A crippling exchange rate combined with the economic pressures of loadshedding and the looming threat of ‘air-maggedon’ in the US and Europe doesn’t exactly paint a rosy picture for international business travel– this just as the industry was beginning to make meaningful strides in terms of recovery.
“Despite South Africa’s introduction of shiny new banknotes, the sobering reality remains that the rand has plummeted to its lowest point in three years. As the value of the local currency weakens against foreign counterparts, expenses related to accommodation, transportation and other essentials surge, making it more challenging for companies to allocate resources for international ventures,” says Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Traveller.
Travel industry chaos in the USA and Europe have added to travellers’ woes and hit SMEs pockets as well. Flight disruptions in the U.S. and strikes in Europe are leading to last-minute transport changes or overnight accommodation needed; and rebooking fees can add up. This is where your travel management company (TMC) can step in and negotiate “wavers and favours”.
At a time when every rand spent needs to generate ROI, your TMC can squeeze value out of every cent spent on business travel. Smith shares the following five tips:
Stop Relying on the Buying Power of One
Tapping into the power of ‘bulk buying’ can be a great way for small businesses to get preferential rates – you’ll know this from negotiations with your own supplies. Travel is no different.
TMCs have global buying power and can help you save money on business travel expenses by using their relationships and negotiating power to get discounts from suppliers worldwide. TMCs also often act on behalf of their clients to secure special industry rates that aren’t readily available online and which result in significant savings, making better use of your business travel budget.
Be Clever about Cutting Back
Engaging with a Travel Management Company (TMC) is a smart move to streamline the approval process and establish well-defined criteria for future trips, ensuring a worthwhile return on investment. Thorough research should be conducted to assess the value of each trip and justify its costs.
Remember to consolidate multiple business meetings into a single trip, to minimse the need for separate journeys for individual meetings. This way, your SME can maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of business travel – and minimise your environmental footprint to boot!
Know How to Play the Booking Game
Although airlines have been working hard to balance pricing against the fluidity of seats to offer, traveller demand and airline operating costs (particularly jet fuel), pricing is expected to remain high. In Africa, Business Class fares are up on average 24% while Economy Class is up 18%.
Adopting a strategy of waiting for prices to drop is no longer a viable approach. In fact, procrastinating on travel bookings can have significant repercussions on your budget. Embrace the practice of booking in advance (around 19 days prior to the trip) to secure the best prices. Being proactive in securing reservations ensures a higher likelihood of securing favourable rates and helps businesses optimise their travel budgets.
Eliminate Hidden Costs
Before you secure that great airline deal, it’s important to read the fine print. What does the airfare include? And most importantly can you make changes? A little-known fact is that almost 45% of all business trips are changed at least once and usually at the last minute. This can be a costly affair if you’ve locked in the ‘cheapest fare’. A TMC can hold seats, or negotiate ‘waivers and favours’ on your behalf … meaning no change fees for SMEs on the move.
Pack like a Pro
Anticipating potential airport chaos and the risk of lost luggage, it’s wise to travel light with only carry-on baggage. Choose an airline that allows up to 14kg of baggage and book a hotel with convenient amenities like toiletries, gym access, and spa services, reducing the need for packing essentials. When it comes to packing, opt for versatile business clothing that can double as leisurewear, favouring neutral colours that adapt well to different situations. Including loungewear for long flights and sleep is a smart move. Packing three tops for every bottom enables easy transitions from day to night and work to leisure. With these strategies, you can travel efficiently and avoid the hassle of checked baggage.
“Despite a feeble exchange rate and anticipated chaos at international airport, business travel remains an important investment for the future of your company. And with the right guidance, it is possible to overcome the anticipated challenges and secure a worthwhile return of investment on your international business trips,” concludes Smith.