When I arrived in Houston for the Concur Fusion Exchange event the last week of August, little did I know of the growing threat brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 hurricane, was headed straight for the Texas Gulf Coast and Houston. I had never been so close to a hurricane, and as I continued to watch the news and engage in conversations, I grew a little nervous. With my flight scheduled the same day as the forecasted landfall, I wondered how long I might be in Houston. Would the weather prevented my travels out of town?
In stepped Tina, our wonderful agent at Christopherson Business Travel! With traffic backing up on the highways to get out of town, and with the airlines inundated with calls to accommodate flights home, Tina told me to just concentrate on my day while she handled my travel plans. Just her communications alone was enough to calm my nerves. And as the day approached its end, Tina let me know that she secured a spot for me on a packed flight out of town!
I was very appreciative to experience the incredible service that our Christopherson agents provide, and my family was excited to hear that I would be out of harms way. When travels go smoothly, we don’t often recognize the value of being supported by a terrific team of agents, but when interruptions occur, its a great feeling to know that they are in your corner!
Thank you to Tina, and best wishes to all those affected by Harvey (and Irma) as the rebuilding continues!
The two most common responses we hear when group travel is brought up are, “It will cost the company more to use a group travel agent than for me to book the trip myself,” and, “My group isn’t big enough for me to use a group travel agent.” So you might be surprised to learn that taking advantage of Christopherson Business Travel’s Group Travel and Incentive Agents can really be cost effective and save more time than it takes to get everyone to agree to offering the trip in the first place.
Take the following scenarios for example. In a corporate office, the main travel planner is sometimes also an executive assistant or office manager. This person might get a request like this from their boss: “Please book travel for such-and-such group in 3 weeks. They’re going to such-and-such destination. Add in a couple of excursions, don’t forget to include the spouses or significant others, and make sure the hotel is 5 star or above. Oh, and by the way, the company can’t spend more than $X on the trip.” Or, the company’s travel planner may be asked to plan a trip for a group or team that will be paying for the trip on their own. The total cost needs to include transportation, hotels, food, and excursions.
I can say from personal experience that putting together group trips like this can be very time consuming and often complicated. The number of days spent researching all of the possibilities can take as long as taking the trip yourself, or longer. The number of emails and phone calls that need to be made to vendors can mount up faster than getting through TSA. Then comes pricing out the trip. It’s like trying to fit all the things you purchased while traveling into an already full carry-on bag and then stuffing in it into the plane’s overhead compartment.
Group Travel and Incentive Agents Are Actually More Cost Effective
Myth-Breaker #1: The notion that it will cost the company more to use a group travel agent than to book the trip oneself is false. Using a group agent usually saves you money on the bottom line. A group agent will look at the timing of the trip and can help strategize once the common interests of the group have been decided. They can look at multiple locations that would fit the group size, culture, and type of meeting. The agent also has the ability to send out a “request for proposal” to several hotels and transportation companies to gather the best pricing and set up contracts with the airlines that will hold pricing in some cases. They also can negotiate additional amenities to offset the cost.
Additionally, the group agent will most likely have worked, or built relationships, with certain vendors in the past that can benefit the customer and help provide discounts. They can also tap into their resources and network to make sure the VIP customer is well taken care of. They can provide all the forms and documents necessary to make sure all travelers are accounted for. Plus, hundreds of options to increase the fun factor of the trip are at their fingertips. When it comes to helping to stay on budget, they know how to negotiate with the best of them. When you consider all of the cost (and time) savings that a group agent brings to the table, you can see that it really does off-set the expense of what it costs to use such an agent. And the executive assistant, office manager, or travel arranger can get back to work on all of those other projects that have a higher priority in their job.
Group Travel and Incentive Agents Can Plan Trips for Any Size Group
Myth-Breaker #2: The idea that your group isn’t big enough to use a group travel agent is also false. Having a group of less than 10 travelers can, in some instances, be considered a group. There is no travel industry standard about what number of travelers constitutes a group. A group of five could be considered a group and group discounts could apply. And in fact, it really makes sense to use a group agent when your group is smaller as they might have influence with vendors who can help lower costs or provide additional amenities that otherwise would not be offered. The group agent can also be the point person for all the travelers to make their arrangements with and pay for their trip if need be, and the agent can give the group’s arranger a breakdown of all of the travel plans which could include: costs, departures, arrivals, hotel room confirmations, and special requests of each traveler. There really is a lot that a group agent can do for a smaller group and the cost is minimal when compared to the overall planning time necessary for such a trip.
So just remember that at Christopherson Business Travel, we have group and Incentive Agents who are part of the total travel management program we offer. Just ask your Account Manager to introduce you to one of the agents when planning the next trip for a group of people.
Following the recent trend of explaining why using a travel advisor is such an excellent idea, the New York Times published an article Friday, April 20, 2012 titled “Are Travel Agents Back?” The answer seems to be a resounding yes!
Excerpt from the article is below: The complimentary wine and fruit platter was sent up to Jessica Griffin and her family moments after they strolled into their roomy suite. They were accompanied by a bellhop who placed their bags near a tidy crib made up with luxurious, high thread-count sheets for Ms. Griffin’s 1-year-old daughter. The V.I.P. treatment at the Cheeca Lodge and Spa in the Florida Keys last month hadn’t come with an extra cost. In fact, Ms. Griffin said, she paid about $100 a night less than the standard rate for her room. And the deal wasn’t the result of hours of tedious online research either. She had finagled her savings the old-fashioned way: through a travel agent.
Did you know that Christopherson Business Travel also has a vacation travel division, called Andavo Travel? Two brands under the same roof, and we here on the vacation side of life would love to assist you in planning your next vacation. Or perhaps you’re thinking of inviting the family along on your next business trip, to maybe extend your stay and enjoy a little relaxation? We can help with that too. Andavo Travel is a Virtuoso member agency and, as such, is chock full of excellent travel advisers. You can review some of our ranks across the country and choose the one that is just right for you. How Andavo Travel can help you personally:
Avoid hours of internet research and price comparisons
Utilize our expertise: Our well-traveled advisers use firsthand experiences to customize vacations
Enjoy global connections: Personal contacts at 1,000+ airlines, cruise lines, hotels and resorts worldwide
Provide an advocate in case of flight cancellations, delays or lost luggage
How Andavo Travel can help a company:
Arrange groups, meetings and incentive travel
Plan company retreat travel
Reward employees with travel gift certificates, redeemable via Andavo
Offer discounts for a vast array of travel suppliers through our exclusive contracts
Participate in your employee health/benefits fairs
What is Virtuoso?
Virtuoso is a network of the world’s finest travel agencies
Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisers have global connections with the best travel providers, which means access to the best travel offers that consumers can’t get on their own
For Andavo and Christopherson clients, this means access to exclusive, complimentary travel offers:
Recently, I booked a vacation through my travel agency to an all-inclusive resort at Playa Del Carmen in Mexico. It was an amazing getaway and I loved every minute of it.
While on my trip I chatted with a few of my fellow travelers about their vacation planning and overheard a few conversations regarding this topic as well. What I found interesting was that all these conversations revolved around their travel agent, in one way or another. Whether it was that they chose this particular resort because their agent recommended it, or that they discussed their array of flight options–I was amazed! Not because I don’t see the value in travel agents (I work for an agency!), but because so many people think that booking online is the wave of the future. However, almost everyone I spoke with booked their vacation through a travel agent.
I took pride in this fact and find it to be great news for our industry. Now what we need to do is spread the word and let everyone know that booking with a travel agent is the definitely the best option!
In fact, here are three benefits to booking with an agent:
You save money! Travel agents work hard to maintain strong relationships with travel suppliers. They also have access to the latest in computer reservations technology which allows them to help you find the best values and options.
Agents are also your advocates. Your best interests are their priority and they will be there to help you through your entire planning process and help smooth out any hiccups you experience along your travels.
You get personal service. A travel agent will answer your phone calls, take care of problems, guide your planning, offer suggestions, and share their travel/destination experience. That’s something you’ll never get from a computer screen.