Business Travel 101 - OBT vs TMC: Which is for You?

Business Travel 101 - OBT vs TMC: Which is for You?

Effective travel management lies in knowing when to use the various tools at your disposal –  when to ‘do it yourself’, when to use an Online Booking Tool (OBT) and when to turn to your trusted Travel Management Company (TMC).

When you have a growing business, even the smallest savings in cost and time can make a fundamental difference to your bottom line. For many entrepreneurs, business owners or managers, the default position around managing your travel is a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. Perceived to be considerably cheaper and faster, this DIY approach in itself can be challenging to manage. 

Consider the half hour you have spent comparing flight costs and travel times, getting to the airport for your early morning flight, only to realise you have booked it for the wrong time, and you now have to pay to change it, not to mention wait for the next flight.

Consider the pain of having to reschedule your meetings because of that delay and the time it will now take to reconcile any unnecessary expenses as a result. If you charge by the hour, consider what it would cost to do your own travel instead of working with a Travel Management Company (TMC). 

Knowing when to do it yourself, use an Online Booking Tool (OBT) or entrusting your travel requirements to a qualified TMC will deliver the savings in time and money you need to achieve business productivity and see a real return on investment.

Knowing the differences

Online 

A lot of business travel is booked online - either directly with an airline or hotel via their own websites.

The pitfall of booking online is that you may think you are booking the cheapest option, but if you need to change your booking, you may have selected an inflexible option and incur the full price as a penalty to change. Finding the most cost-effective option can also be very time consuming, as you search through multiple sites and options to find the best one.

Online Booking Tool (OBT)

This is an official online business travel system (usually built and supported by a TMC).

Unlike browsing multiple sites on the web, the OBT houses a variety of flight, accommodation and car hire options and can be designed to cater to your travel policy and preferred suppliers. An OBT gives you the ability to self-manage your travel but still enjoy the benefits of incorporating your travel policy, company specific contracts and official payment mode.

It is best suited for point to point requirements.

Travel Management Company (TMC)

Today’s TMC is not only in the business of booking flights or hotels for business travellers. A TMC offers comprehensive and personal travel management services. It ranges from helping to guide your travel policy, supply an array of quotes and travel options, negotiate supplier deals, consolidating the travel spend and provide comprehensive reporting on areas of spend, and doing your complex travel transactions that cannot be fulfilled with an OBT.

The goal of a TMC is to help you manage your travel better, save time, deliver savings and ensure the safety of your travellers. In addition, partnering with a TMC like FCM means gaining access to a dedicated travel team that is specialised in business travel and can put together the best itinerary for your requirements.

Things to consider when weighing up online, an OBT and TMC:

Using the web or an OBT: 

Time and Money  Booking travel through an OBT can have a lower transaction fee than booking through a TMC, but you need to factor in the original cost of setting up and installing the OBT. Using either the web or an OBT is a self-managed process, so you will need to ensure that your employees have the capacity and know-how to incorporate this function into their daily jobs.

Sticking to Travel Policy  Because the OBT is set up with the company’s travel policy in mind, there is greater user compliance. For example, it can be set to only display preferred suppliers within an approved budget. The OBT can also be configured to include an approval process. Conversely, booking travel by browsing multiple sites does not allow for much control over what is booked.

Complex vs Simple Itineraries  OBTs are useful for simple itineraries like point-to-point routings. For more complex transactions, such as those that touch multiple cities, you will benefit from working with a dedicated travel team. They have the expertise to assess your itinerary as a whole and ensure you get the best routes and stopovers.

Managing Multiple Changes If your business requires you to be agile with changing meeting dates or changing the traveller last minute, then using the web or an OBT may not be the best solution for you. Managing multiple changes takes time and most OBTs are not designed to fulfil these changes without the intervention of a travel expert, which will add to the cost.

The Generation Gap  The various generations of business travellers have preferences in terms of the technology they use for travel planning and booking. While millennials may prefer booking their travel via an OBT on the run, a Baby Boomer may want to deal with a person. One needs to balance the preferences of the traveller, with the needs of the organisation. 

Using a TMC: 

Time and Money  While there may be a transaction fee involved using a TMC, it can save you both time and money in the long run. With one phone call to your dedicated travel team in FCM, you will receive three options for every travel requirement. You will also have access to a global network and buying power that may provide access to corporate rates you could not negotiate based on your own travel spend.

Human Expertise An experienced travel consultant can help optimise your travel by using their industry knowledge to suggest better ways to do it, such as advising whether you should book well in advance or buy flexible tickets based on your travel behaviour. They can also manage complex travel itineraries and impart advice on how best to structure these routings.

Delivering Efficiencies A TMC will have your traveller profiles on hand and get to know each traveller’s personal preferences as well as manage their airline loyalty programs. They will also ensure your travellers are sticking to your travel policy.

Turnkey Solution   good TMC will take care of all the little details from assisting with your visa to booking airport transfers and ensuring you are booked in your favourite seat. With FCM, you will have access to a travel expert 24/7, so when things go awry, you have a reliable travel consultant and a friendly voice to turn to.

When determining the best method of booking your business travel, there are a number of variables to consider and choosing the one that’s right for your business may be daunting.

FCM recommends partnering with a travel specialist who will assist in unpacking your needs and recommending solutions that make sense from a financial and time perspective.