Graeme Milne, UK General Manager, Corporate Traveller tells SMEs why they should book their business travel with an expert.

Q: Is there any point in an SME using a travel management company – surely it’s cheaper for an SME to book their own business travel online?

A: If you have never been properly walked through the benefits of professionally managed travel, your business could be at a major disadvantage. Expert business travel management can open up significant savings and efficiencies, even for small to medium sized companies. It’s a myth that booking your own travel online will be cheaper – there are countless hidden extras in terms of cancellation or change fees, and you can never be sure that you found the cheapest fare by trawling through individual airline websites.

Q: Most of the big travel management companies aren’t interested in our business – why should Corporate Traveller be any different?

A: All our clients have one local dedicated account manager who looks after their travel requirements on a day to day basis by phone and email. The account manager really gets to know the client, builds a rapport with them and understands their travel needs. Our turnover grew by 30% over the last year which tells me we must be doing something right for the SME market.  Companies with smaller travel spends were getting a raw deal elsewhere. Our clients tell us that they switched to Corporate Traveller because they felt that their previous agent didn’t value their business.

Q: What sort of clients does Corporate Traveller look after

A: We have a wide range of SME clients nationwide in different sectors from banking & finance, pharmaceuticals and fashion to mining and manufacturing. Our clients spend anything from £50k to £2m per annum on business travel, but the average spend is around £120k. When choosing a travel management company (TMC), ask how many clients they look after and what kind of clients they manage travel for. Does the TMC have advice and strategies tailored to the SME sector? Most TMCs do not give SME clients a dedicated point of contact as servicing is handled by a call centre.  SMEs need to feel that their business is valued, and that they will receive personal, flexible service, no matter how large or small their travel spend.

Q: How can Corporate Traveller save my company money?

A: One of the secrets to successful business travel savings is consolidation. This brings all the pieces of your business travel together. A single, consistent approach to travel management means better control of bookings, data, changes, expense management and reporting. If you partner with an expert travel manager, you can expect access to globally competitive prices for air, hotel and car hire and rapid turnaround on best prices for your business. Using industry-leading technology, our travel managers will search and compare prices across airlines and hotels to find not only the best fare, but also the best route and most suitable hotel location.

Q: What are the main challenges facing SME businesses in the current economic climate and how can Corporate Traveller help?

A: Companies are looking to reduce costs as far as possible. Business travel can often be their biggest expense, but SMEs rarely review their travel policy or don’t have one and assume that they are better off booking their own travel online.  Once clients start working with us, they realise how we can save them money. Bringing an expert account manager on board frees the client up to focus on their core business. Our account managers are all experts in booking business travel – their advice and knowledge will save clients time and money. They will point out where savings can be made for example by taking a later flight, staying a Saturday night, or booking in advance.  

Q: What travel advice can you give to companies expanding into new markets?

Sourcing new business overseas is challenging enough without having the headache of planning travel arrangements, especially if you are going to China, Africa or India for the first time. Our account managers are highly trained experts in finding the most direct routes and competitive fares, whereas if you book independently online you will not get impartial advice about which airline to fly with on a certain route, at the best price.  Expert advice on hotel locations is also crucial. If a client has a meeting in Delhi or Mumbai for the first time, our account managers will find the most convenient hotel.