How to choose a corporate travel agency for a small business
Many Canadian small business owners overlook the benefits they can reap by using a business travel agency to help streamline their business travel program. Whether your travel needs mean you have employees flying regularly or are just looking for one-off solutions, there’s a travel agency to fit SMBs’ travel needs and budgets.
Today, many of these travel management companies (TMC) are partnering up with powerful technology to bring SMBs larger travel options, handle risk management, permit employee self-booking, centralize invoicing, and all while focusing on cost savings.
Global business travel has changed. In this article, we’ll run you through the changes you need to look out for and what you can invest in as small businesses looking to scale.
See how to save money by automating your booking process
What is a business travel agency?
A business travel agency is a company that helps businesses, of all sizes, book and manage travel for employees and company stakeholders. Every business travel agency should be able to do the following:
- Book and manage individual or group travel
- Provide 24/7 customer support:
- Optimize a company’s travel spend
- Guide a company’s travel policy, and help to implement it
- Help manage travel expenses
- Bring your SMB the best deals on the market
Costs and capabilities of business travel agencies vary greatly. So, if you’re in the decision-making phase of your research, you’ve come to the right place—we’re about to dive into the pros & cons of travel agencies, alternatives to the traditional agency, and we’ll be comparing some of the companies at the top of their game in this field.
What makes a travel agency a good fit for a small business?
A travel agency can be a great fit for an SMB as long as they specialize in serving small to medium-sized businesses. Many travel agencies specifically cater to enterprise-sized companies; in this case, bigger doesn’t mean better.
Not only are agencies that cater to enterprises often out of budget for SMBs, but they’re also delivering products and features that are irrelevant.
A small to medium-sized business often doesn’t need the advanced features a corporate enterprise travel team needs. An SMB needs flexibility, a cost-effective solution, and a team that provides a reliable customer experience.
What’s more, when SMBs work with travel agencies that tailor to companies like theirs, their feedback is more likely to be heard, taken into account, and can help direct how the agency grows. SMB travel agencies often have less bureaucracy, work with an agile product development culture, and can tweak their services to fit each SMB’s needs. In all, delivering your business a unique travel service.
What are the advantages of using a travel agency for and SMB?
There are many reasons why a small business may seek the help of a travel agency. Here are some of the top advantages:
- Increases company efficiency - Agencies can report spending by team, department, or project, giving a business the opportunity to control spending and optimize budgets.
- Saves valuable time - Businesses won’t need to book itineraries, gather invoices, or interact with 3rd party customer support.
- Save costs through negotiated discounted rates - Corporate travel agents can negotiate better rates for their clients, which may not be available to the public.
- Agents have the expertise - If your company has a complex travelling system or makes frequent changes, agents have the knowledge and experience to help.
- Maintain travel policy and expenses - An agency will streamline a company's travel program and ensure bookings fit within a travel policy.
- Offer travel support - In the case that something goes wrong while travelling or a reservation needs to be changed last minute, a travel agency is usually available 24/7 to help the employee.
What are the disadvantages for small businesses?
There are other options available for small businesses to manage business travel that are more flexible and cost-effective. Before signing on with a corporate travel company, it’s worth considering the disadvantages and the alternatives.
- No freedom for the traveller - More business travellers want the opportunity to book for themselves easily and within company policy, which isn’t an option with a business travel agency.
- Lack of control for management and administrators - Instead of having easy access to reports, administrators will need to reach out to the agency to request information in advance.
- Technology isn’t as advanced - Travel agencies often contact clients over the phone or by email; there is not one user-friendly location to view all trip information.
- Limited inventory - While travel agencies have partnerships and deals, most agencies don’t usually offer low-cost vendors, which means they can’t book the cheapest option available.
- High fees - Business travel agencies increase overall travel spend due to their fees and service markups.
What small businesses should look for in a travel agency
If you own a small business, it’s important that energy and resources are focused on what will make the biggest impact. Here are some things to consider when finding an agency that meets your business needs.
- Clear costs. It’s important that you’re aware of how the agency will charge for its service. Set payment agreements and look out for any extra charges and commissions.
- Consumer-grade travel inventory. More choices mean you can book the cheapest option and lower travel spending. Options that are available to regular consumers should be available to business travellers.
- Great support. What kind of support does the agency offer? Is it 24/7? Does it support your language? This is extremely important and where the agency can offer real value.
- Travel spend reports. To improve budgets, insight into travel spend is essential. Look for an agency that can process expenses and can provide in-depth reports and analyses.
- Specialized and scalable. Make sure the agency has connections in the locations you travel to the most and can scale and develop as your company grows.
What's the best travel agency for small businesses?
In short, the best travel agency for a small business is no travel agency but an online travel tool. The objective of hiring a travel agency is to save time and resources on the booking and management process.
Travel agencies used to be the best option available for this. However, tech tools with 24/7 support like TravelPerk offer the support of a traditional travel agency with all the advantages of an online booking platform.
With that being said, let’s look into a collection of travel management companies that combine the knowledge of a travel agency, with the ease of a travel booking tool. Get ready to level up your company travel processes, and make the most of your travel budget.
With the world's most extensive inventory and a wide array of integrations, TravelPerk offers businesses a comprehensive corporate travel management system. As well as benefitting from the best rates in the travel industry, business travellers have access to real-time security notification and can speak to a human agent in just 15 seconds, 24/7, 365 days a year.
Key features of TravelPerk
- An automated travel booking approval system: that guarantees policy compliance and improves the travel experience for employees.
- FlexiPerk: fares offer users peace of mind with the ability to cancel business trip arrangements up to two hours before departure with a guaranteed refund of 80%, no questions asked.
- GreenPerk: enables businesses to offset your business travel carbon emissions by financially contributing 0.9% of trips towards certified projects that make a green impact.
- 24/7 Customer support: 7-star customer service operating at a 15-second response time gives your employees peace of mind when they’re on the go.
- The world’s largest travel inventory: beats every other travel tool to the top spot in terms of travel booking options: hotels, car rentals, rail tickets, serviced apartments, flights, and more.
- Pay when you book: TravelPerk has a freemium version available for small businesses where you’ll have access to the tool at no cost, and only need to pay when you book. Perfect for small businesses looking to scale.
- User-friendly mobile app: TravelPerk’s app is constantly reviewed as intuitive, functional, and easy-to-use, enabling your employees to make changes on the go, without needing to pull out their laptop.
Traditional travel management company FCM has pivoted to offer tech solutions for busy business travellers with their new platform. From booking business trips to monitoring traveller safety, FCM allows organizations to complete various tasks on desktop and mobile devices.
Key features of FCM
- An approvals system can be established incorporating travel policies to improve compliance.
- Syncs with AirPlus to streamline payments.
- Customizable dashboards allow teams to generate reports to monitor travel spending.
Click below for a more detailed comparison between both platforms:
Offering various tools for expensing and booking travel arrangements; business travellers can take advantage of negotiated rates for accommodation and transportation, and support through TravelBank's dedicated Slack channels.
Key features of TravelBank
- While security notifications are unavailable, there are provisions for support from travel experts to help with difficulties after departure.
- Combines with a handful of major credit cards and common personnel and expense management software.
- Per-user subscription models allow organizations to choose between booking and travel expensing features.
Known for specializing in arrangements for the energy and marine industries, CTM provides a range of travel services to assist businesses, including an online booking tool with fare forecasting to predict potential cost increases.
Key features of CTM
- Provides concierge services to handle group travel and organize events.
- Allows travel managers to track individual employees' booking behaviours but cannot integrate corporate policies for greater compliance at this time.
- Establish an ongoing subscription for travel management services based on the size of your organization.
With their quirkily named tech platform Melon, business travel agents Corporate Traveller are expanding their offerings. Melon's dashboard allows employees to book airfares, car rentals, and accommodation while providing a smattering of integrations to aid busy travel managers.
Key features of Corporate Traveller
- Provides duty of care support with traveller tracking sending notifications for a range of security concerns and updates to travel plans.
- Offers a host of negotiated corporate rates but has a smaller inventory than other business travel management tools.
- Syncs with commonly used expensing and HR tools but combines with fewer tools than other travel management solutions.