Over the years I have been asked many times what I do for a living. Almost always I diligently explain that I work for a Travel Management Company (TMC) and trying not to be too boring I explain what we do.
Nearly always I am met with a blank look. I am then asked where is good to go on holiday that year.
For those of you reading this that work in the industry, I am sure this sounds familiar. For those reading who don’t, this blog will highlight some of the key differences between the role a travel agent plays in the holiday industry (leisure agents) and what it takes to manage business travel clients (business travel agents).
Booking a Trip
Whilst leisure agents may typically book packages through tour operators for their customers, business travel agents work in a completely different way.
Using a Global Distribution System (GDS), business travel agents will be using a myriad of strange computer entries to book flights, hotels, trains, etc. as separate items within an individual booking to effectively build a trip. Their knowledge of these suppliers and business travel destinations, some of which can be a little dull, needs to be second to none.
When making bookings they will need to ensure the trip adheres to the client’s travel policy and that any approval procedures are followed before the trip is confirmed. Business Travellers can’t just go where, or do what, they want!
Business Travel Agents will also ensure that any preferred airline or hotel rates are used unless a further cost saving can be obtained. Making sure the lowest fares and rates are offered to generate savings is a big part of the job.
Finally, they will need to be mindful of any special requirements, such as meal and seating requests, that the traveller may have detailed in their travel profile.
Managing a Trip
Once a trip has been booked, plans will frequently change. Sometimes at a moment’s notice.
Business Travel Agents therefore need to be adept managing changes, processing ticket reissues, and submitting refund requests, often last minute when availability can be very tight, if not non-existent!
Unlike Holiday agencies, TMC’s tend to operate on 24/7 to ensure that the client’s duty of care requirements are met. Some Business Travel Agents choose to work through the night or at weekends as part of an Out of Hours team, to assist with any last-minute changes or emergencies that may occur.
Post Trip Support
Even when a trip has been completed the agents’ job may still not be done!
In most instances, travellers will need to submit an expense claim for their trip, or finance teams will need to reconcile their account, business travel agents are always on hand to provide copy invoices or to assist with any queries that may arise.
If a traveller has encountered any issues whilst travelling, for example, they were moved from their preferred seat on a flight, a business travel agent will usually pick up on this, reporting the issue to the supplier in question. The agent will then manage the issue through to an amicable resolution.
Helping Travel Managers
Aside from booking and managing actual trips, business travel agents may also assist with ad hoc tasks. Often, they will assist with operational matters relating to the overall travel programme.
It is not uncommon for business travel agents to help audit the rates that preferred hotels have loaded into the reservation system to check they are correct or to spot-check airfares on certain routes to assist with future budgeting for projects.
You can Ask!
Whilst this article is not definitive, there are many things both leisure and business travel agents do that aren’t included, hopefully, this quick read has given you a better understanding of a business travel agent’s role.
Having read this post, if you still want to ask where is good to go on holiday, please do. I promise not to be offended. Our sister division, Meon Valley Holidays, will be delighted to help!
Need help organising your business travel? Get in touch with our travel experts
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