Often underestimated

It's true that ever more companies are aware of the importance of travel management.

Yet, there's still great potential going to waste.

Mr. van Ackeren, you know all segments of a company's purchasing department. What exactly is the role of business trips?
Companies see travel management increasingly as an opportunity to make their business more efficient. It's long been a strategic topic with major German DAX Group companies, of course. And just in recent years, small and medium businesses have scrutinized all cost items – including traveling or business trips.

Yet, business trip deciders do not always feel properly appreciated in their importance…
Actually, the travel manager's high rating is frequently underestimated – simply because people fail to see his or her potential. A travel manager is thought of as a mere ticket provider although he could greatly reduce the company's total costs and set up efficient processes.

What do you advise travel managers to increase their rating?

They should put the service characteristics of their work up front and make costs transparent. Together with the company's financial department, they can quantify travel expenses. In projects with our clients, we thus regularly realize savings of up to 30 percent.

But why do many companies experience "uncontrolled proliferation" in bookings – i.e. there is no central control?
That's primarily a very human problem because everybody feels competent for traveling – after all, everybody goes on private trips. That's why people want to book on their own.

How can that be changed?
Major travel expenses must go through one single office in the company – for the sake of transparency already. True enough, the company will initially be faced with certain expenditures for setting up the necessary systems and processes for a centralized travel management but compared with the long-term savings, it's worthwhile to take this road.

Will travelers – i.e. "normal" employees – go along with it?

Yes, when a well-functioning travel management system has been established, the uncontrolled booking "proliferation" can certainly be stopped. Decisive for it is a structure which is simple and easy to understand and will not unnecessarily render travel planning more difficult for employees. External specialists may also be able to set up these structures because of their objective and unbiased view from the outside.

Can the "normal" purchasing department procure trips at all?

It must first be familiarized with the subject matter, of course. Ideal are travel managers who will work within the purchasing department.

Can travels be "purchased" with traditional instruments at all? Flight prices change daily for example, sometimes even by the hour...
When buying flight allotments, lower prices are realized all in all, even if a current day ticket might be higher-priced than the stipulated rate. Moreover, prices greatly fluctuate in other industrial sectors as well, for example, in the steel industry or in foods. Yet, that alone wouldn't be a reason to simply do without a professional purchase department.

Does it make sense to outsource a company' travel management – to a business travel agency, for example?
Yes, if a full-time job does not pay for small businesses. However, such processes should only be outsourced if the person responsible really knows the ins and outs of it. Otherwise, you'd lose control. So there's definitely no way around an analysis of the company's travel structure.