The ins and outs of business travel

Many growing businesses find it hard to structure their business travel expenses. Here, promotional marketing group The Communications Agency shares its experiences.

The Communications Agency, set up in 1986, specialises in promotional marketing. A staff of 15 people work on accounts for clients such as Disney, Blockbuster, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Sony Music.

‘We have recently gained a lot of pan-European clients, and do a fair bit of national and international travel. In the past, we never really needed a policy in place, but now that we travel extensively to France and Spain, we need to enlist the help of a travel service,’ explains account director Thalia Firth.

The Communications Agency, which plans to spend between £20,000 and £30,000 this year on travel (not including domestic travel), uses American Express One’s Travel Service, which provides features such as making reservations, passport and visa service, and an emergency service for issues such as lost baggage or travel alteration.

An American Express small business travel survey showed that many small businesses find it hard to decide who in their company is responsible for arranging business travel.

‘With no consistency around who is in charge of business travel, smaller companies are making it harder for themselves to spot good deals or cost saving opportunities,’ says Niall Mackin, head of American Express One.

The Communications Agency’s Firth believes that using one company for travel needs ensures a more efficient level of reporting.

‘We can see who’s spending where, keep an eye on costs and look at where the discounts are. Using a travel service also gives us additional support – we can access information on hotels and where to get taxis.’

She adds that the key to building up a good relationship with a travel provider is to keep them informed from the start.

‘Use them for their expertise. They can offer more than flights, such as information on hotels and currency exchange. Our budget is driven by our clients, so we need to get as much out of it as possible. Being flexible can help you get the best fares – staying an extra night or going a day later can save you money.’

Top tips

  • Set parameters around your policy; for example, will you be using one airline or many airlines, economy or first class?
  • Ensure that one person only is responsible for managing travel
  • Choose a preferred supplier
  • The best deals are often found online