India – A Haven For Budget Travelers

India, the land of many hues and colors, is an interesting and affordable place to visit. Its white-sand beaches with golden sands, dense jungles with rare wild animals, deserts with fascinating sand dunes, endless plains crisscrossed by many rivers and rivulets, hillside tea and coffee plantations, and stunning Himalayas with wonderful hill stations certainly much attract the travelers, particularly the budget travelers. No wonder, travelers from all over the world visit the haven that India is, in rather large numbers, and throughout the year.

The budget travelers and the bedraggled backpackers with shoestring travel budgets budget of around $ 10 a day make the most of the many special customized tour packages created especially for them by some of the travel agencies and travel agents specializing in budget traveling.

The many special tour packages offered by such agencies and agents often turn out to be good value for money for the budget travelers. At affordable prices, the budget travelers get the chance to explore the vast country, visit its many tourist hotpots, enjoy its sumptuous cuisines, and revel in its fabled hospitality.

Budget Tourist Destinations of India

Even though Kerala, Rajasthan, Agra, Goa, Delhi and Mumbai continues to be right on the top of most of budget travelers’ itineraries, thanks largely to their age old appeal, many other hotspots of the country such as Sikkim, Uttarakhand–besides certain wildlife destinations, like Corbett, Sunderbans, Gir, and Sariska–are also fast emerging as hot budget tourist destinations of India.

The reason is not hard to find: these places give ample chance to the budget travelers–most of whom happen to be young and footloose–to indulge in some of the adventure and thrilling sport and adventure activities such as fishing, river rafting, trekking, mountain climbing.

These places also give such travelers the chance to enjoy thrilling “close encounters” with the many inhabitants of the wild such as tigers, lions, and rhinos. The availability of budget hotels, jungle lodges and youth hostels at some of these hot spots of the country means the budget travelers really have the time of their life without, in any manner, compromising with their shoe-string budgets.

Budget Travelling: The Do’s and Don’ts

One of the privileges of living in this day and age is that almost anyone can travel to almost anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. No longer is it a privilege reserved for the rich and famous as airlines continue lowering their prices to maintain their competitive edge. Nonetheless travelling can often be highly stressful as we are making a leap out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. Questions race through our mind. Will anyone there understand me? Have I planned enough? Can I afford it?

This article shall go over some of the main things you should and should not do if you intend to travel on a budget. This list is not meant to be definitive, but rather to outline some basic steps that one can take to make their budget travel as stress free as possible. We shall be focusing mainly within the context of international travel, though many of these tips could readily apply to shorter day trips.

Do plan a daily budget.

This one is simple really, yet it is amazing how many people don’t do it. For me, the easiest way to plan a daily budget is to first ask how much you are planning to spend overall. From this deduct the transportation costs and accommodation (more on this later). Then divide what is left by the number of days you are planning on going away.

For example, lets say I was going to London for 10 days. I planned to do it with £2500 overall. My airfare costs £600, while my accommodation will cost £120 per night (London isn’t cheap). So for nine nights my accommodation equals £1080. Therefore airfare plus accommodation equals £1680. Take that away from the overall budget of £2500 and we are left with £820. Simply divide that by 10(the number of days I am in London) and you have £82 as your daily budget. For a single person this is substantial. For two or more people the same rule applies if you are budgeting together, except you need to allow for roughly twice as much for your daily budget, not to mention your other expenses will be roughly twice as high.

Do keep track of your daily spending.

So you have a daily budget. Well a budget is absolutely useless if you don’t apply it. Simply take a notebook and pen with you wherever you go and write down every expense that you incur, no matter how small. The fact that while you are travelling, you will often use a credit card or cash, means that your spending can quickly get away on you. By recording your spending by hand you can easily avoid this. It will soon become a habit so do not go anywhere without your notebook.

Another excellent thing about such a recording system is you can carry what you don’t spend onto later days. Say for example, on my first day in London I am £36 under my budget. Then with nine days left it means I have an extra £4 a day (£36/9 days = £4). On the other hand, if I go £36 over budget on the first day, I can work out that I will have £4 less a day.

Do book all your accommodation well in advance.

This one ties into the budget once again, however there are even more practical reasons to this. Once you get to your destination, as a budget traveler the last thing you want is to run around trying to find vacant accommodation that fits your budget requirements. By booking in advance online, not only can you guarantee a place to stay upon your arrival, you can also research, find and book accommodation that suits your needs and requirements.

Do book all your major trips in advance.

By major trips I mean any intercity trips by aircraft, train, bus or boat. Basically any trip that isn’t part of your destinations regional transport system. By booking in advance you can add the expenses to your transportation costs, as such large single expenses would quickly exceed your daily budget. The fact remains that buying tickets at a ticket stand may be cheaper. However, take note of the word “may” as they are often not. When travelling on a budget, you cannot afford such a gamble. Therefore get these costs dealt with as soon as possible so you know what you are getting in to.

Do research your destination.

There are many websites on the internet, where you can get information about your destination. Things that you may want to research include, what are cheap attractions, top attractions, good affordable restaurants, tourist traps, and local scams. Take special note of the last one as many major cities have running scams that, by knowing about in advance, you can easily avoid. For example, Paris has an issue with Roma asking for handouts, then snatching your wallet or camera while you are looking for change to give them.

Do not necessarily go for the cheapest option.

This ties into research. Sometimes it is better to spend that extra £20 on accommodation, when the alternative is a rat infested hell hole. Look around online for reviews of the accommodation you are considering staying at. A single exceptionally atrocious hotel is enough to put a major dent in your holiday enjoyment. Of course, don’t expect 5-star hotels on a budget either.

Do not EVER avoid getting travel insurance to save money.

As was mentioned at the start of this article, when overseas you are a lot more isolated than you would be at home. Likewise, if something does go wrong, if you do not have travel insurance nobody will be there to help you. Your embassy will not fly you home free of charge if you are ill and miss your flight. At the very most your embassy, assuming there is one, will offer advice and allow you to call home. If you cannot afford travel insurance you cannot afford to travel. It’s as simple as that.

Overall plan, plan and plan some more, and have fun while you are there.

The key element in all these points is planning. If you deal with anything that will likely be stressful while you are travelling well in advance, then your trip will be far more stress free, and you will spend less time worrying and more time doing the things you want to do.

Economical and Enjoyable Budget Travel to Disney

Budget travel does not necessarily equate to second class. If you’re a budget savvy traveler, you know that there is always a better alternative. So before you embark on or your next Disney travel, here are some tips that will surely help you save extra dollars on your vacation.

Airfares

If you are on a budget travel, you should know that airfares to Orlando are the cheapest from mid-January until February and September through October. While there are air flights recommended for those on a budget travel, an online research will prove useful if you want to find flights at the cheapest possible amount.

For your budget travel, you can also take advantage of the free roundtrip transportation from the airport that the Disney resorts offer. Guests on budget travel can make use of Disney buses, ferries and the monorail system when visit theme and water parks, and Downtown Disney.

Hotel Accommodations

There are also hotel accommodations that are suitable for your budget travel. There are available resort and campground facilities that can go as low as $41 a night. These facilities are capable of accommodating everything from RVs to tents. You can also take pleasure in resorts for your budget travel hotel accommodations. Your budget travel is also sure to be enjoyable during Disney’s value season at these resorts. Value resorts are recommended for vacationers on a budget travel as these offer rooms for rates as cheap as $82 a night. Meanwhile, rooms at moderate resorts start at $145. If there’s one advantage to budget travel here, it’s getting to stay at Disney premises and being treated to extra hours with Disney wonders.

Those who are on a budget travel can also take advantage of certain packages. If you are a family of four planning to stay for seven days and six nights at a value resort, and you are on a budget travel, you can avail of a package that costs less than $1,600.

Downtown Disney

Parents on budget travel can bring their kids to Disney Marketplace in Downtown Disney for authentic Disney visual cuisine without incurring significant costs. The shopping mall is suggested for people on budget travel as it offers shopping, entertainment and hands-on activities for kids in one place. Your budget travel will take a more interesting turn as you stroll through Downtown Disney. You can listen to Disney movie tunes, watch resort boats, shop, look at sculptures and animation cells on display, and engage in many other enjoyable activities.

Where To Find Budget Travel Bargains

There is only one reliable place to find good budget travel and that is online. The internet has opened up a whole new universe of travel for those who are stuck on a pretty tight budget. Not everyone can afford to go on a month long vacation to the South of France but most of us can make good solid use of budget travel.

When you do your travel shopping online you will find that you can afford much more than you thought you could. It is easy to find some good budget travel on the internet these days. All of the travel companies are throwing out some good packages for people with not much money to spare and some of the budget travel packages even include some meals. That is my idea of full service travel plans!

When it comes to budget travel you do have to watch out for a few things. For example, what kind of trip do you want to take? When it comes to budget travel the airlines can vary drastically. Some of the budget travel airlines are great, they are friendly and they are clean and fantastic, others, well, not so much. You should take some time to research about the different companies you are considering for your budget travel before you actually book anything. This will make a huge difference in the kid of trip that you end up being able to take.

Online you will be able to find all kinds of consumer reviews about budget travel companies, airlines and even cruises. Read through these carefully to find some great budget travel ideas. With these useful tips you will learn the best places to go for budget travel and the places and companies to stay away from in your traveling. There is no better, more reliable source for info than from people who have been in your shoes. They have nothing to lose by telling the truth so they do, they will tell it just like it is and that is what you need to help you make the right budget travel decisions.

Chances are that if you do all of your planning and booking online your budget travel is gong to be even cheaper. This is simple to do as well. Most of the major travel companies have everything you need online and they walk you right through it all. And if you have any trouble just contact them and they will help you out. There is nothing simpler or faster than booking your budget travel online these days. That is why the business is booming the way it is.

Each and every year the budget travel industry online grows and grows and it is not showing any signs of slowing down in the near future, that is for sure. So the next time you want to take a trip check out budget travel online and see where that takes you.

Today’s Budget Travelling Insider Secrets

In case you have selected a domestic destination for your budget travelling, then it’s recommended that you actually stay at hotels and motels on the borders of the travel region. You may save lots of cash if you decide to stay in one of the budget motels or hotels available commonly these days. If you’re planning to rent a vehicle, then it’s far better if you look for a place on the outskirts of your vacation location.

It’s not a challenging task to take a budget holiday. The primary requirement is proper organizing. You need to study and perform adequate research to get the very best deals. One of the best places to look for the most current packages would be the Web. Often you get a discount when you book on the web.

You can save a lot of money by staying in a hostel instead of a hotel and you may even take a tent. This will not only allow you to stay within your spending budget restrictions but it’d also be an exciting experience for you. One of the crucial budget travelling hints that you need to know to travel real cheap is traveling during the off-season period. Owing too much less demand, the rates of touring fares and accommodation will be relatively lower.

You may likewise consult the various travel businesses mainly because they usually offer inexpensive packages. This will prove to be advantageous for you. In case you do not want to go the travel agent way, then you can always get in touch with the different air travel companies directly and find out the latest packages for those businesses. Do not follow only one air travel company. The biggest advantage of budget traveling is the fact that you’re going to be totally self-sufficient and also be your own person.

One important factor you need to not forget is about holiday insurance. In case of any accident like losing your belongings or any medical concerns, you can at the very least recover some costs if you have an insurance plan.

Be realistic and curious. Make an effort to collect as much info as possible about your most wanted destination so that you will be able to cope in a better way in case of any unexpected emergency. If you’re associated with any travel agent, figure out about any low cost excursions that they may have available.

Budget travelling will really be an adventurous experience that you will cherish throughout your life. So gather as many mementos of the place as doable, but do not get lured into the duty free retailers because they always charge a lot more for mementos!

What Travel Agents Need to Know About Corporate Travel Today

This is rightly named as the age of traveler-centricity and with the evolution of the new era of personalized travel; it is leading to research and development of a host of new so-called intelligent services. The command-and-control perspectives of traveling have changed a lot from the past and the focus has shifted more on the traveler and the productivity of each trip. It has become essential to maintain that the travelers have the greatest return on investment on each trip. New generations of young employees and managers, who have been growing up and dwelling in a digital age, are moving up the ranks as travelers. It has become essential to recognize the need for greater flexibility acknowledging that the employees who travel on corporate trips also consider a percentage of their trip to be a leisure outlet. With increasing globalization and rise in companies sending their staff overseas to network and connect with their offshore prospects/customers/suppliers, corporate travel is a highly profitable tourism segment. Before we talk about how tourism companies can better cater to business travelers, let us first look at why they prefer to use specialized corporate agencies over traditional agents

Why do businesses use Corporate Travel Agencies?

This might be the most basic question for a travel agency as to why they need to use agencies specializing in corporate travel when there are plenty of regular travel agents in the market. Here is the importance of corporate travel agencies who have online systems which allow business travelers access to their complete itinerary.

The following information is at the fingertips of the CTAs:-

full business itinerary details
up-to-date tracking details of flights (including delays or rescheduling)
transparent details about additional costs such as baggage fees or in-flight fees
travel alerts, if any, in the destined area
complete and up-to-date details about the visa procurement policies and identification required
currency requirement and conversion rates

What do corporate clients expect from Corporate Travel Agencies?

Negotiated Fares

The Corporate Agencies tend to have tie-ups with hotels, car rentals, flights etc. giving them access to lower fares which can be used only by the frequent business travelers. Discounted prices are not the only advantage though as they also offer flight upgrades, room upgrades, and VIP check-in lines as required.

In-depth information about the travel industry

Corporate travel agents have access to many travel resources and most importantly, quickly, than any other leisure travel agent. Additional information helps to make the business trips convenient and comfortable.

Changes in Itinerary

When an airline ticket needs to get rescheduled or cancelled, chances are the airline or the online service provider will charge lofty fees. When booking with a corporate travel agent, most of the times schedule changes can be done at zero or minimal extra charges.

Viable emergency contacts

It is important for the business travelers to reach the correct person at the need of trouble. Corporate travel agents have the experience and professionalism to relieve stress for both the traveler and the company.

What you need to consider as corporate travel increases?

Business Travel Barometer reported that corporate travel is witnessing an accelerated growth. However, when poorly managed, it may be no longer an advantage to companies and may, in fact become a burden. There are some factors which the corporations and CTAs must consider to get the best out of the time spent traveling.

Adopting a travel policy

The corporate must define a travel policy which is applicable to and respected by travelers at all levels. This policy should be used to establish the standards which will help to track the improvement of business travel. It will eventually help to reduce the costs of the entire package.

Do not limit the traveler’s autonomy

The management is responsible for budgeting the travel policy which helps to improve cost management however, it is also essential to give a degree of autonomy to the traveler. The policy should be flexible enough to allow the employee to adapt the trip as per the situation.

Traveler’s security should be a major concern

Business travelers need to have security in place. The company needs to stick to its definition of standards to ensure the employee’s integrity. The CTAs should have reliable partners (travel insurance, airlines, hotel chains etc.).

Mobility and automation

To optimize time and ease the processes, the administration of management platforms should have automated processes. This means they should adopt mobile solutions where search options, travel alerts, ticket reservations etc. can be accessed quickly, easily and on the go.

Corporate Travel Trends in 2016

Corporate travel trends tend to change regularly. 2016 has also not been any different and the travel management companies (TMCs) and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) are quite focused to provide steady if not strong axis all over. A growing MICE sector, investments in mobile and big data and enhanced focus on duty of care are some of their areas of focus.

Rising prices

The consolidated buzzword among global suppliers, airfares, hotel rates etc. is the rising fares. It is sometimes the move of the suppliers to generate discounts which encourage travel if there is a strong decline in demand. A positive 2016 world economy has been bringing an increase in air fares of a few percentage points, hotels are expected to see 4%-6% rise in average global rates and the competition will remain moderate in the car rental services.

Duty of care

Risk management is one of the major points of emphasis for corporations. Corporate customers are allowing new policies and improved technologies to monitor employees’ location in case of an emergency, especially when they are travelling to foreign destinations. For instance, Concur Risk Messaging helps to identify the travelers moving around in the world and alerts them with alternate travel arrangement as and when needed.

Focusing on MICE

Meetings industry is a major growing sector and the corporate travel trend is developing on it. The corporate travel agencies should better start aligning the various meeting procurement methodologies with its transient travel sourcing. One of the ways could be to broaden the variety of meeting services by incorporating incentive trips within it.

Investing in technology

A sharper focus on increasing value and becoming more traveler-centric can be done by bringing in mobile friendly technologies. Mobile and big data are definitely the two most significant technological investments which any corporate travel agency must focus to make their platform more appealing.

Business travel analysis after Brexit

Following Brexit, ACTE and CAPA shared their speculations. According to them, the greatest short-term effects on the travel industry will come from the weakening of the pound against other world currencies. Greeley Koch, executive director for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives said that the business travel industry will trend on currency fluctuations; with some companies taking advantage of the weaker pound and traveling more, while others may withhold business travel until world markets find their own level.

Impact of terrorism on corporate travelers

Travel policy makers and administrators need to be guided by rising terrorism scare. For executives and staff undertaking travel on behalf of businesses, the travel agents and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) should prove the reassurance for their safety through the travel policies. It is more than likely that the surveys conducted over corporate travelers reflect the general concern of the global business travelers about the spate of terrorism. However, there is no denying the fact that terrorist threat is changing the patterns of business travel. The key impact of this is to keep in mind that the companies providing travel services for business travelers need to enhance their focus on security and the associated risks in delivering the services to corporate clients. According to a recent finding, travel managers have higher estimation of their policy’s effectiveness in addressing risk compared to skeptical business travelers.

Concluding

Although the corporate travel sector has continued to progress, there are a plethora of challenges faced by the industry. A rapidly changing consumer market, the emergence of new business models, the impact of technology, man-made and natural crises are some of the fulcrum points that need to be considered before planning corporate trips.

Base Tendriling Travel Expenses

As business travel expenses nose upward, companies are realizing that better cost-management techniques can make a difference

US. corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994, according to American Express’ most recent survey on business travel management. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years.

Corporate T&E costs, now the third-largest controllable expense behind sales and data-processing costs, are under new scrutiny. Corporations are realizing that even a savings of 1 percent or 2 percent can translate into millions of dollars added to their bottom line.

Savings of that order are sure to get management’s attention, which is a requirement for this type of project. Involvement begins with understanding and evaluating the components of T&E management in order to control and monitor it more effectively.

Hands-on management includes assigning responsibility for travel management, implementing a quality-measurement system for travel services used, and writing and distributing a formal travel policy. Only 64 percent of U.S. corporations have travel policies.

Even with senior management’s support, the road to savings is rocky-only one in three companies has successfully instituted an internal program that will help cut travel expenses, and the myriad aspects of travel are so overwhelming, most companies don’t know where to start. “The industry of travel is based on information,” says Steven R. Schoen, founder and CEO of The Global Group Inc. “Until such time as a passenger actually sets foot on the plane, they’ve [only] been purchasing information.”

If that’s the case, information technology seems a viable place to hammer out those elusive, but highly sought-after, savings. “Technological innovations in the business travel industry are allowing firms to realize the potential of automation to control and reduce indirect [travel] costs,” says Roger H. Ballou, president of the Travel Services Group USA of American Express. “In addition, many companies are embarking on quality programs that include sophisticated process improvement and reengineering efforts designed to substantially improve T&E management processes and reduce indirect costs.”

As companies look to technology to make potential savings a reality, they can get very creative about the methods they employ.

The Great Leveler

Centralized reservation systems were long the exclusive domain of travel agents and other industry professionals. But all that changed in November 1992 when a Department of Transportation ruling allowed the general public access to systems such as Apollo and SABRE. Travel-management software, such as TripPower and TravelNet, immediately sprang up, providing corporations insight into where their T&E dollars are being spent.

The software tracks spending trends by interfacing with the corporation’s database and providing access to centralized reservation systems that provide immediate reservation information to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. These programs also allow users to generate computerized travel reports on cost savings with details on where discounts were obtained, hotel and car usage and patterns of travel between cities. Actual data gives corporations added leverage when negotiating discounts with travel suppliers.

“When you own the information, you don’t have to go back to square one every time you decide to change agencies,” says Mary Savovie Stephens, travel manager for biotech giant Chiron Corp.

Sybase Inc., a client/server software leader with an annual T&E budget of more than $15 million, agrees. “Software gives us unprecedented visibility into how employees are spending their travel dollars and better leverage to negotiate with travel service suppliers,” says Robert Lerner, director of credit and corporate travel services for Sybase Inc. “We have better access to data, faster, in a real-time environment, which is expected to bring us big savings in T&E. Now we have control over our travel information and no longer have to depend exclusively on the agencies and airlines.”

The cost for this privilege depends on the volume of business. One-time purchases of travel-management software can run from under $100 to more than $125,000. Some software providers will accommodate smaller users by selling software piecemeal for $5 to $12 per booked trip, still a significant savings from the $50 industry norm per transaction.

No More Tickets

Paperless travel is catching on faster than the paperless office ever did as both service providers and consumers work together to reduce ticket prices for business travelers. Perhaps the most cutting-edge of the advances is “ticketless” travel, which almost all major airlines are testing.

In the meantime, travel providers and agencies are experimenting with new technologies to enable travelers to book travel services via the Internet, e-mail and unattended ticketing kiosks. Best Western International, Hyatt Hotels and several other major hotel chains market on the Internet. These services reduce the need for paper and offer better service and such peripheral benefits as increased efficiency, improved tracking of travel expenses and trends, and cost reduction.

Dennis Egolf, CFO of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., realized that the medical center’s decentralized location, a quarter-mile from the hospital, made efficiency difficult. “We were losing production time and things got lost,” he says. “Every memo had to be hand-carried for approval, and we required seven different copies of each travel order.” As a result, Egolf tried an off-the-shelf, paper-reduction software package designed for the federal government.

The software allows the hospital to manage travel on-line, from tracking per-diem allowances and calculating expenses to generating cash advance forms and authorizing reimbursement vouchers. The software also lets the hospital keep a running account of its travel expenses and its remaining travel budget.

“Today, for all practical purposes, the system is paperless,” says Egolf. The software has helped the hospital reduce document processing time by 93 percent. “The original goal focused on managing employee travel without paper,” he says. “We have achieved that goal, in part due to the efforts of the staff and in part due to the accuracy of the software.”

With only a $6,000 investment, the hospital saved $70 each employee trip and saved almost half of its $200,000 T&E budget through the paper-reduction program.

Out There

Consolidation of corporate travel arrangements by fewer agencies has been a growing trend since 1982. Nearly three out of four companies now make travel plans for their business locations through a single agency as opposed to 51 percent in 1988. Two major benefits of agency consolidation are the facilitation of accounting and T&E budgeting, as well as leverage in negotiating future travel discounts.

A major technological advance that allows this consolidation trend to flourish is the introduction of satellite ticket printers (STPs). Using STPs enables a travel agency to consolidate all operations to one home office, and still send all necessary tickets to various locations instantly via various wire services. As the term implies, the machinery prints out airline tickets on-site immediately, eliminating delivery charges.

For London Fog, STPs are a blessing. London Fog’s annual T&E budget of more than $15 million is split equally between its two locations in Eldersburg, Md., and New York City. Each location purchases the same number of tickets, so equal access to ticketing from their agency is a must. With an STP in their two locations, the company services both offices with one agency in Baltimore. Each office has access to immediate tickets and still manages to save by not having to pay courier and express mail charges that can range up to $15 for each of the more than 500 tickets each purchases annually.

Conde Nast Publications’ annual T&E budget of more than $20 million is allocated among its locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Detroit. Since 1994, travel arrangements have been handled by a centralized agency, Advanced Travel Management in New York City, by installing an STP in each of these five locations. In addition to increased efficiency due to consolidation, Conde Nast now has the ability to change travel plans at a moment’s notice and have new tickets in hand instantly.

The real benefit is that the machines are owned and maintained by the travel agency., so there is no cost to the company. Due to the major expense involved, however, STPs remain an option only for major ticket purchasers. “STPs are a viable option in this process for any location that purchases more than $500,000 per year in tickets,” says Shoen.

As airfare averages 43 percent of any company’s T&E expenses, savings obtainable through the various uses of technology have become dramatic. For example, the ability of corporations to collect and analyze their own travel trends has led to the creation of net-fare purchasing-negotiating a price between a corporation and an airline to purchase tickets that does not include the added expenses of commissions, overrides, transaction fees, agency transaction fees and other discounts.

Although most major U.S. carriers publicly proclaim that they don’t negotiate corporate discounts below published market fares, the American Express survey on business travel management found that 38 percent of U.S. companies had access to, or already had implemented, negotiated airline discounts. The availability and mechanics of these arrangements vary widely by carrier.

What’s the Price?

Fred Swaffer, transportation manager for Hewlett-Packard and a strong advocate of the net-pricing system, has pioneered the concept of fee-based pricing with travel-management companies under contract with H-P. He states that H-P, which spends more than $528 million per year on T&E, plans to have all air travel based on net-fare pricing. “At the present time, we have several net fares at various stages of agreement,” he says. “These fares are negotiated with the airlines at the corporate level, then trickle down to each of our seven geographical regions.”

Frank Kent, Western regional manager for United Airlines, concurs: “United Airlines participates in corporate volume discounting, such as bulk ticket purchases, but not with net pricing. I have yet to see one net-fare agreement that makes sense to us. We’re not opposed to it, but we just don’t understand it right now.”

Kent stresses, “Airlines should approach corporations with long-term strategic relationships rather than just discounts. We would like to see ourselves committed to a corporation rather than just involved.”

As business travel expenses nose upward, companies are realizing that better cost-management techniques can make a difference.

US. corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994, according to American Express’ most recent survey on business travel management. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years.

Corporate T&E costs, now the third-largest controllable expense behind sales and data-processing costs, are under new scrutiny. Corporations are realizing that even a savings of 1 percent or 2 percent can translate into millions of dollars added to their bottom line.

Savings of that order are sure to get management’s attention, which is a requirement for this type of project. Involvement begins with understanding and evaluating the components of T&E management in order to control and monitor it more effectively.

Hands-on management includes assigning responsibility for travel management, implementing a quality-measurement system for travel services used, and writing and distributing a formal travel policy. Only 64 percent of U.S. corporations have travel policies.

Even with senior management’s support, the road to savings is rocky-only one in three companies has successfully instituted an internal program that will help cut travel expenses, and the myriad aspects of travel are so overwhelming, most companies don’t know where to start. “The industry of travel is based on information,” says Steven R. Schoen, founder and CEO of The Global Group Inc. “Until such time as a passenger actually sets foot on the plane, they’ve [only] been purchasing information.”

If that’s the case, information technology seems a viable place to hammer out those elusive, but highly sought-after, savings. “Technological innovations in the business travel industry are allowing firms to realize the potential of automation to control and reduce indirect [travel] costs,” says Roger H. Ballou, president of the Travel Services Group USA of American Express. “In addition, many companies are embarking on quality programs that include sophisticated process improvement and reengineering efforts designed to substantially improve T&E management processes and reduce indirect costs.”

As companies look to technology to make potential savings a reality, they can get very creative about the methods they employ.

The Great Leveler

Centralized reservation systems were long the exclusive domain of travel agents and other industry professionals. But all that changed in November 1992 when a Department of Transportation ruling allowed the general public access to systems such as Apollo and SABRE. Travel-management software, such as TripPower and TravelNet, immediately sprang up, providing corporations insight into where their T&E dollars are being spent.

The software tracks spending trends by interfacing with the corporation’s database and providing access to centralized reservation systems that provide immediate reservation information to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. These programs also allow users to generate computerized travel reports on cost savings with details on where discounts were obtained, hotel and car usage and patterns of travel between cities. Actual data gives corporations added leverage when negotiating discounts with travel suppliers.

“When you own the information, you don’t have to go back to square one every time you decide to change agencies,” says Mary Savovie Stephens, travel manager for biotech giant Chiron Corp.

Sybase Inc., a client/server software leader with an annual T&E budget of more than $15 million, agrees. “Software gives us unprecedented visibility into how employees are spending their travel dollars and better leverage to negotiate with travel service suppliers,” says Robert Lerner, director of credit and corporate travel services for Sybase Inc. “We have better access to data, faster, in a real-time environment, which is expected to bring us big savings in T&E. Now we have control over our travel information and no longer have to depend exclusively on the agencies and airlines.”

The cost for this privilege depends on the volume of business. One-time purchases of travel-management software can run from under $100 to more than $125,000. Some software providers will accommodate smaller users by selling software piecemeal for $5 to $12 per booked trip, still a significant savings from the $50 industry norm per transaction.

No More Tickets

Paperless travel is catching on faster than the paperless office ever did as both service providers and consumers work together to reduce ticket prices for business travelers. Perhaps the most cutting-edge of the advances is “ticketless” travel, which almost all major airlines are testing.

In the meantime, travel providers and agencies are experimenting with new technologies to enable travelers to book travel services via the Internet, e-mail and unattended ticketing kiosks. Best Western International, Hyatt Hotels and several other major hotel chains market on the Internet. These services reduce the need for paper and offer better service and such peripheral benefits as increased efficiency, improved tracking of travel expenses and trends, and cost reduction.

Dennis Egolf, CFO of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., realized that the medical center’s decentralized location, a quarter-mile from the hospital, made efficiency difficult. “We were losing production time and things got lost,” he says. “Every memo had to be hand-carried for approval, and we required seven different copies of each travel order.” As a result, Egolf tried an off-the-shelf, paper-reduction software package designed for the federal government.

The software allows the hospital to manage travel on-line, from tracking per-diem allowances and calculating expenses to generating cash advance forms and authorizing reimbursement vouchers. The software also lets the hospital keep a running account of its travel expenses and its remaining travel budget.

“Today, for all practical purposes, the system is paperless,” says Egolf. The software has helped the hospital reduce document processing time by 93 percent. “The original goal focused on managing employee travel without paper,” he says. “We have achieved that goal, in part due to the efforts of the staff and in part due to the accuracy of the software.”

With only a $6,000 investment, the hospital saved $70 each employee trip and saved almost half of its $200,000 T&E budget through the paper-reduction program.

Out There

Consolidation of corporate travel arrangements by fewer agencies has been a growing trend since 1982. Nearly three out of four companies now make travel plans for their business locations through a single agency as opposed to 51 percent in 1988. Two major benefits of agency consolidation are the facilitation of accounting and T&E budgeting, as well as leverage in negotiating future travel discounts.

A major technological advance that allows this consolidation trend to flourish is the introduction of satellite ticket printers (STPs). Using STPs enables a travel agency to consolidate all operations to one home office, and still send all necessary tickets to various locations instantly via various wire services. As the term implies, the machinery prints out airline tickets on-site immediately, eliminating delivery charges.

For London Fog, STPs are a blessing. London Fog’s annual T&E budget of more than $15 million is split equally between its two locations in Eldersburg, Md., and New York City. Each location purchases the same number of tickets, so equal access to ticketing from their agency is a must. With an STP in their two locations, the company services both offices with one agency in Baltimore. Each office has access to immediate tickets and still manages to save by not having to pay courier and express mail charges that can range up to $15 for each of the more than 500 tickets each purchases annually.

Conde Nast Publications’ annual T&E budget of more than $20 million is allocated among its locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Detroit. Since 1994, travel arrangements have been handled by a centralized agency, Advanced Travel Management in New York City, by installing an STP in each of these five locations. In addition to increased efficiency due to consolidation, Conde Nast now has the ability to change travel plans at a moment’s notice and have new tickets in hand instantly.

The real benefit is that the machines are owned and maintained by the travel agency., so there is no cost to the company. Due to the major expense involved, however, STPs remain an option only for major ticket purchasers. “STPs are a viable option in this process for any location that purchases more than $500,000 per year in tickets,” says Shoen.

As airfare averages 43 percent of any company’s T&E expenses, savings obtainable through the various uses of technology have become dramatic. For example, the ability of corporations to collect and analyze their own travel trends has led to the creation of net-fare purchasing-negotiating a price between a corporation and an airline to purchase tickets that does not include the added expenses of commissions, overrides, transaction fees, agency transaction fees and other discounts.

Although most major U.S. carriers publicly proclaim that they don’t negotiate corporate discounts below published market fares, the American Express survey on business travel management found that 38 percent of U.S. companies had access to, or already had implemented, negotiated airline discounts. The availability and mechanics of these arrangements vary widely by carrier.