Four common mistakes companies make when 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

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.


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