Should You Let Business Travelers Book on their Own?

January 16, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

What kind of trouble could business travelers get in if you cut out the corporate travel arranger at your company and booked your own business travel? Is it encouraged, or are you required to use the corporate travel office at all costs? The ubiquitous nature of apps and websites for locating budget hotels, ride-sharing options, and flights make it easy for people to take charge of their own travel logistics.

This is something corporate accountants and managers are having to choose whether to accommodate or penalize, and the problem is only growing.

While having someone else attend to your travel arrangements used to be a luxury, a bigger issue is that those doing the booking may know nothing about the city, the proximity of the airport to the client, and the logistics required to get from the client to the hotel they’ve booked. The person who makes that kind of trip on a regular basis is by far the more knowledgeable authority on the subject, which makes him or her the logical choice to make the arrangements.

Business travelers walking through an airport. You can still fly even if you're trimming your travel budget.But companies are concerned that letting business travelers book their own travel arrangements may give them less leverage when negotiating corporate rates for hotels and car rentals if they can’t show that their personnel is using them.

However, according to research by Egencia, the corporate travel management subsidiary of Expedia, business travelers often book outside their company’s stated travel policy, especially when procuring lodging, because they need to be closer to their client or because they found a better price than their company’s corporate rate and can pocket the per diem difference.

Road warriors need freedom to orchestrate their own itineraries in order to maximize their time out of the office. Giving them this latitude would reduce staff overhead, eliminate confusion, and utilize the business traveler’s knowledge of the cities and the accommodations in each. Why should a travel manager who doesn’t travel tell the employee where to stay and what time to get there? There are times that road warrior may end up cooling their heels for several hours in an unfamiliar airport because the corporate travel agent wanted to save $30 or make sure their traveler used the right airline.

For those who have control over the details of their travel budget, TravelBank has produced an app that helps estimate trip costs and customize their trip to anticipate and respond to upcoming expenses. TravelBank even rewards users when their trips come in under budget. For example, when a user’s bottom line comes in $500 under the budget, they receive $250 in credit to use with its partners in the travel industry with whom they’ve negotiated rates that rival those that corporations procure for their employees.

At Travelpro, we have the best of both worlds. I investigate my own schedule — optimal flight times and finding the hotel that’s closest to the client — and then communicating that to our travel manager and asking that they make every effort to book what I’ve requested. So far, it’s worked out great, and I’ve been very happy with the arrangement.

As long as business travelers know and comply with the company’s travel policy, allowing them to secure their own reservations only makes sense. But it also makes sense to let your road warrior experts blaze their own trail, as it were, because they already know what they’re doing.

Business travelers, o you book your own travel or do you have a corporate travel agent doing it for you? What has been the most efficient use for you? Share your ideas with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: MauriceBMueller (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Will Airlines Use Customization For Good Or Evil?

April 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

On the horizon for the airline industry: customizable fares.

A little further out on the horizon: angry passengers.

The airline industry is developing technology that will allow them to create a customized airplane fare for you — and only you — using personal information such as gender, marital status, and how often you fly. This information will enter an algorithm that will decide the fare amount you are required to pay. Amazon.com already uses a similar tool which suggests items for you to purchase based on your browsing and previous purchase history.

AA MD80

AA MD80 (Photo credit: Blue Pylons)

Advocates of this method argue that this change will give the travelers more control. In theory, travelers will be able to visit the website of a travel agency, set the desired travel locations and select the airline with the most affordable price. Travelers would also be able to check for other options, such as wireless Internet, and view any extra fees that may be attached to any trip.

The idea of a fare customization has been greeted with skepticism. Opponents of the proposed change argue this is nothing more than a marketing ploy. They worry that by giving away so much personal information, the airline industry could easily check on your credit history and income information. Instead of giving you the cheapest fare based on what you need, they could use that information to determine how much you could afford to pay. Individuals with more disposable income could be charged much more for a flight than the person seated next to them. And without knowing the formula used to set the price, there’s no true way to know who is getting charged fairly and who is being overcharged.

There is no need for immediate concern; the technology for customizable airfares is still in the development phases, years away from actually being implemented. However, the idea still raises a few eyebrows from those who are concerned with how their personal information is being used by major corporations. In the end, it is not the technology that we can call “good” or “evil,” but the intent behind the way it is used.

Bring This, Not That: Tour Guides vs. Self-Guided Tours

February 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

So you’re traveling to a new country and you want to explore a bit. How do you do go about it? Should you hire a tour guide to take you around, or should you grab a map and venture out on your own? There are plenty of reasons to go either route — no pun intended — and either has its pros and cons.

Tour Guides

Tour guide at Paul Revere's Grave, Boston MA

Tour guide at Paul Revere’s Grave, Boston MA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hiring a tour guide, whether local or from a travel agency, is a go-to option for many travelers. And why not? You can sit back and enjoy the sites as someone else does the hard work. They have all the knowledge and can share insider knowledge of all the best locales.

The downside is that you’ll spend extra cash for these guides to show you around; self-guided tours are free (except for the attractions themselves). Another point to ponder is whether you want to have a structured tour where you know where you’re going ahead of time, or if you’d like to be surprised as the guide shows you around. Just be careful with some tour guides because they often have formed relationships with the places they stop at, so they may have financial interests in making those stops.

Self-Guided Tours

You may be a go-getter and think a tour guide is not for you. The upside of this type of exploration is that you’re not on a time constraint and can explore a place as long as you like, or leave after a few minutes. Self-guided tours are also cheaper, because you’re not paying someone to usher you around. If money is a concern, you may want to try this option.

A pitfall with this type of tour is that you could end up flopping around aimlessly and miss out on a few important places if you haven’t done your research. So put some time into figuring out where you are going and have a plan, including a prioritized list of “must see” versus “could miss” venues.

Bottom Line

Whether you hire a guide or grab a map and go out on your own is solely up to you. The important points to consider here are cost, your personal preferences, and where you are.

This last point is important, because personal safety is also a consideration. There may be some places where it’s not safe to venture out on your own, so the best way to see the area is with a guide. In these situations, work with an established, reputable tour guide, and not someone you just met at the airport. Don’t venture out on your own, and make sure to follow basic common sense in ensuring your own safety.

How To Avoid Travel Scams

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Is there anything more exciting than the prospect of a sweet deal on an exotic travel package?

As you ponder the many indulgences available on such a dream vacation, who could blame you for losing focus on the more practical aspects of the trip. Scam artists certainly won’t … In fact, they’re counting on it.

Travel Guides

Image by Evil Yoda via Flickr

As with all consumer rip-offs, there are unsavory “travel package” operators out there willing to play on your emotions in order to get into your wallet.

One of the most common travel scams is the cruise or vacation package offer that doesn’t provide complete information until after your payment is secured. Predictably, the “details” include restrictions, exclusions and black-out dates that dramatically reduce the trip’s true value.

The ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) recommends the following precautions when considering travel package offers:

  • Retain a healthy dose of skepticism. Be extremely skeptical about unsolicited e-mail, postcard and phone solicitations saying you’ve been selected to receive a fabulous vacation or anything free. Be especially wary of firms requiring you to wait at least 60 days to take your trip.
  • Do your homework. Some offers might sound great on the surface, but be sure to read the fine-print. Certain offers impose so many restrictions that you will either never have the chance to take the trip or you will end up paying more than had you made the arrangements on your own.
  • Run a “background check.” You should vet the companies from which you purchase travel services. You can do this by checking to see if they are members of ASTA or by researching the company on the Better Business Bureau’s Web site, or at ComplaintsBoard.com or RipoffReport.com.
  • Get the facts. You should receive complete details in writing about any trip prior to payment. Once you have the complete details of your trip, contact the hotel and transportation companies on your own to make certain the reservations have been made.
  • Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. High-pressure sales presentations that don’t allow you time to evaluate the offer, or which require that you disclose your income are red flags to be heeded.
  • Protect yourself. Always pay with a credit card if possible. Even legitimate companies can go out of business. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card customers have the right to refuse paying for charges for services not rendered.

Another proven technique for avoiding travel rip-offs is to use reputable guidebooks (the “Time Out” series is especially informative) to research the techniques commonly used by local scam artists. With a little reading, you’ll be able to quickly identify and avoid shady characters worldwide.