A Travel Manager Shares Her Tricks of The Trade
If you’ve ever booked a business trip, you would be familiar with some of the stages you go through. There’s the initial research stage and the obvious booking of the trip, but there’s also managing changes while the traveller is on the road and reporting on the costs post-trip. And that applies for every traveller, every trip.
So, how does an expert manage the booking process? We spoke to Catherine Tschaepe, Manager of Flight Centre Business Travel’s office in Collins Street, Melbourne, to find out.
Researching business travel options
The whole process might start for you simply by being told where the traveller needs to be and when, and it's up to you to find options. It's quite similar for a travel manager.
"Often people will only be able to tell us that they need a morning flight up, hotel overnight and an evening flight home the next day, and we’ll research the best options for them,” says Catherine.
But this is where it differs. While a booker might spend hours browsing online sites, comparing times, offers and prices, a travel manager has access to a central portal with more options and prices.
"We're able to access the same flights, accommodation and car hire options, but we can also access Flight Centre corporate rates and offer value-adds like free breakfast and late checkout. And we can hold flight and hotel options for a period of time to help avoid price increases," says Catherine.
Ultimately though, it’s still the traveller’s choice, says Catherine: "We'll always make recommendations where we can based on the benefits to the traveller and within the company’s travel policy.”
Booking corporate travel
Once the traveller has selected their options – or you know their preferences from working closely with them for so long – the booking is made. But rather than booking each element separately, a travel manager logs back on and with a few clicks the booking is confirmed.
“We log on to our global reservation system, Saber, which is Flight Centre’s system that’s been programmed specifically to suit Flight Centre Business Travel. We can access all airline, hotel and car hire options. But more than just accessing them, we can see what the public can’t – additional price points and exactly how many seats or rooms are available,” says Catherine.
The whole booking is then detailed on one itinerary and emailed to the traveller, being more environmentally friendly by reducing paper in the process.
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The all-important traveller experience
The job isn’t over once the traveller is on the road. In fact, this is where the real service of a travel manager comes into play.
“If a traveller needs to make a change to a booking, they can send us an email or call our 24/7 support team and get sorted out straight away, rather than being on hold with an airline,” says Catherine.
And if your dedicated travel manager is not available that day, another member from their small team will step in. That’s the beauty of working with a business based on personal relationships.
“Our whole business is person-to-person; that’s what sets us apart. You can research anything online these days, but our personal service makes the booking and travel experience easier and more enjoyable,” says Catherine.
Reporting on business travel
As a travel booker, keeping track of travel budgets is the minimum requirement. Being able to report on them at the click of a button is often an expectation. Fortunately, this is easy work for a travel manager.
“We provide standard monthly statements and also quarterly, 6-monthly or annual reports that outline a business’s spend and travel patterns. We then schedule yearly reviews to look at their travel program, what’s working and how we can help them improve and reach their targets, whether that’s cost savings, efficiencies or better traveller experiences,” says Catherine.
Looking at the big picture
When you’re in the thick of booking travel, you’re focused on each individual trip. However, a travel manager will look broadly at the bigger picture of your travel program.
“Some businesses will know their travel guidelines, budgets and approval processes, while others will be starting from scratch; either way, we’re in the position to be able to view the travel program holistically and mould it to your system and your needs,” says Catherine.