Mistakes Booking Travel

Would you balance your business accounts yourself just because you know how to use Excel? You might, but it will take a great deal longer than paying an expert to do it for you.

Of all the “epic fails” SMEs encounter to save a few Rands by doing things themselves, bad travel experiences are among the worst. Ask any jetlagged traveller who’s been stranded in an airport for eight hours waiting for their connecting flight.

Flight Centre Business Travel (FCBT) Brand Leader Andrew Grunewald shares four of the most common mistakes SMEs make when booking travel:

  1. Thinking organising travel is ‘easy’

How difficult can it be to book a quick Jo’burg to Cape Town flight for a meeting?

The truth is that travel management isn’t as simple as booking a simple domestic return flight and arriving at the airport in time. And, buying travel is nothing like buying coffee for the office either.

In addition to the minefield of rules that govern travel – from flight change fees to visa requirements – travel is also highly emotive. You’re dealing with your employee’s time and comfort, and as a result their productivity.

The cost of getting it wrong is more than the time and money it will take to fix the problem, like paying a change-fee; it’s the wellbeing of the traveller affected… the person who you’ve entrusted to close that important deal for the company whose performance and morale is now affected because their travel plans have been disrupted due to unexpected events.

2. Ignoring the importance of ‘little’ expenses

If you’re not actively managing your business travel spend, you might not even realise how much you spend on the ‘little things’ like change fees, taxes and visas. Seemingly small items, such as baggage fees and airport parking – can add up to substantial amounts for the company.

However, these expenses are negligible when compared to the unproductivity of having an inexperienced staff member spend hours trying to arrange their business travel and the time taken to reconcile your travel expenses on their return.

3. Assuming the company is too small for a travel policy

Guidelines on travel arrangements should be clear for everyone in the company, even if you work with a small team. But, does it really make sense to craft a proper travel policy for yourself and your staff that dictates the terms under which travel is planned, approved, booked and carried out?

“Just because you may be a smaller business, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a travel policy. If anything, it’s even more reason to have one. Smaller companies typically don’t have the buffer bigger businesses have when it comes to wastage. A travel policy helps you keep track of what you’re spending on your business travel, as well as puts in place rules that avoid unnecessary expenditure,” says Grunewald.

A travel policy also helps you take back the control when it comes to streamlining your processes and reducing your costs by ensuring there’s no uncertainty among employees on what type of travel is booked and how. You can also save by outlining clearly in your policy what will be covered as an expense and what isn’t permissible.

4.Trying to cut costs by cutting out the experts

Every Rand saved makes a difference to your bottom line and, if you charge by the hour, what does it cost you and your staff to manage your travel every month instead of outsourcing it?

Imagine all the time spent comparing flight costs and travel times, getting to the airport to catch the red-eye flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, only to realise you’ve booked it from Cape Town to Johannesburg. And take into consideration  the time and money wasted having to change the booking, wait for the next flight, possibly reschedule all your meetings, and miss an opportunity to conclude an important deal.

“There’s a misconception among many SME businesses that if they book their business travel  themselves, it will be quicker and cheaper. In most instances, this simply isn’t true. You can solve all four of the above mistakes by simply partnering with a travel management company who have the experts in place to effectively manage your travellers and travel programme,” says Grunewald.

Yes, you’ll pay a transaction fee for using a TMC like FCBT, but it will save you both time and money in the long run.