Despite rising airfares and increases in accommodation prices, business travel is not about to slow down either globally or in South Africa. Photo: Pixabay

DURBAN – Despite rising airfares and increases in accommodation prices, business travel is not about to slow down either globally or in South Africa. 

The result is that corporate managers will need to pay close attention to maintain control over their rising travel spend

The global corporate travel industry has experienced remarkable growth in recent years, especially as businesses have become internationally interconnected. Analysts predict that corporate spend could reach $1.6 trillion by next year, and travel managers globally say the number of business trips will rise in 2019.

According to Senior Vice President of Research at US Travel, David Huether, 2017 was the best year on record for corporate business in the US since 2010. 

The results of the 14th annual International Travel Management Study by Airplus International shows 45 percent of the 777 corporate travel managers surveyed expect their company will travel more in the next 12 months. The results were up from 38 percent in 2018 and were the highest since the global financial crisis of the late-2000s.

Also in South Africa, demand for business travel remains strong, according to Andrew Grunewald, Flight Centre Business Travel (FCBT) Brand Leader. He explains the Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate brands all foresee healthy growth ahead in the entire corporate sector, from small to medium and large enterprises. FCBT have seen a steady growth of 15 percent in business travel from 2017 to 2018 and the trend continues into 2019.

While travel managers are optimistic about the frequency of travel, there is worry that costs will continue to rise in 2019, with slightly more than half (51 percent) believing that travel will be more expensive this year.

Grunewald explains companies will need to pay close attention to control their travel spend. “A solid travel programme can go a long way in alleviating pressure on travel managers and companies. It will help to keep within budget while keeping travellers happy and safe and, at the same time, they can also focus on growing the business,” he says. 

Keeping track of a company’s travel budget and managing travel expenses can be daunting and time-consuming but it doesn’t have to be. By applying a few fundamentals, business owners can save valuable time and guarantee much better control over travel costs.

Being diligent about travel spend is important: you can’t hope for savings if you don’t understand the scope of the charges, from significant expenses to smaller items that can add up to substantial amounts, such as extra baggage fees and airport parking. However, it can be a time-consuming process that is better outsourced to a travel expert, says Grunewald. 

Grunewald said, "An experienced Travel Management Company (TMC) such as Flight Centre Business Travel can help manage your travel spend for you. A TMC will help automate your Travel & Expense (T&E) management activities. They will advise you on the right technology for your company’s needs and implement systems that automatically populate charges from suppliers, credit card companies and receipts, for example, and lower the risk of missed or incorrectly entered expenses and fraud". 

He explains centralised expense management not only provides convenience and better reporting but can also help simplify future booking processes, such as pre-trip approvals, profile management and traveller tracking.

A TMC can also help by negotiating preferred rates with suppliers. Grunewald says: “By teaming up with a travel professional, businesses will benefit from established relationships with suppliers and their global buying power, reduced rates and exclusive privileges like not having to pay hefty deposits when renting a car.”