Corporate Travel Agent – Choosing The Best

Corporate Travel Agent - by Mano Chandra Dhas

Whatever the size of your Travel Account, you as a corporate, have every right to an efficient corporate travel agent.  Travel agencies as we well know, come in all shapes and sizes.  There are good ones, and bad ones.  Really, it is up to you, how you evaluate your travel agent; but if you are looking at the best service for acceptable costs, you’d have to put your travel agent under the microscope.

Live and let live

The yardstick in the case of each corporate may be different.  The common denominator however, must be: efficient service, at acceptable costs.  It is important for me to mention that you must agree that your travel agent, should make an income from handling your business that cover his costs and allows him to make a decent profit.  Too many procurement managers of large multinationals approach the job from a different angle: screw the agent down the the bone, he will in turn screw some one else, to make his own incomes and profits.  Wrong.  It does not work that way in Travel.  Procurement managers taking the ‘beating-their-suppliers-down’ approach, shoot themselves in the foot.  You have to live and let live, to get the best out of your travel agent.  If you don’t, the agent will find a way to meet your price requirement, but will in the end, be innovatively successful in covering his shortfall and making his profit in ways you will never get to know.  Will Mr. Procurement Manager win?  No.

The open approach to corporate travel

The best approach to choosing the best corporate travel agent is the open approach.  Many agents today are willing to sit down and talk about their costs.  In fact they’d be willing to put their cards down on the table, to discuss pricing of the service with a client who is open as well.  You can even go further, and discuss how much he thinks he should be making on your account.  If treated in a humane manner, it can be a very honest and open discussion. I would recommend that you approach this meeting with a preprepared agenda that you have mutual agreement on.

What sort of agent? Horses for courses!

So much for the basics on pricing. Now, how do you choose the best travel agent?  Firstly, you must know exactly what you need from your travel agent.  Client requirements today are so varied, that many fail to realise, that it is not every agent that can meet complex needs. Some clients only need basic services: reservation and ticketing.  Others will need more.  Hotel and car arrangements and more importantly, complex post trip reporting.  Not to say anything about pre-trip requirements.  In some cases there may be complex Travel Policies to adhere to, as well.  As the size of the Travel Account grows larger, and reporting becomes more complex, smaller agencies cannot handle such clients.  You’d require an agent with greater IT resources and capabilities.  Only the big boys will be able to deliver to such greater levels of requirements in service delivery, and reporting. They would have invested big bucks on IT infrastructure; their capabilities will be superior all round. Many clients think that they would be a lot more expensive to deal with.  You would be surprised to learn that inspite of all that they have invested into their professionalism, they will be competitive.

Conclusion

How do you as the client, separate the chaff from the grain, ensuring you get what you are looking for?  It is not often that the Procurement Manager is able to deliver to your own requirement.  Corporate travel can be a lot more complex than buying automobile tyres, or furniture.  You will often have to rely on an an experienced travel professional to handle the process of making the choice.  At the very least, he will be able to short list the best corporate travel agents to handle your travel account.  Larger multinationals may have such travel professionals on their payroll but others may do well to outsource their needs to a Consultant.  Good ones can be worth their weight in gold.

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© Mano Chandra Dhas

Author: Mano Chandra Dhas

Principal Consultant and Managing Partner, of Coromandel SAS, Mano Chandra Dhas, has over 40 years of experience in front-line Travel. It includes experience in India, Bahrain, The United Arab Emirates, Middle East and West Asia. Fourteen of those years were spent with Airlines (Singapore Airlines and Alitalia); the remainder, with travel Agencies: Kanoo Travel, Thomas Cook, Dnata - HRG (Emirates Airlines Group) and Carlson Wagonlit Travel, UAE. He spent 35 years of his working life in the Arabian Gulf, where set up BTI Middle East and West Asia (known today as HRG Middle East and West Asia) in 14 countries, for Dnata, the Regional Managing Partner. He managed the Corporate Travel Division of Dnata for over 10 years. As Country Manager of CWT United Arab Emirates, he managed a throughput of over 100 million US Dollars per annum. During his involvement in Travel Management in the Gulf, he personally interacted with several major multinational companies in the Region; he has been involved with international Travel consolidations. Mano also managed the Dnata Contact Centre with over 150 staff reporting to him. Known for his stolid integrity, his major strengths are Account Management, Relationship Management and Service Delivery. Mano now lives in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia.

22 thoughts on “Corporate Travel Agent – Choosing The Best”

  1. Thank you Mano, your blog is an extremely refreshing read, after my 30 years in this business I’ve never read anything so positive that also shares my own personal views on the subject in every detail.

    I hope I have the honour of one day meeting you in person to shake your hand and share my appreciation with you of making this subject public.

    Regards,

    Richard Evans

  2. Bravo Mano for hitting the nail on the head – have been advocating the same to Clients who want to switch agents due to less fees charged or the dirty game of undercutting. Hopefully a few MNC Travel Managers will read this too and understand that there is a difference between Agents and how to choose the right one.
    Keep it going, enjoy your posts.
    Regards
    Maheen

    1. Hi Maheen! Great to reconnect here. Thank you for your comments. Over the weeks and months, I hope to develop this Blog as an extension of everything I believe in: hopefully it will create a thought process in the minds of both corporates and Corporate Travel Agents, that could cause a shift in how the business should really be run. 🙂

  3. Well Said Mano, I completely agree with you on the approach as Travel Industry are going through many channels which are connecting Corporate needs and being open with you Travel Agent as Business Partner makes huge difference to the Business Travel we conduct from ME Market, there are procurement heads who are focusing on consolidation of business within the region for better control on the compliance which also includes cost effective Travel Program for Large Corporate’s, succeeding with Corporate’s expectations are key and to sustain we all need to be competitive enough and work with expertise as you have highlighted above and be a strong player in Travel Market.
    appreciate your contribution for Travel Industry, please continue motivating all of us !!

    1. Thank you for your comments Naseer. Every business needs to make a profit to survive. The Travel industry of the past, often went into undercutting the competition. Personally I have walked away from such business, telling the prospective client, “At that price, much as I would like to handle your business, I cannot.” Please do go to the Agent who quoted that price. My view was always, that they go and mess someone else up, rather than my business.

      Consolidation is the domain of Multinational companies. I had been involved in major consolidations, even in the late 1990s. To handle a consolidation spread across different continents, the Corporate Travel Agency needs to be part of a Global TMC Network. Without that, it is not possible. The Network also needs to be up to speed with their technology solutions. No one can successfully consolidate without the technology, to pull all the data together. I wish you the very best Naseer.

  4. Succinct and to the point.. Its nice to see some basic facts on service so nicely explained..
    It’s applicable across the board on very aspect of the service industry spectrum..
    Well done Mano..

  5. As a man of principles, who has flown A-380s in the horizon of Travel Industry in almost half of the Globe, we are sure that you have felt the pulse of, all low level to high level travel needs, and you cannot beat around the bush, but to nail the fact and pinpoint it as highlighted in the blog. When, I don’t know, but will meet you one fine day…. I wish.

  6. Hi Mano, love the emphasis on transparency between the Travel Management Company & the Procurement Manager. This is something key to creating a sustainable long relationship.

    Great article.

  7. Great comments Mano. When you sit with an account and spend good quality time with them, you have the opportunity to show how many steps and people are involved servicing their needs. Their dealings may only be the agent; but there is a team and technologies also. It may be that we, in this industry, have not gone through the full work flow with our clients to see the complexity of travel

    1. Hi Connie! Very valid comment. That is what Key Account Managers, or Programme Managers are for, right? However, during the Sales process, I have come across many a stubborn Procurement Manager whose only line is a repetitive, “Give me a better price.” I have walked away from some big accounts because of their unreasonable attitude. My unsaid response often was, “Go mess someone else up!”.

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