Organizing travel and accommodation at your next team event
As travel managers and admin professionals know, booking business trips can get messy pretty quickly… and that’s assuming you’re only booking for a single person. Add in the complexities of booking for a group, and you have a recipe for confusion and frustration.
Not to worry, though—there are plenty of tools and services out there that can help you organize things, so that the travel planning for your next team event can go off without a hitch. Here’s a guide to help you prepare for your next group travel experience and make your travel program a success.
Why is booking group business travel so challenging?
There are already several things to think about when booking local or global business travel for just one individual. When starting the business travel booking process, you’ll need to consider:
- Long-haul transportation
- How will the traveler get to their destination? Should they take a plane, train, bus, etc.?
- You may need to account for: Travel time, traveler preferences, budget, carbon footprint (sustainability goals)
- Short-haul transportation
- Once the traveler arrives at their destination, how will they get around?
- Will they need to rent a car, use public transportation, or take taxis? How will this work in terms of logistics and budget?
- Where will the traveler stay? A hotel room, an apartment rental (such as AirBNB), other options?
- Does the traveler have any specific preferences or travel needs (e.g. mobility needs, etc.) that would affect the type of accommodation they choose?
Once you add multiple travelers into the mix, the process gets even more complicated. Not only will you need to consider all of the above, you’ll also now need to coordinate the group to make sure everyone’s needs are taken care of, and that everyone can easily meet up at arranged times. The last thing you’d want would be for mix-ups, misunderstandings, or travel risks to throw off your organization, leaving travelers unsure of where they should be. This can result in a lot of stress as you try to coordinate between different people, solve last-minute problems, and keep on top of updates.
When booking for a group, you’ll need to think about:
- Securing group bookings well in advance, so that everyone can be on the same flights or in the same hotels if needed
- Getting the best deals on group bookings to keep costs down
- Coordinating arrivals from different destinations
- Particularly important for remote-first and geographically-distributed companies
- Accommodating modifications and changes
- Creating policies and offering options for “bleisure” travel, if applicable
- Some employees may want to extend their trip or change arrival/departure destinations to add in a leisure component, especially if they are traveling long distances.
With all these moving parts, it’s easy for even the most conscientious travel planner to make a mistake. Luckily, plenty of travel services exist to help make travel planners’ jobs easier in the lead-up to the event.
What kind of solutions exist for booking business travel?
Recommended solution: Travel management software platforms
These days, more and more companies are turning to software providers to solve their problems in a modern, efficient way. A survey by Smartsheet showed that workers are eager to automate routine administrative tasks like data collection, approvals, and updates, and that 60% of workers estimate they could save six or more hours per week by doing this. Travel planners can also benefit from automation, and the travel management software industry is growing quickly as companies discover all the benefits of an automated travel management solution.
Travel management software is typically much more cost-effective than manual forms of travel booking (like self-booking, or using a traditional travel management company). Not only can this software help you save time, it can also give you access to exclusive discounts you won’t find anywhere else. With corporate travel management software, you can centralize all your travel bookings in one place. You’ll also have access to useful tools like expense reporting, VAT recovery, carbon offsetting, and more.
However, to get the best results, you won’t want to choose just any travel management platform or mobile app. It’s important to select a platform that has the specific functionality you need for event planning. That way, you can easily use the software to coordinate your group travel bookings before (and during) a company gathering.
TravelPerk Events is an industry-leading travel management solution that’s specifically designed to help you organize travel for corporate events. Using the software, you can do all your travel booking in just a few clicks, saving you the hassle of trying to coordinate a group via email.
You can use TravelPerk Events with groups of any size: Small (1-5 people), medium (6-20 people), or large (20+ people). It’s simple: Just invite participants to the event within the platform (see how below), then track their responses and booking status. All travelers will be able to see the others’ trips, so they can easily arrange plans with their colleagues and stakeholders, or change their plans to include “bleisure” time without a problem (according to your policy).
Trip details, travel itineraries, and changes are all available right within the software, meaning everyone will be kept informed and up-to-date. The booking platform is simple to understand and use, so travelers will be able to easily make their bookings. And as the travel manager, you’ll have full visibility over everything, so you can keep track of plans without having to send a single message.
Corporate agencies or local travel agents
Another option for organizing group travel for business is a traditional travel agency. Many companies opt to book via a corporate travel agency specializing in business travel. Others choose to use a local travel agent who works mainly with consumers.
Booking through a travel agency has some benefits over self-booking. For medium-sized or large groups, travel agents might be able to secure group rates on transportation or accommodation. Like travel management platforms, travel agents will typically be able to arrange group bookings so that everyone stays together during the trip. They may also be able to book group activities in the destination.
Using a corporate travel management company (TMC) is often more suitable for businesses than using a local travel agent with limited inventory. This is because some corporate TMCs offer services such as expense tracking and travel policy management.
However, many corporate agencies require strict one-year contracts and have complicated fee models. Between all the various booking fees and transaction fees, using a corporate travel agency can really add up—and it also doesn’t offer your business much predictability over travel spend, pricing, and overall costs.
If you use a travel agency, once your bookings are made, your team won’t have any flexibility to modify them for “bleisure” travel or changes in plans. Every time they want to make a change, they’ll have to contact the travel agency again—leading to the same long email chains you were trying to avoid in the first place. The travel agency will also have to manually chase down traveler information from all event attendees. Because of these complications, travelers will often simply avoid using the agency, instead choosing to book their travel themselves.
Overall, travel management software is a better solution than either a corporate travel agency or a local agent. Booking group travel through an agency is much more complicated than using a digital platform, especially if travelers are located in different places. Trying to coordinate between an agency and a distributed team can easily lead to confusion and mistakes.
Many travel agencies only offer customer support during office hours, whereas a travel management software like TravelPerk will have 24/7 human support available online, via chat, or by phone. This can be a lifesaver if unexpected circumstances arise.
Consumer booking websites/self-booking
Finally, you also have the option of booking via consumer websites, like Booking.com or Skyscanner. As the travel manager, you could do all the online bookings yourself, or you could arrange for each traveler to self-book individually.
Booking via consumer websites might seem like a lean and cost-free process at first glance, but it can actually end up being the exact opposite. Booking manually takes a significant amount of time and effort from both the travel manager and entire team
This option may work for small groups of 1-5 people. But while it might seem like a lean and cost-free process at first glance, it can actually end up being the exact opposite. Booking manually takes a significant amount of time and effort from both the travel manager and the entire team. The company may also end up losing money through mistakes, and by missing out on discounts.
In addition, when travelers book for themselves, it’s difficult for the travel manager to enforce company policy. On the other hand, if you opt for a travel management platform, policy management is often built directly into the software, so there’s no work to do on your end. Automating the booking process eliminates unpleasant, routine tasks—like scouring the web for bookings, digging through email chains, or communicating with travel agents—for travel managers and event attendees alike. It can also save the company money in the long run.
To see how TravelPerk Events can help you streamline your group travel management process, contact us to see our platform in action today.