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DIY or enlist an expert? How to manage corporate travel.

David Fastuca
David Fastuca

It’s a long running and frequent argument: do-it-yourself or get an expert in?

It can cause friction in personal relationships, where one party insists they’ll get that project done but their timeframe does not match the other’s thinking (did I just share too much?)

It’s also a common scenario for businesses where growth presents new challenges. These often include an increased need for corporate travel or increasing flexibility in response to technological advances like mobile and ride-sharing.

So what approach to corporate travel management fits your business: managed travel or unmanaged travel?

In short, managed travel is where an external travel management company is brought in to manage corporate travel within your organisation, including booking, budgeting and analysis of travel policy performance. Taking the unmanaged approach gives employees freedom to select their own preferred suppliers and booking channels.

Ultimately, it’s a decision that can only be made internally, but here are some of the pros and cons of both approaches.

The managed business travel approach

  • Systematic: Employees arrange their travel using an online booking system, within defined parameters and a set process. This makes organising corporate travel efficient, consistent and visible.
    The downside is the more rigid the policy, the higher the likelihood of non-compliance. More than 40% of managed business travelers don’t comply with policies, exacerbated by the fact that employee overspending can account for a third of your business travel and expense budget.
  • Expertise and relationships: Being ‘in the business’, travel management companies bring industry experience and supplier relationships, which often results in access to better rates. Obviously there are costs involved in accessing these services, but it’s a question of whether the upfront savings made by taking the unmanaged path outweigh the end-to-end savings possible from utilising local knowledge.
  • Data and traveller safety: A managed, consistent approach gives businesses access to consolidated data that can be used to monitor things like traveler spend while highlighting strengths or weaknesses in your travel policy. Data can also help promote traveler safety and compliance, with travel management companies having access to risk management information and emergency communication tools to ensure the wellbeing of travelers.

Unmanaged business travel

  • Productive employees: An employee trusted with more independence in shaping their itinerary and booking through their preferred channels is a more productive employee while travelling for business.
  • Direct communication: The shortest distance between two points is always the direct route. An unmanaged approach allows employees to communicate and interact direct with suppliers rather than going through a third party. This is becoming less of an issue as the percentage of tech-savvy, digital natives grows within the corporate travel pool.
  • On the downside, giving employees the extra freedom to ‘do-it-themselves’ can increase non-compliance and, in particular, travel costs. Apart from expense reporting, capturing data that can be fed into improving the travel policy is more difficult in an unmanaged system. Duty of care also becomes more of an issue with less visibility around the whereabouts of employees who have booked their own travel.

Best of both worlds

So what’s the verdict? Do we go with superior analytics, visibility in policy performance and access to better rates? Or are we privileging employee independence and greater flexibility to deal with changing trends in corporate travel, such as access to ride- and home-sharing services?

As is often the case, the ideal is finding middle ground that takes the best of both approaches.

Travel management programs like Travelport Locomote give business travellers the flexibility to personalise their journeys while keeping the power in the hands of the business and travel managers.

Travelport Locomote gives businesses the power to set parameters tailored to each employee, load preferred suppliers and negotiated rates, while managing bookings and approvals and accessing compliance and risk management tools, all in the one place. To find out how, chat to one of our team or book in a product demo today.