Speaking at the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) conference in Dallas yesterday, GetThere President Jeff Palmer described how travel management remains the best method for minimising travel costs in large corporations. Palmer said online technology was already playing a key role in companies by supporting managed travel programmes, but that some new online options had caused confusion among corporate travellers and executives.
“These days, travellers sometimes find one good travel deal outside the managed corporate programme, and suddenly question the value of the whole programme,” Palmer said to the 4,000 attendees at the conference.
Palmer said online booking tools need to work in conjunction with a well planned and managed travel programme.
“Some travellers and management may jump to the conclusion, wrongly, that new leisure-driven travel options can replace managed travel; believing that unmanaged travel is more cost-effective than a managed programme. Many don’t realise the scale of savings that online systems are already delivering to corporations when they complement the managed travel programme,” Palmer said.
He pointed out how online self-booking tools are changing corporate travel, presenting new challenges and opportunities. Large corporations should maintain a procurement-led travel management model, but can also take advantage of some new discounted travel products.
Palmer’s speech outlined four areas in which travel managers can continue to provide value to corporations:
 Deliver convenience, service, and the best travel alternatives to employees, and look out for each employee’s safety when he or she travels on business;
 Understand unique corporate requirements, and the ability to build and tailor a travel programme that fits each company, and its travel patterns;
 Take responsibility for managing one of a company’s largest indirect expenses, and select travel policies that keep employees productive, while protecting the bottom line;
 Offer procurement expertise for one of the most complex purchases in any company - travel.
He closed by emphasising that travel professionals and company management need to spend more time evaluating their company’s unique demands and evaluating where opportunities exist to achieve even greater cost savings, while providing the best possible service to travellers.
“The online channel is transforming radically the landscape of corporate travel, and many companies are already achieving significant cost savings through technology. Now it will take cooperation and understanding throughout a company to take advantage of new opportunities, while maintaining proven travel management practices that are delivering billions of dollars in savings to companies’ bottom lines.”
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