Monthly Archives: July 2017

Elements of a Strong Corporate Travel Program

In order to make the most of your corporate travel budget, it is critical to plan for leveraging your program for all it is worth. Telling travelers to select the lowest logical airfare is just not enough. Here are the elements that should be considered when planning or evaluating your travel program.

1. Travel policy

A well written and disseminated travel policy is the foundation of any good travel program, and I am consistently amazed that so many corporations have such an outdated and poorly conceived travel policy, if they have one at all. It is not difficult to find a well written policy. One can be found online quite easily. All that remains is that it is edited to reflect corporate culture, and disseminated within the company so that everyone understands and agrees to follow it. For this reason, it is a good idea to have everyone sign a copy of the travel policy to ensure that it is read, understood and owned by all company staff. I suggest that everyone in the company signs a copy of the travel policy, whether they travel or not. They may change positions in the company later and be required to travel. A travel policy need not be long or complex. Some of the best travel policies I have ever seen were only a few pages long.

2. Centralized travel internally and externally

Many companies do not centralize their travel program, and they pay a price in terms of a loss of expense reduction opportunities and internal efficiencies. Many companies that do not centralize travel have a fear of requiring travelers to do something they may not want to do, along with the idea that centralizing travel will require hiring a Travel Manager. Both of these may be legitimate concerns but they do not have to be in most cases. By requiring travelers to book centrally, you are not necessarily causing them to lose flexibility. You can centralize travel while still allowing travelers to book on their own, either with a travel agency of your choice, or online through a provider that you have partnered with and have confidence in. By assigning someone with the responsibility of overseeing travel, you are getting a single point of contact both internally and externally for travel issues. If your company spends less than $1 million in air travel, you probably do not need a full time travel manager. In these cases, travel oversight can be given to the finance department, human resources, or even an executive level assistant. Here is a look at the advantages to be gained by centralizing travel.

When you centralize travel with a single agency, you gain in a number of important ways. You will have a single point of contact for problems while travelers are on the road, and you will have one entity to go to for all your travel needs. This eliminates the problem of consolidating a travel report from among several sources. By bringing travel together, you will gain significantly from economies of scale. If you can measure total travel among various divisions or locations, you can get more for your money from travel suppliers. This will allow you to gain more from airline soft dollar programs, which means more free tickets and upgrades, get a higher percentage discount from our preferred airline, and get better negotiated rates from your hotel and car contracts. Your fulfillment costs will decrease as well, as your travel agency will often discount their fees for a higher overall volume of travel.

3. Mix of online booking and personal service

This is an addendum to the previous element, which calls for centralizing travel with one travel agency. This is important, but in doing so, you need not require travelers to use an online booking system, and you need not require travelers to call the agency directly. By offering travelers the option of doing either, you are accomplishing several goals. You will reduce your fulfillment costs, as online booking is cheaper in terms of a service fee. By giving travelers the option, you are giving them a sense of control, thereby increasing morale and standing a better chance of a high adoption rate. Thirdly, you leave open a best practice of using your online booking engine for less complex itineraries, and allowing senior executives, frequent travelers, and complex itineraries to be booked directly with a travel agent that can offer a higher level of service and a better overall travel experience where it is most warranted.

4. Look under every stone

While the bulk of most travel programs revolve around the air budget, there are several other areas one can investigate to find savings opportunities. There are a couple of more obvious areas to look, such as negotiated hotel rates at your favorite hotels, or car rental discounts with a favored supplier. Often your travel agency will already have discounted rates through consortia affiliations and agency car contracts. There are also some less common areas that should be investigated. For example, if ground transportation is a concern, most suppliers will offer discounted rates and a direct billing option. Direct billing arrangements with hotels and car rental agencies are also a great way to increase efficiencies and make the job of the accounting department easier.

5. Leverage hard dollar and soft dollar contracts

Most major airlines today offer hard dollar discounts as well as soft dollar incentives in exchange for company loyalty to their product. If your travel program is over $1 million in air spend, you can secure a discount off of the lowest fares of your carrier of choice in return for a market share commitment. For your secondary carriers, or if your volume is less than the minimum required by the airline, you can enter in to soft dollar programs for free tickets and free upgrades, as well as traveler status enhancements or airport club passes. These programs require little in the way of volume, but they are not well publicized so you may need to hunt for them or ask Baker Travel or your current agency to point you in the right direction.

Start a Home Travel Business

Yes, it is true. You can make money online working from home and can actually make a lot of money if you work hard, stay focused and execute. You can build a home travel business and live the Internet lifestyle you always dreamed of by operating an online home travel business. This article will put to rest any misgivings you may have had about starting an online travel business. I will not sugar coat it. In fact much of what I have to say will probably cause an up-roar in some parts of the online travel industry. I am aiming to tell it like it is.

The TRUTH!
Who really Makes Money in Online Travel. The truth is that you can’t really make a lot of money reselling other businesses travel products. This statement is directed towards the home-based travel agent market. Yes, its easy to get started as a home-based travel agent and the online travel agencies can provide you with your own personalized white label branded website, including quality customer support but in the end you are NOT building a business, you are only paying yourself a salary.

Don’t be fooled.

I am amazed at the amount of junk that there is online out there catering to the make money online from home crowd, touting selling travel as the route to freedom and riches. This truth is probably the most important fact anyone will ever tell you if you are just thinking about entering the online travel business. Let me repeat this for you one more time.

It is difficult to become rich and build a company reselling other companies travel products. You can become rich over time by building a business that sells your own uniquely branded travel products. You can get rich and build a business if you “own the travel product.”

Owning the travel product means that you are contracting directly with travel suppliers under your company’s own contracts, you are not just reselling a travel product owned by another travel business, tour operator, travel agency or travel consolidator. Your business creates the travel product by doing deals directly with travel suppliers. Your contracts with the travel suppliers become your businesses own unique inventory for the travel products you will be selling. The new travel product becomes your own brand. Your online travel business sells the travel product directly to consumers online or wholesales it too other travel agencies, travel agents, tour operators and resellers.

The Home based Travel Agent Dilemma.
I know I am opening up a can of worms here by disclosing this information but it’s really the truth. My intent is not to knock anyone down but to provide insight into how the online travel business really works and to show you WHO is really making the money and how you can make real money by deciding from the get go to actually build a business.

Yes, if you want to make $20,000-$50,000 working from home then reselling cruises or popular travel products will be the best option for you but if you want to make real money, six or seven figures and you want to build a business that has real tangible value and can be sold later then you need to develop and sell your own travel products.

The Internet is NOT causing Travel Agencies too shut down.
I believe that the main reason that brick and mortar travel agencies are closing is not because of the Internet but because all they are really doing is reselling other companies travel products. The Internet contributed to the destruction of the traditional brick and mortar travel agency but the biggest factor in the down fall of travel agencies and travel agents in the travel industry is due to the fact that they are not selling anything unique or different from anyone else. It’s really a business model established to fail in the long run.

How do you own your own travel product? You can own your own travel product in two different ways.

1. Your business acts as a travel supplier providing tours, guiding, travel and tourism related activities or you own a lodging property.
2. Your business partners with two or more travel suppliers to resell their individual travel products under a unique package that you own.

What type of Online Travel Business do I need to start where I can own my own travel product, sell packages and build a real business?

-Online Travel Agency
-Online Tour Operator
-Online Tour Guide
-Online Travel Broker
-Receptive Tour Operator
-the Hybrid

Let’s discuss a little about each type. There are many directions you can go.

OTAs or Online Travel Agencies traditionally sell everything underneath the sun; including lodging, air, cars, vacation packages, and much more. On a hierarchy level of all online travel businesses, this would be the most expensive and most challenging type of online business to start. It’s doable don’t get me wrong it would just take much longer and be more expensive to startup.

If you second tier niche and focus on contracting your own lodging deals and contracting with activity suppliers you could easily build a smaller more focused OTA. Another option would be for you to utilize the Global Distribution System (GDS) for air, car and for lodging that you could not contract yourself. I don’t recommend this last option as you’ll be just reselling product you don’t own but as long as you can combine the non-owned GDS products with your own contracted travel products you could create a nice win-win for the bottom line.

Online Tour Operator’s sell dynamically packaged trips and pre-packaged trips to vacationers. I believe building an online tour operator business is your best option at building a successful online travel business.

Now let me first state that the name is a little miss conceiving because of the word “Tour.” There is a big difference from a tour and a trip. On a tour there usually is a tour guide or person leading the tour with the travel participants. On a trip the traveler is traveling by themselves or with other people but there is no tour guide involved. In the travel business they call this a FIT trip, Drive vacation or Fly-Drive package.

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.

Official Tibet Travel Guide

Climate of Tibet:

1. How’s the climate in Tibet? Is it hot in summer? Is it very cold in winter?

Tibet is in a high plateau, and it belongs to typical downy special climate. Climates are quite different in different areas of Tibet. The eastern Tibet which is at a lower elevation is warmer than western Tibet. In some mountain areas, there are four seasons at the same time in different altitude. The weather in a day varies greatly, too. The night is cold while the day is warm. It spans 12-15 degrees centigrade in a single day.

Climate in southeastern Tibet including Nyingchi and Chamdo is balmy with an average temperature of eight degrees centigrade; while in western Tibet (Shigatse and Nagqu) is quite cold with an average temperature below zero degree.

However in the central area of Tibet, the climate of Lhasa and Tsedang is more favorable for traveling. Travelers can visit these two areas all year around, not too hot in summer and not too cold in winter.

2. How is the road condition in rainy season in Tibet? Need I take any rainproof with me?

The rainy season in Tibet is mainly from June to August and it does have a very bad impact on the roads. However, there are many track maintenance workers and local army would also give help to restore the roads. Generally speaking, it only takes a few hours to make the roads feasible again. As for the rainproof, you are suggested to take raincoat, rain-proof trousers and shoes if you want to trek, climb the mountain or ride a bike. If you have group tours organized by some travel agencies, usually you don’t need to take rainproof with you, because Tibet often rains at night and the weather is quite good in the daytime. Besides, the tourist bus is always along with you.

3. What is the best time to travel to Tibet?

Generally speaking, early April is the beginning of travel season, which lasts to mid-June when a large number of Chinese travelers rush to Tibet for summer holiday. Late June to the end of National Holiday is the peak travel season when some important festivals held in Tibet, like Shoton Festival, Gyantse Dawa Festival and Nagqu horse riding Festival. After mid October, Tibet turns to winter and as the visitors reduce greatly, more than half of hotels are closed for the poor reservation.

As for the best time to travel, it depends on your travel requirement.

1. If you want an extremely cheap price, go to Tibet in winter, from December to next March. All the things are quite cheap; even the tourist sites offer 30-50% discount on entrance fee. Hotels are cheap, too. You can enjoy 5 star hotels with less than 100USD including breakfast. Compared with traveling in August, the cost of a winter tour is only 50%-60% of a summer tour. Because of the poor amount of visitors, the Potala Palace allows you to spend even a whole day in it. Besides, the monks are not busy and have spare time to chat with you.

2. If you like trekking, do it at May or September when the monsoon will never bother you and the weather is balmy and pleasant.

3. If you love Mt.Everest and want to see the clear face of it, try to avoid the rainfall season and foggy weather.

4. If you love to visit the grass land in north Tibet, do the tour in July when the flowers bloom in vast grassland and groups of yak and sheep, Tibetan nomad tents spread all over the grassland.

5. Those who want to drive to Tibet through Sichuan-Tibet highway should avoid the rainy season. There will be mudslides, cave-ins and mire on certain sections of the road, blocking the passage of vehicles.

About high altitude sickness

1. What is high altitude sickness? What’s the symptom of high altitude sickness?

High altitude sickness may occur at high altitudes (over 2700m) due to the decreasing availability of oxygen. It usually occurs following a rapid ascent and can usually be prevented by ascending slowly. Symptoms often manifest themselves six to ten hours after ascent and generally subside in one to two days, but they occasionally develop into the more serious conditions. Common symptoms of high altitude sickness include shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, stomach illness, dizziness, and sleep disturbance.

2. How to avoid or relieve high altitude sickness?

  • Keep a good mood, don’t be too excited or be too worried about high altitude sickness. Before visiting Tibet, get as healthy as possible, both physically and psychologically.
  • Take care of yourself and avoid catching cold before going to Tibet, and not to take shower at the first two days after you are in Lhasa to avoid being cold, or you will easily suffer from altitude sickness under weak physical condition.
  • Do not drink any alcohol on the first two days when you are in Tibet. Drink plenty of water and eat light, high-carbohydrate meals for more energy.
  • Do not run, jump or do some taxing jobs at the first two days. Being peaceful and having a good rest are important.
  • Once you have the symptoms of altitude sickness, take some medicine (it is said that it’s helpful to have some butter tea if you can adapt to the flavor of it) and don’t go higher. Medication and oxygen also help to prevent altitude sickness. Mild altitude sickness symptoms can be treated with proper medication. If medication and oxygen do not relieve the symptoms, go to hospital or evacuate immediately to a safe altitude!
  • Oxygen can help you relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness, but do not use it too often in Lhasa while your symptoms of altitude sickness are not serious. If you feel chilly or feel very uncomfortable, you should go to the nearest hospital available in the area.
  • In addition to the normal medications for traveling it is advisable to bring high altitude medication. Seek suggestions from your doctor.
  • Tell your tour guide quickly if you don’t feel well and follow the guide’s advice.

3. What should I do if I have high altitude sickness after arriving in Tibet?

There are hospitals in many large cities in Tibet. You may adapt to mild high altitude sickness by yourself slowly and you may go to hospital if it is serious. After you have already had high altitude sickness, you should rest well, do not move too much, keep eating, drink some water with black sugar or take some medicine. If the high altitude sickness is pretty severe, you should go to hospital, or descend to some lower places, or leave Lhasa immediately. High altitude sickness shall disappear after you descend to certain altitude and it has no sequel symptoms.

4. Is high altitude sickness more serious if going to Tibet by plane than by train?

Exactly, but both means have their advantages and disadvantages. You are more likely to have high altitude sickness because you don’t have enough time to adapt to the plateau environment gradually if you go by plane. The altitude change is directly from several hundreds meters to more than 3000 meters. While, if you go to Tibet by train, you can adapt your body to the high plateau environment slowly and gradually. Then, you may relieve or avoid high altitude sickness.