When it comes to corporate travel, small and medium-sized businesses often don’t have solid travel or booking management processes in place or use a variety of different tools to manage different bookings.
Managing corporate travel in this way soon becomes expensive and time-consuming. With no centralized travel management solution, you have little to no visibility into how your travel budget is being spent, the potential savings to be made, or your levels of travel policy compliance.
Corporate travel experts and agencies are not just for large enterprises. In fact, multiple travel management companies are designed to help small and medium-sized companies manage their business travel, helping them save time, enjoy discounted travel rates, and maintain travel policies and expenses.
For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking to centralize their business travel management, we’ve put together this guide that covers:
- The benefits of using corporate travel experts for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
- The differences between traditional travel management agencies and online booking tools
- The core features that a good travel management platform for SMBs should offer
- A review of the top five corporate travel companies for SMBs
What are the advantages of using a corporate travel management company?
Business travel costs often represent a large percentage of an SMB’s overall expenditure, which means proper management of travel programs, budgets, and future planning is essential. Without a centralized travel management tool, SMBs often run into several business travel challenges such as poor program oversight, overspending, and inaccurate expense reporting.
Here are just a few ways that corporate travel management companies can lighten the load for SMBs:
- They’re business travel experts: Travel management companies have years of experience and knowledge of the travel industry to properly manage your business travel program and help you make cost savings and eliminate inefficiencies.
- Their focus is entirely on your business travel needs: Often, business travel management falls to an existing employee who has other responsibilities and objectives. Travel management companies are dedicated to the task of managing your business travel needs with no other distractions. Plus, you don’t need to hire an additional member of staff to take on this workload.
- They negotiate the best corporate travel rates on your behalf: For group and individual travel, business travel experts are adept at negotiating better rates for SMBs.
- They collate travel spend reports: Travel management companies compile reports on business travel spend and expenses by team, department, or project to help you optimize your budgets.
- They help maintain compliance: One of the biggest challenges for SMBs is making sure that all business travelers are complying with the company’s travel policy and not making unauthorized bookings. These travel professionals can enforce your travel policy rules when booking business travel arrangements.
Effective travel management for SMBs includes using the right tools and services to help manage and execute business travel programs. When your focus is on growing your business, you’re often tempted to make cost savings by choosing the cheapest option for managing your corporate travel needs.
But, if you want to enjoy long-term efficiencies, cost shouldn’t be the only factor you consider. Traditional travel management agencies have been a mainstay in the industry for many years, but many lack the flexibility that today’s SMBs require to manage their business travel needs. Online booking tools, on the other hand, aim to simplify, centralize, and streamline all business travel processes.
Let’s take a look at how traditional travel management agencies compare with online booking tools (OBTs), and how OBTs are the true all-in-one business travel solution for SMBs.
Traditional travel management agencies
A traditional travel management agency or travel management company (TMC) helps businesses book flights, transfers, and accommodation. Your in-house travel manager will work with a corporate travel agent to create itineraries for business trips, and sometimes, may take on the role of a digital concierge and help book event tickets, restaurant reservations, and meeting rooms — but often at a higher cost.
Additionally, a traditional travel agency will often charge businesses an annual fee, plus transactional fees every time you use their service which can quickly add up to a significant portion of a small business’s travel budget.
You’ll also have less insight into why certain suppliers were chosen, or how much was spent on certain bookings, meaning you can’t always easily track your travel management KPIs.
Finally, TMCs generally only work during standard business hours, which means that if your business travelers need assistance after hours or during the weekends, they won’t be able to access immediate assistance.
Online booking tools
OBTs are centralized platforms that enable business travelers and travel managers to choose from a wide range of flights, accommodation options, and travel options from within one booking tool.
Self-management is a key feature of OBTs, meaning that business travel can be booked and managed far quicker than relying on a TMC. Some OBTs allow you to embed your corporate travel policy into the tool, meaning that business travelers are automatically prevented from booking anything that lands outside of your travel policy.
OBTs can also create detailed travel reports to make optimizing travel budgets easier, while finance departments can establish the right payment and expense workflows for the business.
Pre-trip approvals are another feature of OBTs that give businesses the confidence to allow employees to book their own travel while maintaining checks on travel spend.
OBTs often offer concierge services that support business travelers throughout their trips by providing traveler assistance, highlighting safety concerns in the area, and offering alternative transport arrangements when necessary.
What features should a travel management company for small and medium-sized businesses offer?
There are many TMCs and OBTs on the market — but what makes one the right choice for small and medium-sized businesses?
SMBs have very different priorities, budgets, and needs compared to large companies and enterprises, meaning they need a travel management expert that can meet their expectations for a great travel experience.
For example, while Amex Global Business Travel is a well-known corporate TMC, its services and features are generally aimed towards enterprise-level companies, which might make it an unsuitable option for SMBs.
Here are the core features of a travel management tool suitable for SMBs:
- Flexible booking options: Flexible booking is a must-have for SMBs in order to be agile while protecting their budgets. Accessibility to booking travel services such as flights, trains, accommodation and car rentals that accommodate last-minute changes to travel dates or cancellations after booking free of charge or for smaller change fees than usual is a key feature for SMBs.
- Multiple transportation options: A TMC that offers transportation options aside from flights is another essential feature. SMBs are more likely to travel closer to home and also more likely to be keen on saving money, so the ability to book different transportation options such as cars and trains is essential.
- Integrated travel policy: Having travel policies built into the core of a TMC is another core feature for SMBs to ensure that they can enforce compliance and enjoy cost savings on travel booking.
- Reporting capabilities: Access to reports that break down the data by each business traveler, transport type, booking type, cancellations, and recoverable VAT helps SMBs identify and initiate spend optimization activities.
- Carbon offsetting: Making more sustainable choices to better the environment is often a top priority for many SMBs. The ability to offset their emissions related to business travel is now a key TMC feature for SMBs.
The 5 best corporate travel experts for small and medium-sized enterprises
Luckily, SMEs and SMBs have access to a wide range of corporate travel companies and online booking tools that are equipped to serve their unique business needs, industry, and budgets.
Here’s our pick of the top five corporate travel experts for SMEs and SMBs.
TravelPerk is a travel management company that offers an all-in-one digital travel platform that manages the entire business travel booking process from start to finish.
Not only does TravelPerk offer users the world’s largest travel inventory for flights and accommodation and a huge catalog of integrations, but it also offers SMBs unique services such as a VAT recovery solution, a carbon offsetting program, and FlexiPerk, a cancelation feature that grants users the ability to cancel business trip arrangements up to two hours before departure with a guaranteed refund of 80%.
On top of this, TravelPerk offers:
From approval workflows, travel policy compliance, and reporting to help you optimize your travel management programs, TravelPerk offers the end-to-end travel management experience that SMBs can rely on from within one centralized platform.
If you want to learn more about how TravelPerk can streamline global business travel for your SMB, reach out today for a free demo.
2. Selective Travel Management
Selective Travel Management is a travel management company specialized in providing business travel services to several industries including SMBs, governmental departments, higher education, charity and missionary, film and entertainment, and groups and events.
The company offers several services that range from group travel business booking, consultancy, risk management, and 24/7 services including in-house emergency support.
Selective Travel Management’s client base predominantly spans the UK and Ireland, and their key features include:
- 24-hour traveler assistance
- Traveler tracking abilities
- Online booking tool and travel management portal
- Multi-sector itineraries
- Search by fare and schedule
- Travel budget management
- Bookings in line with unique company travel policies
However, Selective Travel Management lacks the flexibility that many SMBs need. For example, the company does not appear to offer many features that allow employees to manage their own travel bookings or flexible cancelations or changes to travel bookings.
3. BCD Travel
BCD Travel is a corporate travel management company with offices in 109 countries that offers travel management services to companies all over the world. Aside from business travel management, the company’s services include meetings management, expense management, and carbon-emissions tracking and reporting.
BCD Travel is a traditional travel management company that offers services via an agent and online booking tools including a software suite of three separate platforms for businesses to manage travel. Via these tools, the company offers several travel management functions including:
- BCD Pay, a travel expense management tool
- BCD Alert, a mobile app for travelers that provides 24hr support and risk management to travelers
- TripSource, a self-management tool for business travelers
- DecisionSource, a feature that provides insights on your travel program based on data
BCD Travel’s many partners and affiliates allow the company to offer clients a range of travel solutions, however, its platforms are not centralized and can be confusing in terms of how users manage the booking process from start to finish.
Diversity is a travel management company for the humanitarian, faith, and NGO sectors, and operates in 82 countries worldwide. Diversity’s online booking tool allows users to book flights, trains, car rentals, and hotel rooms and facilitates airfare deals available and seat holding for non-profit organizations.
The company also offers PinPoint, a traveler tracking software that highlights the levels of risk within different locations around the world, provides travelers with real-time risk alerts, and enables colleagues to locate travelers via GPS tracking.
However, as a travel management tool, Diversity has its limitations. For example, the company doesn’t offer an integration with travel policies for 100% booking compliance, a VAT reclamation feature, or any third-party integrations. The company also has limited inventory on offer and doesn’t offer a carbon offsetting program.
5. Key Travel
Key Travel is a travel management company specializing in the humanitarian, faith, and academic sectors and offers deals on flights, train tickets, accommodation, car rentals, and ferries, as well as parking and lounge, passes via its online booking tool, KT Online.
The company also provides a risk management and tracking app for traveler safety, and its reporting tool, KT Insights, provides reports on financial and carbon spending to help drive compliance with travel policies and improve overall travel programs.
However, since Key Travel offers a suite of digital tools rather than a centralized platform for business travel management, and only caters to specific industries, the company may not be suitable for SMBs looking for a solution that caters to their industry.