The volatility experienced during the last two years may be setting the stage for permanently changing the way corporate and business travel will be managed. And as it relates to the needs of small and mid-sized businesses, perhaps small travel agencies that are part of larger networks may be in the best position to help navigate it.
When the Iceland volcano first erupted, it either fully or partially shut down air travel in 23 countries. Earlier this year the 90 second Chilean earthquake stopped travel to that part of the world for weeks and caused damage that will take quite some time to repair. The 2009 swine flu outbreak in Mexico prompted warnings and in some cases even bans on international travel that lasted months.
We’ve witnessed how shifts in oil prices can change the price of air fare within a short amount of time. The cost of airline seats for summer travel is increasing dramatically, this year faces a massive fuel surcharge on U.S. flights to Europe, and hotel rates will not stay favorable forever.
None of these situations offer good reasons to stop business travel or fully shift the nature of how organizations interact with their customers, members and other constituents.
But they are impacting how many think that corporate travel should be managed. And that creates new challenges for small business and executive travelers because most know that their sales and customer relations are closely tied to their business travel plans.
During the last couple of years many businesses benefited from the value of self-managed booking tools: allowing executives the flexibility of finding travel deals for the most cost effective air and hotels rates.
While online booking systems are useful and relevant to saving money, when unpredictable situations impact travel plans these same travelers are usually kept waiting on hold by overwhelmed customer call centers like the thousands of people who find themselves trapped in an airport terminal during a blizzard at the peak of Christmas travel.
Large corporate travel departments will begin to express greater demands on the corporate travel companies that serve their needs. And small business executives, associations and nonprofits will want to rely on their own travel agency – one backed by national and international networks.
Travel agencies are still in a position to provide a higher level of customer attention, insight and support when planning future travel and responding with solutions to natural disasters. And those affiliated with organizations such as Virtuoso are in a position to provide in-depth destination expertise, insights and deals that are not promoted on the web.
Originally Published May 28, 2010
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