personal attacks, or terrorism—the list goes on. As a travel manager, how do you maintain confidence that you are upholding your obligation to protect and care for your travelers?
A travel management company can help expedite your knowledge of threatening situations in areas where you have travelers and facilitate your response and/or assistance. At Christopherson Business Travel, our clients utilize our SecurityLogic tool to access critical, real-time security data, quickly locate travelers and verify traveler safety.
In a recent study, only half of the travel managers surveyed felt confident that they could locate their travelers within two hours of an emergency. If your travelers’ plans are not stored, managed, or accessible from one centralized location, trying to locate employees during a crisis could be a messy and stressful task, not to mention potentially disastrous.
SecurityLogic provides travel managers with a real-time list of who is currently traveling and where those travelers are. SecurityLogic also allows you to quickly see if your travelers are in or are going to be in an affected area.
Travel alerts inform you of events that could impact employee travel or compromise their safety. Travel managers have the option to click through to the news source to get even more information. For extra security, you can set up auto-alerts that push directly to travelers via text and email to verify safety.
Click here to see a quick video tutorial on SecurityLogic.
3. Reduces Your Travel Costs
Partnering with a corporate travel management company can significantly reduce your overall travel costs. TMCs have expert knowledge in all aspects of the travel industry, including contract negotiations. Your account manager should be able to negotiate with your preferred vendors to ensure you are paying the lowest amount possible.
Business travel plans often change or get canceled. Did you know that nearly 10% of all business travel airline tickets go unused? As a travel manager, how do you ensure those funds from unused airline tickets are used before they expire? Keeping track of all the changes in your traveler’s plans could be a fulltime job in and of itself.
Travel Management Companies should ensure your unused tickets don’t impact your bottom line. Christopherson’s AirBank tool, found within AirPortal, captures those unused airline tickets and prevents the loss of those funds by prompting their reuse at the time of booking, whether online or with a full-service advisor.
Working with a business travel agency also ensures employees are booking within your company travel policy. By booking within policy, you can take advantage of your corporate rates, ensure you aren’t overspending, and make expense tracking and reporting a breeze.
Lastly, by partnering with a TMC you are saving time. Every hour you do not have to spend dealing with a travel headache, is an hour you can utilize elsewhere. Travel managers shouldn’t have to troubleshoot flight delays, manually keep track of itineraries, or pull reports from multiple locations. Travelers can find information quicker, make last-minute updates to travel plans, access 24/7 support from a trusted travel expert, and locate all expense receipts in one location.
4. Serves Your Travelers
Companies rely on corporate travel to close new business, foster relationships with current accounts, or inspire and connect departments within their own organization. In order to ensure those travel dollars are well spent, businesses need to prioritize the traveler experience to avoid fatigue and travel burnout. This is where a travel management company can shine.
By utilizing a tool like AirPortal, travelers can access all their travel plans in one location. No more frustrated inbox searching! Travelers are also alerted when they have incomplete trip plans. This allows you to avoid the high-stress situation of arriving at a new destination and realizing you forgot to book a hotel. Avoiding these small hiccups makes for a better traveler experience overall.
Let’s dive deeper into the actual booking process. Whether your travelers like to book online themselves or with a travel agent, partnering with the right travel management company can provide huge upside.
First, adhering to company travel policy is effortless. Regardless of which booking option they choose, your travelers are only offered options that fit within your policy. Traveler preferences are also documented, integrated, and considered before any bookings are confirmed, which makes for happy travelers!
Most importantly, TMCs should offer around-the-clock expert support and consultation. We all know that flights are sometimes delayed or canceled. Occasionally hotels are overbooked. Having access to a dedicated travel advisor team or a certified online support team means your travelers can feel confident in knowing they always have a trusted expert to turn to.
High-stress circumstances during business travel can lead to traveler anger and resentment towards their employer. These situations need to be solved quickly and with little effort from the traveler. With Christopherson Business Travel, your travelers have an expert in their corner to deal with unforeseen issues no matter the day or time.
5. Provides Integrated and Centralized Data Reporting
Next, let’s dig into how a travel management company can help the travel manager as well as the finance department. Many businesses struggle to analyze data because this information is coming from multiple departments and software. Christopherson’s AirPortal platform takes all your data points and presents them in a meaningful and centralized way.
Your AirPortal reporting and analytics tools can help you identify which departments or individuals spend the most on travel, which travelers book outside of your policy, and trends to see where you can save money. Having clear, concise reporting ensures accountability across all departments and helps you to make better-informed business decisions.
In addition to AirPortal’s benchmarking and analytics options, you can also access ValueLogic, an ROI tool that allows you to see exactly how and where we’re saving you money. And since not all travel programs are the same, AirPortal’s reports can be customized to your specific needs, so you see what matters to you. The end result? Cost savings and a well-managed travel program.
From Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits to start-ups, any organization that wants to save time or money on travel can benefit from using a TMC. Download our whitepaper “Do I Need A Travel Management Company?” to better understand how your travel program could benefit from a TMC.
If you have seen the news or skimmed social media this week, chances are you have heard about the coronavirus outbreak in China, now with confirmed cases in Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States. As a business traveler, you might not have the luxury of canceling or postponing your upcoming travel plans, so we put together the five most important facts to keep you informed and safe from this concerning outbreak.
1. What is the coronavirus and how is it spread?
The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a respiratory infection in the same family as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). During early cases of the novel coronavirus, it was thought to have spread from animal-to-person, however new cases of the virus have been identified in patients that confirmed they had no exposure to animal markets. Person-to-person transmission of 2019-nCoV has been confirmed but the exact way in which the transmission occurs remains unknown.
2. What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Symptoms of the coronavirus look and feel much like the flu, including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you believe you might have come into contact with an infected person, seek medical attention immediately.
3. How can I protect myself from the Coronavirus while traveling?
The Center for Disease Control states the first way to protect yourself is to wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Do not touch your face with unwashed hands. Avoid coming into contact with people who are sick. Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. Use alcohol-based sanitizers throughout the day.
4. What should I do if I have travel planned to an affected area?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not yet recommended any travel restrictions. Business travelers should closely monitor the news, the CDC, and the US State Department for breaking\/changing information. Utilize your company’s travel risk management tools to ensure you have the most up-to-date information on the outbreak and possible travel restrictions. Give yourself extra time at the airport for potential health screenings, delays, and long lines. Employ the highest level of health and sanitation protocols.
5. How can my Travel Management Company (TMC) help?
Contact your dedicated business travel agent if you want to delay or cancel any of your upcoming business travel plans. Some airlines and hotels are offering free cancelations for people with travel plans to or through the affected areas and your TMC will be most knowledgeable on eligibility. Your TMC may also be able to assist you in avoiding high-risk areas without canceling your trip plans.
One year from today, the REAL ID ACT will go into effect, changing the required identification needed to board an airplane. A year goes by fast. To avoid future problems, here’s what you should anticipate for the October 1, 2020 deadline.
What do I need to know about the REAL ID ACT?
Once the REAL ID ACT goes into effect, only the correct identification will allow entry into federal buildings, including federally regulated commercial aircrafts. Though passports will be accepted, driver’s licenses and identification cards need to be updated to include scannable microchip technology. It is the responsibility of the individual state to implement these changes. If the traveler does not have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, they will need an additional form of approved identification, or they will not be allowed to board the aircraft.
For years the REAL ID ACT has been surrounded by confusion and chaos. In January 2018, the government as a whole delayed the enactment of the REAL ID ACT until October 1, 2020. The purpose was to give all 50 states adequate time to prepare. Now that the 2020 deadline is approaching, it’s time to make sure your state is compliant and you have the appropriate identification.
How do I know if my driver’s license is REAL ID compliant?
Because every state is responsible for issuing REAL ID compliant identification, it’s best to check your state’s DMV website for up-to-date and correct information. With only a few straggling states, almost all are currently in compliance.
There is also an easy way to tell if your license has the scannable technology. A star in the upper right corner indicates it is REAL ID compliant, though there are various versions of the star logo.
If you do not have a star in the upper corner, you will need to get a new driver’s license.
Another point to remember, if your state is compliant, and your license is due to expire before the October 1, 2020 deadline, the new id sent to you will have the RFID indicated star.