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by Michael MacNair | August 01, 2011
Takeaways

Make sure travelers consider all supplier rates in an unbiased fashion.

Create a system to manage business travel, not just individual trips.

Define value in your travel policy.

In supplier negotiations, demonstrate control and present data on total transient and meetings spend.

Establish and leverage automated pre-trip approval processes.

Reject travel anarchy and take control for confidence and value.

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In the first quarter of 2011, the airlines' top expense -- jet fuel -- rose 31 percent. (At press time, for a roundtrip flight from New York to Los Angeles, airlines were spending close to $330 on fuel alone.) To offset this expense, carriers hiked fares seven times in the first half of this year and raised fees for checking bags and other services -- all to the mounting frustration of customers.

In light of rising costs, what can a travel manager do? With so many companies still fighting for profitability, now is a strategic time to take control and make progress to ensure that your travel dollars are spent judiciously.

Shop Broadly Public sites and the airlines' own web pages do not include all the available fares and carriers in the marketplace. Most independent travel management companies offer a more complete offering, but even here you only get what you pay for.

So where can you go to ensure the expanded consideration of all the rates on the market? Make sure your agency and online booking tool provide all the fares on all the car­riers in the marketplace, listed in an unbiased fashion. This lets travelers view their options in a single source to determine the best value for the company. Seeing more fares effectively drives costs down.

Enforce Policy Your travelers can be offered lower fares every day, but if they do not understand the company's policy on value, they might not select them. This is a missed opportunity for savings. Develop a clear and well-communicated travel policy that addresses when it's appropriate to use alternate airports, low-cost carriers, connecting flights, preferred airlines and so on. Also be sure to address the ever-increasing miscellaneous charges -- from baggage to upgrades, onboard snacks, alcohol and more -- spelling out which are reimbursable and under what circumstances.

A professional TMC can offer best practices and mechanisms to enforce policies online and via its call-in support team for different types and hierarchies of travelers, along with providing data to back it up. Define what "best value" means to your company, and detail the required processes to ensure that the best value is realized in travel bookings.

Leverage Volume Consolidate and leverage all travel spend, and use this data to secure supplier deals for transient and group travel. Suppliers offer volume-based discounts, small-business programs, meeting programs and add-on services for loyal clients who can deliver incremental business. Your TMC might have supplier programs in place, too. Evaluate them all, and direct employees to preferred vendors.

Manage Demand Establish a pre-trip approval process that meets your culture and needs. It can be set up to secure approval from one, two or a hierarchy of people for reservations that fall outside of policy parameters, or to limit the number of travelers going to any one location.

Comparing data for bookings inside vs. outside of policy, or analyzing decisions to purchase anything other than the lowest fare, can provide wisdom that will help you evolve your policy for maximum value.