Category Archives: Travel

Macro Environment Analysis of Allegiant Travel (ALGT)

Demographic:
The increasing numbers of people entering retirement is great news for companies such as Allegiant Travel who services are geared towards leisure travelers. The retired population generally has more flexible schedules and free time for leisure travel. The restaurant industry has known for years that the retired population will adjust their schedules just to save a buck. Look at the success of “early bird specials” all across the country. Allegiant Travel can capitalize on this population’s flexible schedules and interest in finding the best price. Twenty-one percent of leisure travelers were born before 1946 and of this group it is estimated that they each take 4.1 trips per year. In addition, older baby boomers born between 1946-1954 makeups another 15 percent of the leisure travel population. As the U.S. population continues to age and the retired population grows it can be expected that the demand for inexpensive leisure travel will also increase.

Economic:
The economy plays an important role in the health of all companies and very few can say that these last 5 years have been easy. American’s are found to be thriftier now than 5 years ago thanks to the economic recession. In general, the nature of spending has changed in America. A report by Fidelity investments show that personal debt is down and investments are up. This shows that the population on a whole is examining their purchases more closely than they did before the recession. The focus on cutting costs during these uncertain economic times has led to Allegiant Travel’s success over the past 5 years when other airlines were losing money. They have focused on keeping costs down and providing their services at the lowest price point. This focus on innovation and being a price leader has provided Allegiant Travel with a strategic advantage over other larger carriers. Although in most sectors the larger the company the lower the costs due to economies of scale, this is not the case in the airline business.

Socio Cultural:
The travel industry groups travelers into one of two categories either leisure or business. Each type of traveler has very unique needs and different goals in mind apart from the desire to have a safe enjoyable flight experience. It is estimated that leisure travelers account for 3/ 4 of all domestic trips taken in 2011. The regular business traveler is interested in consistent schedules and enjoys the perks of earning points whereas leisure travelers only books a few trips per year and are willing to give up points to secure a lower price. This is the market that Allegiant Travel is focused towards as they are the low cost leader who runs variable schedules throughout the season to ensure flights are always running to their fullest capacity.

Political-Regulatory:
Airlines operating within the United States are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA is an agency of the United States Department of Transportation who regulates civil aviation within the U.S. The Homeland Security Agency also plays an active role in airline travel interacting directly with all passengers prior to boarding the aircraft. The added security precautions mandatory for travelers since 9/11 can be a major factor behind the increased frustrations voiced by travelers. The U.S. Travel Association’s study in 2008 showed that travelers avoided approximately 41 million trips within a 12 month period due to perceived air travel hassle. Although airlines such as Allegiant Travel do not have control over how Homeland Security does their job they are able to lobby for more efficient airport security which can in turn help increase their profits.

Environment:
The rise in environmental consciousness impacts traveler’s decision making. More than 79% of U.S. adults claim to be environmentally-conscious and familiar with carbon footprints and global warming. Although travelers are starting to be more conscientious of their decision making and its impact on the environment they are not yet willing to pay a premium for environmentally-friendly service providers. The current determination is that in general, driving is more eco-friendly (measuring greenhouse gases) compared to flying. Although gas prices averaged at $3.78 a gallon many travelers may find it cheaper to fly than drive and stay in a hotel. The addition of saving time may also help convince environmentally-conscious travelers to fly rather than drive cross country.

Technology:
The increase of access to information through the internet over the years has created savvy shoppers who can compare dozens of prices quickly online and has created more focus on price competition. The internet has also decreased the dependency on traveler’s utilizing travel agencies to arrange travel as they feel more comfortable booking directly online. This puts Allegiant Travel at an advantage as they are able to offer competitive prices through booking directly with the customers and avoiding any middle men such as websites like Expedia.com or Yahoo.com.

In conclusion, Allegiant Travel is a solid company that is strategically positioned to thrive in any environment. They have shown their agility in changing with the market demand over the past six years. Allegiant Travels focus on servicing the price conscious traveler seems to be a smart approach as they understand that consumers are still hesitant with their spending even as the economy is improving. The expected increase to the retired population in the coming years will also bode well for Allegiant Travel. As long as Allegiant Travel continues to focus on strategic growth that will allow them to move quickly when they see an opportunity or threat coming their way they are set for a successful future.

Daniel Prince resides in his hometown of Manchester, TN to further focus on his entrepreneurial studies. Daniel is a serial entrepreneur and is also currently enrolled in the Master’s of Entrepreneurship Degree Program at Western Carolina University. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2013 by Daniel A. Prince.

Travel and Its Benefits

Why do we need to travel? Why it is getting increasingly important that we, once in a while, change our environment and travel outside our country? Why it is sometimes a necessity for our emotional health to travel?

Travel’s importance is underestimated by many people. Travel is not only fun, entertaining and enjoyable. With our current lifestyles and work conditions, travel has become more than an option. It is more than just having fun. As Augustine of Hippo said ” The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
 During travel you are able to do things you usually don’t do. When travelling, you go outdoor and be away from computers, and TVs and you are likely to be mixing with different people and cultures. People travel for different reasons. Some travel for fun and to have a good time. Others travel as a hobby. Travel can be an escape away from the hectic pace of life in big cities. Some travel just to change and move, as Robert Louis Stevenson said “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake”. Some people like to learn from different cultures, as Mark Twain said ” Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Travel gives the person the opportunity to discover, to explore and to feel the sense of adventure.

Many people around the world are discovering the benefits of travel to the extent that the tourism industry is growing worldwide and has become one of the major profitable sectors in world economies. No wonder that travel is growing year by year. According to figures published by the World Travel & Tourism Council WTTC, world tourism industry grew by 3% in 2012, and contributed $6.6 trillion to world GDP by direct and indirect impact. In 2012, for the first time in history, international tourist arrivals reached 1.035 billion.

Here are the main benefits of travel:

1-Stress Relief: As you travel miles away from your environment, you are able to be free from your responsibilities and then begin to relax and rest. Not only you rest your body, but also your mind. Knowing that you can wake up anytime without an alarm clock, without the need to be physically available at work, will take off a lot of mental stress. Here, you can sense freedom. Stress relief is a major reason for travel. The moment you think you are heading for Hawaii or Bali, you get immediate sensation of excitement and stress-free feelings. It is this mental peace that makes travel a very good stress-relief. Sometimes travel can be stressful if your trip has a lot of sightseeing, or meeting a lot of people. But travel stress is different from home stress because it is positive stress. Travel stress does not associate with it anxiety or worry.

Travel is a great way to connect with nature which is very helpful for your relaxation, mentally or physically. Nature is a stimulus for activating your right brain. Right brain domination is one major cause for stress-relief. Also, during travel there is no sense of urgency which is usually associated with home behavior. Change of scenery is by itself helpful for relieving stress.

2-Physical Benefits: You move more when travelling. You walk more frequently whether riding the subway or exploring the streets of a historic city or even visiting a museum. By swimming or laying on the beach, you get a high dosage of vitamin D from the sun, something that is very useful for your bones and also for your positive emotions. Outdoor activities associated with travel can lower risk of diabetes, lead to weight loss and reduce cholesterol level. Some medical experts recommend traveling once every six months for cardiovascular health and for the heart. Some studies show that travel even improves better sleep.

3-Cultural Benefits: Sometimes we need to be anonymous. Sometimes we want to be free from any responsibility. Travel allows you to exercise both while meeting new people and experience new cultures. You will know how different people accomplish their goals with different ways. You will learn new ideas that you have never thought of before.

4-Relationship Benefits: Traveling with a companion and sharing same experiences and situations together will enhance your mutual bond. 93% of youth ages 8-18 consider travel as “a quality time” spent with their parents. 3 in 4 parents say that family vacations are very helpful for the family. Meeting new persons in new locations can result in long term relationship for many.

5-Happiness: Many persons associate happiness with travel. More than 50% of adults buy souvenirs just to remember their vacations. Most travelers store photos of their destinations as a way of remembering those trips that are about tasting new food, beautiful sights, historic monuments, and new music. This is one reason that travel can be addictive, especially if have enough time & money. It has become a hobby for thousands of people around the world.

Remember, you can travel and have fun with a limited budget. Plan carefully and spend wisely. Read and learn saving tips.

How to Be a Travel Agent

If you plan to become a travel agent or want to learn how to start a travel agency from home, you’d be glad to know that there are plenty of agencies that offer certifications, trainings, and the chance to own your very own travel agency.

A travel agent’s job functions may vary from assisting with booking/selling reservations to referring people to travel booking sites, where an agent receives commission.

Here are some tips to help you become a successful travel agent.

Research Travel Institutions and Education

The minimum educational requirement for individuals who want to become a travel agent is a high school diploma. Computerization and technology have increased training needs and most employers prefer applicants with a higher level of education such as a post-secondary vocational award.

There are vocational schools that offer full time travel agent programs as well as weekend and evening programs. These programs are also offered in community colleges and universities.

There are colleges that also offer a bachelor’s or master’s degree in tourism and travel. Although there are only a few courses that directly relate to travel and tourism, college degrees with background in world history, foreign language, communication and geography are often preferred by employers.

The American Society of Travel Agents features a correspondence course that teaches the basics of travel industry. While most travel agencies offer on the job training programs for their employees, there are also many reputable websites that give free detailed information and offer travel agent study course on how to start a travel agency business from home.

Be a Certified Travel Agent

Certifications will enhance your reputation as an agent and will show clients that you have met the professional standards set by an institution in the industry. The travel industry features several certifying organizations that are widely recognized today.

Experienced travel agents can take advantage of study courses from the Travel Institute that leads to a Certified Travel Counselor professional designation. The Travel Institute also features sales/marketing enhancement programs and destination specialist programs that provide a detailed knowledge of regions like:

•Western Europe

•The Caribbean

•North America

•The Pacific Rim

Cruise Lines International Association or CLIA offers various certification programs that are recognized and respected in the travel industry.

Get a Travel Agent Job

Find a job with an agency or partner with an agency to help you run your own travel counseling business. Try to work with an established agency.

There are also travel agencies that allow you to work from home. Find a host agency that will help you in establishing your own travel agency. A host agency will show you how to start a travel agency from home, provide services, back office support, travel suppliers, marketing support and access to reservation portals.

Become a Registered Travel Seller in Your State

There are states that require registration. This type of regulatory requirement helps protect consumers and ensures that agencies are legal. Don’t forget to check with government offices for local regulations.

Become a Part of Organizations

Joining organizations is a great way to stay up-to-date on trends and news in the travel industry. These societies also offer continuing education and updates to their members. If you expect to be booking online airline tickets, become a member of the International Air Transport Association or IATA.

Are You Really A Luxury Traveler?

While most people love to travel, what type of people are considered luxury travelers? What is this type of traveling all about?

Luxury traveling means you seek out good deals and aren’t looking to spend all of your money on an expensive trip. You will spend the time planning the right trip for you because you know your own needs. You will plan a trip in a place that isn’t crowded. You are a luxury traveler if you are flexible, choose the right seat on the airplane for the most comfort, and choose hotels that will make the stay better rather than the brand name hotels.

While most people might think of this type of traveler as someone spending the most money they can, has an attitude that everyone should accommodate them, and that plans their trip to be full of activities in the best-known brand hotels, this is actually not the case. These travelers prefer relaxation, peace and quiet, and a comfortable experience.

What do Luxury Travelers Prefer?

When it’s time to plan the trip, luxury travelers will opt for the easier travel experience. They know their wants and needs better than anyone else, so they will take the time to plan the trip out in advance. They will not plan too many activities because they know that relaxing is much more enjoyable than a busy trip. They plan the trip to ensure it’s as enjoyable as possible.

If they work with a travel agent, they are picky on which agent they use. Luxury travelers want someone that understands their needs and will make their trip more personalized. They don’t want a common travel package offered to all clients; they want their own customized package.

While sometimes they’ll choose first class, other times they just want a good window seat or aisle seat to stretch out. They buy their tickets in advance to reserve their seat.

Destination, Deals & Attitude

Luxury travelers will make sure they get the best discounts. They want to stretch their dollar as far as possible so they will seek discounts. They also understand those who are serving them should be tipped well. They always tip their doorman, babysitters, waitresses, taxi drivers, and tour guides.

While some may think a this type of traveler is one with a bad attitude or one expecting to be treated as royalty, in fact luxury travelers are very courteous and kind. They understand those serving them are equal to them and they deserve gratitude and flexibility.

Having a bad attitude is not what a luxury traveler is all about. They know that having a bad attitude is not the way to having a luxury experience or a pleasant one at that.

When choosing a destination, they know brand name hotels are not the way to go. They prefer the hotel with the deal or a great all-inclusive package. They know a small boutique can be the most luxurious option over an over-crowded brand name hotel.

They don’t choose a place where they may encounter spring breakers or they know is a highly sought out place during that time of year. Instead, they will choose a quieter, rare and exotic location to explore for a unique experience.

Vacations the Luxury Traveler May Choose

These travelers prefer rare and unfamiliar locations. Luxury travelers are typically:

  • Younger travels between 40-55 years old using a travel agent to book the best trip
  • Families in their early 30’s and 40s planning adventurous trips with kids
  • Choosing all-inclusive vacations to take the stress out of travel and pay all upfront while relaxing during the trip
  • Traveling in newer ways than ever before, by river cruising and space travel

While the average traveler makes plans for a typical beach vacation during spring break, the luxurious traveler chooses a private destination. The average traveler will choose a crowded hotel, while the luxurious traveler opts for a smaller and quieter hotel.

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15 Travelers That I Have Met

There are really as many type of travellers as there are people. Here we take a tongue in cheek look at some of the common types.

1. The Complete Budget Traveler

The complete budget traveler travels on a strict budget and does not vary from it, no matter how exciting the recently discovered opportunity is. No extra drinks for this traveller unless someone buys him/her one.

2. The Perennial Party Animal

The perennial party animal has one focus and that is to have fun usually at a bar. These travellers find places to party where others cannot. Perhaps they should be partnered with the complete budget traveler!

3. The Flexible Go-anywhere Traveler

The flexible go-anywhere traveler just chills out where-ever he/she is. There is no need for planning – everything is good. They go with the flow and to not need to know where they are going. Perhaps the traveller that enjoys any experience.

4. The Methodical Planner

The methodical planner does not do anything that is not pre-arranged. Every second is planned and when things go wrong as they inevitably do, they feel unloved. They will always be found where ever the plan tells them to be.

5. The Modern Techie

The modern techie can only travel if he/she has the latest travel accessories and gadgets. Stay close to the modern techie to learn what items works and what items are a waste of money for your next trip.

6. The Avid Souvenir Buyer

The avid souvenir buyer has money to spend and anything that he/she wants to remind them of the holiday. The head for the markets and shops and not interested in spending any time with the perennial party animal. Usually has trouble with baggage weight limits on the homeward journey.

7. The Know it All Traveler

The know it all traveler studies everything from the guidebooks and internet prior to travel. He/she finds great joy in asking the most in-depth questions of the guides or continually interrupts the guide with statements of “fact”. Not sure who the know it all traveller should travel with.

8. The Fancy Photographer

The fancy photography will probably have the most expensive camera (and don’t forget the lens) and take the longest to take any photograph. Other travellers are always waiting for him/her at any special sight. They also like to get out very early to “catch the light.”

9. The Constant Complainer

The constant complainer finds everything on the tour not to his/her usual standard. Usually claim to be frequent travellers and often want to “talk with a higher authority”. Probably should stay home and enjoy the things that are there!

10. The Helpless Traveler

The helpless traveler finds everything a little too much. He/she will ask the most unusual and often useless questions. Often there will be someone on the tour who takes the helpless traveller under their wings to protect them from the others.

11. The “I am looking for myself” Traveler

The “I am looking for myself” traveler is searching for something. It is something unique for each or the “I am looking for myself” travellers. Beat to let them find themselves but make sure that they get about safely.

12. The Incessant Talking Traveler

The incessant talking traveler does not leave anyone alone. They crave a discussion on almost any topic. Often they are quite interesting people but enough is enough.

13. The Travel Light Traveler

The travel light traveler needs only one cabin bag to see the world. They a proud of their achievement but their travelling companions struggle when there is no time for washing clothes. They tend to like to borrow things.

14. The Repeating Traveler

The repeating traveler goes to the same place or holiday each year. He/she can provide at least 101 reasons why you should join them. They take pride in telling you that they have seen three management changes at the hotel and the last manager was better than the current one.

15. The Exercising Traveler

Finally, the exercising traveler rises every morning to a vigorous physical workout. Only stay at hotels with gymnasium and swimming pool. Usually fussy with food and claim to eat “healthy” until the free wine is put on the table.

Whatever type of traveler you are or come into contact with – enjoy the experience and learn from them. Even the most tedious travelers will have something interesting to say.

Overseas Travel Insurance Plans Costs Less and Offers More

images (25)Everyone craves for vacations to enjoy some quality time with their loved ones and Indians are no exception. The outbound travel sector of India saw a robust growth this year because international travel destinations are highly sought-after among Indians in 2015. Obstacles like inflation, skyrocketing ticket price and depreciation of rupee couldn’t deter the wandering spirit of Indian travelers to travel around the world. Over 60% of Indians remain unmoved by the depreciating rupee and are raring to go to travel. However, the rate of availing travel insurance to safeguard the trip is still dismal among Indian travelers.

Young generations prefer to travel to international destinations once a year at least. According to a survey, 90% of these travelers make use of their own savings for overseas trips and don’t consider travel cover. Quite surprisingly, this is the mindset of young internet savvy generation as ICICI Lombard conducted the survey in the age group of 25-35 among 1049 people across six metro cities in India who had international trips in the previous year.

The survey further reveals that Singapore is the most preferred travel destination among young Indian travelers; the second and third places are held by US and UK.

Let’s take a look at the travel plans available and their prices for those who favor these destinations. Let’s start with Singapore.

Travel insurance plans available for Singapore trips

The following list of top 5 policy quotes in terms of lowest premium are for one 30 years old person looking for a single trip to Singapore. The trip duration is 10 days and the chosen sum insured is US$ 500000.

  1. Universal Sompo – Premium of Rs. 942
  2. HDFC Ergo – Premium of Rs. 1015
  3. Reliance – Premium of Rs. 1129
  4. TATA AIG – Premium of Rs. 1234
  5. Religare – Premium of Rs.1666

The lowest premium is Rs. 942 for a travel insurance plan for a 10 days trip to any Asian country such as Singapore, Thailand. This means one has to pay less than Rs. 100 per day to make his trip safe and secured. Indian travelers must know that travel plans are not only inexpensive but they also provide coverage for loss of baggage, passport, hijack and even emergency treatment.

Travel Insurance plans available for UK trips

The following list of top 5 policy quotes in terms of lowest premium are for 1 person looking for a single trip to UK. The trip duration is 10 days and the chosen sum insured is US$ 500000.

  1. Universal Sompo – Premium of Rs. 942
  2. Bajaj Allianz – Premium of Rs.991
  3. HDFC Ergo – Premium of Rs. 1015
  4. Reliance – Premium of Rs. 1129
  5. Bajaj Allianz ( Travel Elite Platinum) – Premium of Rs. 1139

Universal Sompo provides the lowest premium. The premium of travel insurance plan is also Rs. 942 for a 10 days trip To UK.

Travel insurance policies for US trips

The following list of top 7 policy quotes in terms of lowest premium are for 1 person looking for a single trip to US. The trip duration is 10 days and the chosen sum insured is US$ 500000.

  1. Universal Sompo – Premium of Rs. 1344
  2. HDFC Ergo – Premium of Rs. 1438
  3. Bajaj Allianz – Premium of Rs.1441
  4. IFFCO-TOKIO – Premium of Rs.1456
  5. Bajaj Allianz ( Travel Elite Platinum) – Premium of Rs. 1658
  6. TATA AIG – Premium of Rs. 1694
  7. Reliance – Premium of Rs. 1783

The lowest premium is Rs. 1344 for a travel insurance plan for a 10 days trip to US. Just imagine, you are getting all types of risks covered just by paying less than Rs. 140 for each day of your trip.

Best travel insurance plans in India in terms of baggage and medical coverage

The survey also made clear that 79% people buy travel plan to cover medical emergencies. Safety of baggage is the second most vital reason as 60% people behind purchasing travel insurance policy. So let’s find out best travel insurance plans in terms of medical emergency and luggage safety.

From the above list of travel policies for US, two plans by Reliance and Bajaj Allianz look best in terms of baggage cover.

Reliance Travel care platinum provides US$1500 for the loss of checked baggage for a premium of Rs.1783.

The Travel Elite Premium plan by Bajaj Allianz provides US$ 1000 for a premium of Rs. 1658 for the loss of checked baggage.

To get the best coverage for medical emergencies, the Titanium plan by HDFC ERGO is the best. It primarily covers:

  1. Emergency Medical Expenses
  2. Permanent Disablement/accidental death
  3. Hospital Cash
  4. Loss of Personal Documents
  5. Accidental Death
  6. Loss of Baggage
  7. Financial Emergency Assistance
  8. Personal Liability

What is the cost of international travel policy for a couple?

According to the survey, 52% of travelers prefer to have trips with spouses. So, if these people can avail a travel plan for visiting US or UK or Singapore, how much do they have to pay?

Let’s start with US trip for 10 days for a sum insured of US$ 100000 covering 2 people who are 30 and 28 years old.

Religare offers the best plan which comes at a premium of Rs. 2407.

If you compare travel plans available for couples who wish to visit UK, keeping the same criteria for trip duration, sum insured and age of the traveler, Religare provides the best plan. The premium of the plan is Rs. 1537.

For a trip in countries like Singapore, Thailand within Asia which has been the top travel destination of 2015, a couple has to spend even less for a travel insurance policy. If you compare travel insurance plans that cover Asia, you will get the lowest premium of Rs. 1218 from Explore Asia plan provided by Religare.

The positive part of the survey is the increased awareness among Indian travelers. More than 90% of young generation is aware of the travel insurance which is a significant rise from last year’s 80%. One of the major provider of travel insurance plans in India; ICICI Lombard underwritten a total travel insurance premium of Rs 100 previous year, one can expect the premium to increase by 5-10% in this year. The problem is not with the awareness; it is the lack of understanding about the benefits associated with these travel covers.

27% of the total respondents in the survey choose not to avail a travel insurance plan simply because they were under the wrong conception that such plans cover only accidents, loss of baggage and theft but don’t provide medical coverage. This is far from being the truth as the complete break-up of Titanium plan by HDFC ERGO shows extensive coverage for medical emergencies.

25% surveyed people didn’t buy any travel plan because they thought such plans are costly but it is not so. The price of all plans for person mentioned here are about less than Rs. 100 to less than Rs. 140 for each day of a 10 days trip. Travel insurance policies for couples are even cheaper as they cost in the range of less than Rs. 65 per day per person to less than Rs. 125 per day per person for destinations like US, UK and all countries in Asia including popular destinations like Singapore, Thailand.

Indians love to spend their holidays in international destinations. An international travel insurance plan doesn’t cost much and offers a lot in return. If you are also a travel freak, you should insure the total duration of the trip so that you can enjoy your holiday with complete peace of mind.

Travel Pre And Post Internet

images (24)Travel Pre Internet:

I’ve been travelling for over 40 years – by thumb in my early days, by boots in the Scouts, a Lambretta came next and then my first old banger followed by newer old bangers to the beaches of the Costa Brava.

My thumb, boots, bikes and bangers took me all over Europe and the UK before finding that a charter flight to Spain on an old ‘Connie’ could get me to the beaches and bars a lot quicker and allow more time to enjoy the local travel opportunities by horse and cart and the occasional bus and train.

‘Go West and Prosper’ seemed to be a good idea so instead of taking an 8 hour flight I took an 8 day transatlantic crossing from Tilbury to Montreal on the Stephan Batory of Polish Ocean Lines ensuring that jet lag did not trouble my travel plans. Some years later I crossed the pond again on a ship but this time it was 5 times bigger and I travelled in style on the QE2 and dined in the Queen’s Grill somewhat removed from my earlier experience. I highly recommend ocean voyages but cannot see myself on one of the modern cruise ships going from port to port with constant line-ups to get on and off to buy t-shirts. However, I have done 10 Windjammers and a Star Clipper cruise in the Caribbean which were all memorable (let’s hope Windjammer Barefoot Cruises recover from their woes). But I digress.

I had read that Canada is a spectacular country, from sea to shining sea, and my entrance into the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and then heading west in an old Econoline van from the Great Lakes, across the Prairies to the Rocky Mountains before ending up whale watching off of the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island was a trip of wonder to a bloke from London. Today the scenery is still spectacular and the best way to go is still by road so rent or buy a car, motorhome or motorbike, take the train or tour bus but remember the maps, a fly rod, good boots and take your time.

My favorite part of Canada / USA for adventure travel has to be Northern BC / Alaska, to hike the Chilkoot Trail in the steps of the goldseekers of 1898. The Northwest Territories to canoe the Nahannie River and the Yukon to drive from Dawson City to Chicken, Alaska. If you like the outdoors and can put up with a few bugs, cast a fly and scale a few hills or drive on endless dirt roads sharing the space with moose, caribou, elk, bears and eagles, then these are the places to put on your list. The pleasures and experiences in driving to Inuvik on the Dempster Highway or to Prudhoe Bay on the Dalton Highway or even the Canol Road can only be felt by doing them. I would have mentioned the Alaska Highway but now it is an easy drive unlike the aforementioned.

Today the costs of driving these distances may mean that sharing the journey with others is required, but RVing or simply vanning and camping is a great way to see beyond the horizon. Some enroute adventures now need to be booked in advance whereas when I hiked Denali and the Chilkoot Pass it was just a case of turning up, registering with the local ranger office and heading on out. A little more forward planning is needed for today’s traveller and cost considerations of lengthy flights or drives have to somehow be countered with more careful planning. In the days of reasonable gas prices I would not even consider the driving or flying costs and have driven to Key West from the northwest coast, down the west coast to the Baja and to the west coast from New York. I once even flew my 1946 Fleet taildragger from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back using around 5 gallons an hour of avgas. Before the oil and credit crisis I drove from Rio de Janeiro to Lima, down to Tierra del Fuego and back to Rio covering over 15,000 miles of spectacular scenery and with no consideration about the cost of gas. South America should be on your itinerary too! Some other memorable drives that may now require a mortgage with the gas companies include London to The Nordkapp, Norway, Skippers Canyon in New Zealand and the loneliness of the far north of Australia and the amazing coast of Western Australia stopping by at Monkey Mia and Wave Rock.

We tend to forget that the real cost of travelling is often less today than over the 40 years of my travels. In 1977 my round-trip airfare from Canada to Australia cost over $1700 in 1977 dollars so today it is far cheaper to fly, even with the airlines gouging for fuel, extra baggage, no service and no pleasure. The ‘Big Mac’ method of price comparison as developed by The Economist newspaper gives us a good gauge for most expenditures of today compared to yesterday but my $1500 cost to get a private pilots licence in the 1970’s seems cheap by comparison to today, but obviously not when using this Big Mac principle. Other travel costs are also far cheaper today but this should not mean that travellers should disregard the many methods of saving costs that can then be put to extended or improved travel experiences

Travel Post-Internet:

In my 40 years of travel I have had to use travel agents to make even the simplest of reservations and buy tickets, not even thinking to ask them if they had “been there, done that?” It was just a case of there being no other options to buying travel. Now we have unlimited choices and can seek out better travel agents, better prices, better selections and information about anywhere in the world for our travels – without even leaving home.

The Internet now gives travellers ideas and options of Where to go, When to go, Why to go, What to do, Who to book with and How to save money and offset costs. We can search and find experts for every travel option. If we are comfortable with the Internet we no longer have to go to a travel agent to make reservations and buy tickets except to book with some of the larger travel companies that still produce glossy brochures and offer all inclusive packages or tours that only sell through the agency system. The Internet also allows those of us who are smart enough to know when to seek out a top travel agent with knowledge, experience and expertise (KEE skills) of destinations and activities about where to find them. There is no longer any need to only use our local agents when we can find one somewhere else in the world. When we do not need ‘the knowledge’ and can do it ourselves we simply surf the web so that we can book directly with tour and travel operators wherever we have decided to go.

Some travel agents operate their own tours, some are both wholesale and retail, some limit consumer selection by only selling their ‘preferred’ suppliers and some have professional consultants with years of experience invested in gaining knowledge, experience and expertise and are worth their weight in gold to the savvy traveller. Beware though, as some are also called destination specialists and some of these designations merely require the agent to take a rudimentary test offered by tourism offices, destination marketing groups or even tour operators and in my opinion can harm the reputation of the travel industry. A specialist is not necessarily an expert.

Travel is probably the most used commercial aspect of the Internet and if retail agents want to harness this exciting medium to offer ‘the knowledge’ and their ‘kee’ skills to a global audience, not just their local community, they must embrace the changes that are happening. Travellers now have the ability to seek answers to the 5 W’s of travel and the important ‘How to’ save money and offset costs by having information just a click away.

And then it occurred to me that even internet travel prices often include a commission element even when sold directly to the consumer. If we book directly with operators we should not have to pay full retail prices as we are doing for ourselves what a retail agent would normally do for us. A dilemma for the operator is that to show a both a retail and a cost price option could deter many agents from selling the services as travellers could use an agent for free advice and book directly with the operator to get a ‘net of commission’ price. Obviously this two tier pricing is not often available but travellers who do not need advice should also not be penalized by retail pricing. A new way had to be found and I think I have found it!

The need for fairer fare prices is why I developed the Top Travel Voucher program at The Top Travel Club and I even found a dot com for it. All travel selections on the site are at ‘net of commission’ prices for members who handle there own travel arrangements directly with the operators linked on the club website using our voucher program.

I am inviting travel operators from around the world to join this program, from B&B’s, Motels, Hotels, Luxury Lodges, Eco Resorts, Beach Resorts and Tour and Adventure Operators who want to promote their products and services to travellers who are comfortable with direct bookings and reservations.

I am also inviting Travel Agents with knowledge, experience and expertise of destinations and activities to showcase their skills to a global audience of travellers and to the members of this new travel club. I am leery of ‘specialist agents’ and only want experts to showcase their services.

This opportunity is available to the travel trade at no cost except for them to offer net, wholesale or outlet prices to club members and visitors to the website using top travel vouchers. I believe this program offers fairer fare prices to direct-booking travellers. The operator would normally be paying commission anyway but now travellers get the savings because they make their own arrangements.

The Top Travel Club opened in mid-April 2008 offering thousands of top travel vouchers for travel in over 70 countries with around 150 travel operators onboard. Every week we add more travel operators with more choices for members. Currently you can get savings on accommodations, adventure travel, boat charters, culinary tours, hike, bike and dive tours, auto and RV rentals fishing lodges and guides, safaris, vacation rentals, single travel, women only and dude ranches. Members get the vouchers free of charge by paying an annual membership fee and non-members can buy the vouchers on the internet at Top Travel Sites at deeply discounted prices to the face-value. The future growth will include restaurants, travel clothing, travel insurance and the opportunity to access air ticket consolidators who want to deal directly with consumers.

The way I have travelled and the way I see travel is that consumers should have unlimited access to every travel opportunity with the ability to do their own due diligence or to find a professional who can offer quality advice and services at fair prices, and to find all of this without needing endless hours of searching.

To find out more about the new way of cost offsets for travel please go to The Top Travel Club and my apologies for some of the spelling (traveller / traveler) but that is what I was taught. As long as we all understand the meaning, vive le difference!

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.

6. Do not neglect hotel volume

Hotel volume is sometimes overlooked but it should not be. Negotiated rates can be had through your travel agency or directly with the hotel properties of your choice. Individual hotels near corporate locations will negotiate discounted rates for you in exchange for a minimum room/night commitment. By utilizing a travel agency, you are likely to receive discounts of 5% to 50% on thousands of hotels worldwide.

7. Have at least one car rental contract

Rental car contracts are easy to enter into and require little in the way of commitment from the corporation. Choose a partner that has airport locations and a reputation for excellent customer service. You can save 5-10% very easily and can also negotiate frequent renter membership for all your employees. This will make them more efficient and enhance morale. You can also enter in to direct billing agreements at the same time that can make the jobs of your travelers and accounting staff much less stressful.

8. Understand group and meeting contracts

Airlines and hotels will discount your fares and rates when you have groups traveling together or meeting at a single destination from multiple points of origin. These meeting contracts can bring you airfare discounts of 2-10%, and if you have enough travelers on a single airline, you may be able to negotiate for free tickets to be awarded at contract completion. The minimum requirement is usually 10 travelers going to the same place at the same time. Some airlines have higher minimums so be sure to ask before a contract is generated. Hotels will discount their rates in a similar way with a minimum of 10 room nights. These discounts can range from 10% to a much higher discount depending upon occupancy rate and seasonal variances.

9. Use reporting to consistently improve metrics

Well managed travel programs require constant monitoring and financial controls to be properly leveraged. Insist on timely and customized reports that can be designed to bring you the information you need most. By receiving regular reporting on traveler behavior and provider contract performance, you will be in a better position to fulfill contract obligations, achieve cost reduction objectives and see where opportunities for future savings may lie.

10. Use all avenues to enhance traveler comfort and efficiency

Lastly, any well managed travel program will take in to account the comfort and productivity of their travelers. When travelers are comfortable, they can focus on their main priorities that help propel your business forward. If travelers are happy, they perform at a higher level. Ask if your travel agency can upgrade traveler status on a preferred airline. Look in to purchasing blocks of airport club passes so they can be used strategically during long and complex itineraries. There are many ways to reward travelers for the difficult and often grueling chore of travel. These kinds of rewards generate feelings of loyalty and increased productivity and efficiency.

If you would like to learn more about how your company can better leverage their travel program to benefit your bottom line and the satisfaction of your executive level, feel free to contact me. I am delighted to point you in the right direction.

Base Tendriling Travel Expenses

images (23)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.

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.”

Confused With All the Travel Information on the Internet?

There is so much information available on the internet right now regarding travel. There are online travel sites for cruises, hotels, air, trains and any other type of travel. But what is the correct product for you? Is the location of the hotel where you want to be? Is the type of room or cabin the right fit for you? Is that cruise line the one you should be booking? Not all products are created equal nor are the products right for everyone. How do you tell? Contact a travel professional.

Do travel agents exist?

There have been multiple articles, and even the President of the United States, has said travel agents don’t exist or are going away. In a way they are right. Travel agents in the past were just someone who booked a trip for someone who called or came in to the storefront office of a travel agency. Storefront travel agencies are few and far between now a days as most of the “travel agents” have gone home to work. Even the term “travel agent” is going away because what they do now is different than what they did before.

Travel Professionals/Travel Counselors

Travel Agents are now more a counselor and an adviser so they are now called Travel Professionals or Travel Counselor. Even the travel industry is trying to get away from using the term “travel agent”. They no longer just book a trip for someone, they know more than what is available to the traveling client. The travel professionals now are constantly learning, constantly traveling, receiving input from other travel professionals about where they have traveled and are a resource for what is required to travel now a days.

When you use an online travel agency like Expedia, Travelocity, etc. you aren’t able to have someone protect your back. They book the travel for you and then you are pretty much on your own. Say your flight gets cancelled, who is going to book a replacement flight? You are, not them. If you use a travel professional that travel professional will do it. If something goes wrong on your trip, if the room you booked is not like what you thought it would be, who is going to make it right? A travel professional will also check constantly for price drops before final payment and whether a new promotion offered would be more beneficial than what was booked with a deposit. All these things can be addressed before final payment.

A travel professional works with you from the time you first talk to them until you are home safe and sound and any and all problems have been solved or addressed.

It Costs More to Use a Travel Professional

This is not always true. True, some travel professionals charge fees but not all of them do. This is because some vendors, like airlines and some hotels, don’t pay commission or some of the vendors have decreased the amount of commissions paid to the travel professional. In order to make ends meet, some travel professionals charge fees. I charge $50 per person for airline reservations domestically and $100 for airline reservations internationally. I will also charge a fee sometimes for hotels for the same reason or if I am putting the various sections of the trip together myself. If I book a cruise or a tour, I don’t charge a fee as the vendor pays me a commission. Remember, whether you use a travel professional or not the commission is still being paid as it is automatically included in the price from the vendor. So, why not use a travel professional and avoid the hassle and save your time?

The rules for traveling are constantly changing and it is the travel professional who is able to keep their clients on track with them.

Examples: Passports

For instance, did you know that come January, 2016 you may need a passport to travel by air domestically? This is due to a law called the REAL ID Act. This requires all travelers to have a REAL ID compliant identification that includes all of these fields: full legal name, signature, date of birth, gender, unique identifying number, a principal residence address and a front-facing photograph of the applicant. Unfortunately there are still a handful of states that are non-compliant. Do you know which states are compliant and which aren’t? Your travel professional does. By the way, outright non-compliant states/territories are American Samoa, Louisiana and New Hampshire. The states of Minnesota and New York offer an optional Enhanced ID at a cost, so because it is optional, a large percentage of residents don’t have one. Some states have applied for additional extensions, but it is unclear if those will be granted. Currently, only four states (Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New York) and American Samoa are technically non-compliant.

Also, we still don’t know if January 1, 2016 will be the date of the requirement or will it be later? Because of this law, the passport processing time for all will be affected. All the passports issued in 2006 to meet the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that went into effect in 2007 are now expiring, causing a slew of renewals. So, because of those renewals coupled with the possible REAL ID enforcement, passport waits are expected to further increase. As of October 11, the current wait has already increased a week to four to six weeks for standard passports and three weeks for expedited. Expedited in person could be up to eight days based on travel need.

Ultimately the REAL ID Act will require all state-issued drivers’ licenses to include “machine-readable technology” or chips to help keep us safe and secure while traveling.

Also, passports are recommended for cruises just like they are required to fly outside of the United States. The reason being is if you do need to fly back to the United States from a foreign port you have a passport to do so. Just because you are on a cruise leaving a United States port, technically you are traveling internationally just as soon as you step on the ship as most ships are registered outside of the United States!

Example: Visas

A travel professional would be able to help you determine if visas are required to travel to where you want to go. If they don’t know for sure, they know where to send you for that information and get confirmation that you do or don’t need one for the type of travel you are taking. For instance, for most cruises if you leave an U.S. port and return to the same U.S. port you probably don’t need a visa to visit the ports. This is called a “closed loop” trip. But, again, most of the cruises. Always double check to see if one is needed.

Example: Travel Insurance

Again, not all travel insurance is created equal. Should you purchase travel insurance? Absolutely!!! I recommend to my clients not to purchase travel insurance, for the most part, from the supplier of the cruise or product. The reason being the coverage is not as comprehensive as third party policies. Travel insurance is not only purchased for travel delays, luggage lost/damage or cancellation protection. Some health insurance companies do not cover you when traveling outside of the United States. Medicare does not. Travel insurance will act as your primary health insurance during your travel, from the time you leave to the time you return to your home. Also, it provides emergency evacuation for health reasons and protects you for other items. Always read the policy and information provided by the issuer of the travel insurance to see what is covered. Your travel professional will know which is a good travel insurance issuer.