Bertrand Saillet, general manager, Southeast Asia
of the corporate division at Flight Centre
HAVING a business travel policy is not the prerogative of multinationals and conglomerates.
Even though small and medium enterprises tend not to have a robust business travel policy in place – if at all – and even though they may not as regularly send staff overseas for work, having a policy in place can be beneficial for them, according to TMC Flight Centre.
Bertrand Saillet, general manager, Southeast Asia of the corporate division at Flight Centre says that the easy accessibility and competitive prices offered by OTAs may be an attractive proposition for resource-lean organisations, but factors of time, long-term cost and productivity should also be taken into account.
This only becomes more pertinent as terror attacks become increasingly regular and ensuring the safety of employees and mitigating risks on business trips thus becomes more crucial.
Said Saillet: “If you ever booked a flight on one of the numerous websites, you have probably experienced at least one, if not all, of these frustrations – finding a suitable flight time at a reasonable price, volatile prices that changes from minute to minute, hidden costs that are revealed just before you key in your credit card details.
“More often than not, travellers settle for the cheapest price at the expense of their own comfort or spend way more than intended due to time constraints in seeking out a more budget-friendly price.
“While leisure travellers may have the leeway to afford some level of inconvenience, for businesses, it means the loss of precious productivity hours that could potentially impact business outcomes,” he advices.
He adds that there is a loss in productivity as well if an employee is spending time going through a multitude of websites in order to book a trip. Other considerations such as expense billing processes also eat away at resources otherwise better spent.
“SMEs with just a handful of business travellers often find it challenging to efficiently integrate travel management with their existing business functions, as many are working with a lean team of employees that already juggling multiple roles,” said Saillet.
“This is where a travel partner can significantly ease this additional burden without any added cost. Furthermore, there is the added value of round-the-clock service and helplines should any unforeseen circumstances occur during a trip.”
In terms of duty-of-care, offering travel insurance for employees is only the beginning, especially when travelling to high-risk destinations, he adds.
Assessing risks, providing full discretion and educating staff are some of the key challenges in offering a firmer safety net for employees.
“The initial process of developing a travel risk management policy could be a tedious one, but once it has been established, SMEs, or any organisation in fact, will definitely reap the long term benefit of protection for both the company and its employees,” opined Saillet.