Business travel in Australia is defying the economic downturn, according to a new survey, and more than 70 percent of regular business travellers say they haven’t cancelled trips because of the GFC. It never hurts to get the best deal though, does it?
The recent Quest Serviced Apartments Business Travel Survey found that more than 63 percent of business travellers expect to travel the same amount over the next six months despite the difficult economic climate, with 29 percent of these planning to stay in less expensive accommodation if they do make a change to their travel habits.
The survey also reflects a bright future for business travel in Australia; 73 percent of respondents expect the economic downturn to have no impact on the frequency of their business travel in two years. In a further positive, an additional 10 percent actually expect to travel more for business in two years’ time.
The survey polled more than 1,000 regular Australian business travellers. Quest chairman Paul Constantinou says: “In most instances, travel is essential to maintaining and growing a business. While people are still travelling, they are looking at ways to trim the fat from their expenses and are looking more closely at cutting back on unnecessary services. Business travellers have very specific needs and as long as you can provide these things well, they will keep coming back.”
Men vs women travellers
The survey also revealed some stark differences when it comes to male and female business travellers. More than twice the number of men favoured a gym workout while travelling for business than women.
And it seems that men value technology more than women; only 11 percent of women chose internet access as their top business travel priority, compared to 24 percent of men.
Not surprisingly, 60 percent of women picked safety and security as their number one feature when choosing business travel accommodation, while 36 percent of men regarded friendly staff and great service as their top priority.
But both genders agreed when asked to pick their favourite home comfort when travelling for business: a good pillow was the number one choice for both male and female business travellers. Other favoured home comforts were fresh fruit and in-room kitchen facilities.
Constantinou said: “Some people may believe that all business travellers want the same things from their accommodation but we understand this is not the case. Men and women look for different features when choosing business travel accommodation–women are much more concerned with the safety and security of their accommodation than men.”
Too small for a corporate travel agent?
Using a specialist corporate travel management company (TMC) is often seen as a luxury for SMEs, but if you’re a business owner who thinks using internal employees to look after your travel needs will save you time and money, you may be wrong. Studies have shown that time browsing the internet and researching travel options is one of the key sources of lost business productivity and efficiency. And SMEs can’t afford to be losing valuable business time on in today’s financial market. While the internet is a portal for information on just about every topic under the sun, employees can end up feeling like Alice in Wonderland–lost down a rabbit hole–which is often confusing and scary.
It can take hours or even days to compare flights, policies, prices, insurance, terms and conditions, stopover destinations and accommodation… the list goes on. An external travel consultant has the tools, knowledge and experience to effectively manage your travel portfolio, no matter how small.
So what is it about a corporate travel specialist that could save you piles of money and help you avoid the rabbit warren? There are five key reasons:
- Greater organisational flexibility: More staff focused on client problem-solving and less on travel coordination = higher productivity and efficiency.
- Time = money: A busy schedule is a profitable one and minimising the disruption to the working day is essential to achieving this. 90% of your travel portfolio is managed behind the scenes, leaving you just only 10% which can be facilitated by phone, internet or face-to-face consultation.
- Monitoring and compliance of travel spend: This is crucial to remaining buoyant in today’s financial market. The ability to ensure budgets are constantly reviewed as market conditions fluctuate and that opportunities utilised, such as unprecedented drops in airfares and package deals, are the hallmarks of the TMC industry and its ability to drive business progress.
- Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish: Just because something is cheap does not mean it is the most appropriate option. TMCs can assess your unique situation and provide expert advice on where to make the most effective savings
- TMCs have greater access and buying power within the travel market, meaning they can often get better deals and exclusive packages unavailable to us mere mortals.
Without an agent you’re on your own. Travelscene give the following insider advice on how you can make your travel portfolio work for your business:
- Plan meetings and associated travel well in advance to take advantage of reduced air, hotel and rental car deals.
- Reap the financial rewards of booking non-flexible airfares; you can save up to 40% of the cost of an airline ticket by flying non-flexible one-way, and even more in both directions.
- It might be hard but travelling in a lower class pays off. Many airlines now offer great business class alternatives such as premium economy, which can deliver 30% savings.
- If you know your destination (or have a good sat nav!), hire a car for the day rather than use taxis. In Melbourne, for example, that could cost you just $70 versus $150.
- Smart travel is travel which fits your needs and the needs of your team. It’s about getting the balance right so that you enjoy savings, flexibility and value for money.
Accommodation top tips
Business travel can be demanding. Not only are employees required to work intensively, but they’re also spending their down time in an unfamiliar environment. At the end of the working day, it’s important to feel comfortable in your surroundings, kick up your feet and relax, or, if you need to continue working, to be able to do so in comfort.
According to Rachel Argaman, CEO of Toga Hospitality (which owns Medina Apartment Hotels), it’s important to choose your accommodation provider wisely as it can have a huge impact on your productivity during and after your business trip. When travellers arrive back to their rooms, they may need to continue checking emails or finalise a report, and they would prefer to do this in a home-like environment where they are either working properly at a desk or at the dining table or in front of the television with their laptop.
Apartment hotels are increasingly being used by business travellers. There are clear trends indicating the corporate traveller is now selecting apartment hotels based on the space and lifestyle they offer, providing the corporate executive with a real home away from home along with greater efficiencies in managing their business commitments. They can offer excellent value for money with rates, in most cases, being competitive with your average hotel room but offering guests the space of their own private apartment where they can entertain clients, conduct business meetings or simply relax.
Another top tip is to consider carefully the location of the premises and its proximity to the primary scene of business, typically in CBD areas. While it may appear cheaper to stay in accommodation outside the CBD, the time taken to commute may cut into precious down time, not to mention cost you money in cab fares. A centrally located hotel also allows for greater entertaining and dining options.
So the message is clear: outsourcing your business travel to the experts can actually save you money, not cost you money. Why not stop surfing the web and look into your travel management options? And when it comes to accommodation, make sure you get the most business use you can from your spend.
HOW TO CHOOSE A TRAVEL AGENT
1. Check that they are fully licensed and part of the TCF (Travellers Compensation Fund). This is the body that will cover you if a supplier or carrier shuts their doors. Many websites are not part of this fund.
2. Ask how long they’ve been in business or ensure that the owner of the business has experience in the travel industry. If they are a relatively new business or the owner is also new to the travel industry, they will not have the relationships with the airlines and suppliers and may also not fully understand your needs.
3. When comparing prices, ensure you’re comparing apples for apples. The airfare itself is one area of comparison, but ensure that the airfares are transparent, featuring the total cost including travel and taxes. The more experienced travel agent may charge a slightly higher fee but you will benefit by their knowledge and experience when it comes to booking your travel arrangements.
4. Check what buying group your travel company is a part of. This might be Travelscene American Express or Harvey World Travel. Such groups will allow your agent to have better buying power than an independent agent, therefore better deals for you.
5. Check their 24/7 policy. Do they have one? Is it a call centre of one of their consultants with a laptop and a phone? Your business requirements will determine the type of service you need.
6. Making travel bookings online is very popular these days. Your corporate travel management company should be able to offer you an online booking engine which generates everything back to them. This allows for you to still have control of your bookings but they will still be there to help, ticket, do changes and ensure you are still utilising the best deals.
7. If your agent is part of buying groups and recognised by its peers, airlines and suppliers, it will have negotiated better deals and will be able to offer value-adds that you would not be able to get just anywhere. AFTA, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, came out with a tagline a few years ago: “Without an Agent you are on your Own”.
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