How Does International Travel Health Insurance Help?

Today, due to various enhanced modes of transport, moving around to any exotic location around the globe is easy. For travelers, to ensure a real value for the money spent, there is now a distinct need for them to check out different types of international travel health insurance coverage on every different segment of travel – from ticket cancellation to hospitalization at the visited land.

A note of advice to frequent travelers:

Those who travel frequently need to have travel international insurance in place as by doing this, within the security of insurance, maximum enjoyment can be got from the trip. Right from accommodation to ticketing there are a myriad of insurances to finance you. The plans are designed to meet the needs of every kind of traveler – the businessman and the leisure globe trotter.

Arising due to various reasons like loss of cash, delayed baggage, medical emergencies, last minute cancellations, etc. travel insurance helps to do away with stress. The policies are designed to minimize financial risks.

Post-retirement travelers can tap on the potential of specific traveler’s insurance plans that are designed. Seniors are more likely to make claims when they fall ill, so the calculated premiums may be higher, but for good reason. Businessmen are offered a choice of a multi trip plan. Many even go in for the annual plan insurance coverage if travel is on regular card.

Medical expenses as well as ticket reimbursement expenses are covered under different international health insurance packages. For any unexpected turn of events the travel insurance is designed as a safety valve.

Looking into emergency situations that may arise:

Possibilities like loss of passport, a missed departure cannot be ruled out. These occurrences really hassle you a lot without the right kind of backup. You can be really drained out of leisure time on hand as well. Via a travelers’ international insurance you can get yourself covered, depending upon the category of traveler you fit into. The insurance is designed accordingly.

To ensure that nothing untoward happens when you are on a vacation; the insurance company supports you under the international travel health insurance. This takes care of sudden hospitalization expenses. At times due to ill health, loss or serious condition of family member, or in the event of a trip getting cancelled, ticket expenses are also reimbursed.

For particular travelers like students and sportsmen there are specialized international insurance package plans available. A student can be covered for a year or a semester. For students studying abroad there are specific insurance plans. Depending on the type of insurance invested in, there are premiums to be calculated and comparisons to be made.

For extensive and individual travelers you could also take a look at the fine print of the backpacker’s travel plan. The international travel health insurance coverage addresses any potential risk that you may be exposed to while abroad. It acts as your extended purse, only cashless. A true friend in need and when everything else is unfamiliar is your overseas insurance package.

Cheap International Travel: Book in Advance to Get Cheapest Air Tickets

There are so many people across the world that love to travel to famous spots, explore new lands and visit important tourist destinations to enjoy life and seek bliss. But there also people who travel abroad for business or official purpose. Those who travel frequently try to find cheap international travel. However, finding cheapest air tickets is not everybody’s cup of tea. To book tickets is an art because it includes lot of research work and the skill to compare various rates offered by various airline companies. Many online travel services providers offer lucrative deals for cheap international travel. You have to keep your eyes and ears open in case you want the tickets.

If you are an avid traveler or an individual who want to visit an international destination for pleasure, you must look out for cheap international travel. You must search various reliable online travel sites that provide cheapest air tickets. It is always advisable to be vigilant and compare the prices of various travel sites that offer cheap international travel. The best practice to find tickets is to spend some time browsing reliable online travel sites. If you book in advance, you can get the cheapest air tickets. By booking in advance, you can save a lot of money. You can also get cheapest air tickets by booking your flight on a weekday instead of weekend. The flights available during weekdays are generally cheaper than the weekend flights. If you are planning to go in an international flight to enjoy a holiday, you must ensure that you do not book the flight one day before the holiday or one day after the holiday. Online travel sites are being favored by passengers as they are reliable and the best part is that you can get here tickets easily. You will get a lot of information and tips by reading different blogs and reviews on these sites. Once you get a fair idea of which site can provide you the best deal for purchasing cheapest air tickets, you can book your tickets for cheap international travel accordingly. These sites provide online form which you can fill to avail cheapest air tickets.

To end with it can be said that if you do little bit of research and browse through various online travel sites; you can easily find tickets. This is possible nowadays because there has been increase in the number of airline companies and international flights. To fight competition, most of the airline companies offer cheapest air tickets from time to time. For cheap international travel, you can keep an eye on popular travel sites.

Buying International Travel Medical Insurance – What You Need To Know

Today international travel for business or pleasure keeps growing at a fast pace and is unlikely to change in the near future. The most serious problem any international traveler faces when on the move is the possibility of having a medical problem in a foreign country. International travel medical insurance goes a long way in taking care of surprise medical problems. It offers temporary medical or health insurance for US citizens and foreign nationals when traveling anywhere outside of their home country.

Some domestic health insurance plans will cover you for some procedures and expenses away from home but many don’t, especially for major medical expenses. There are many types of international travel medical insurance on the market today including student travel medical insurance, travel accident insurance and even backpackers travel insurance.

It’s important to know that evaluating someone who has met with an accident or become ill in an isolated place can be terribly expensive. Many international insurance companies have a bi-lingual or multi-lingual staff and on-site medical staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for their policyholders for consultation and medical emergencies.

One way to lower your insurance costs is to agree to pay a small upfront medical cost for any future treatment needed and make a claim from the insurance company only when the amount exceeds that amount. For example, you could agree to pay the first $200 of any medical expenses and make a claim only when the cost of the treatment goes above it.

If you find a quality insurance company, it’ll take the financial worry of terrific medical expenses out of your travel experience. You can exclude a medical condition that is pre-existing which can lower your insurance costs, but you must be sure that the condition will not worsen on your trip and it could cost you a lot more. Any international traveler, expatriate or business traveler needs to be careful about the medical costs they could incur while traveling out of their home country.

Whatever compromise you choose to make in your plan between risks and costs, shop around not only for cheap international travel medical insurance plans, but also for the insurance company that gives you complete information, has open not hidden view functioning and doesn’t evade any of your questions.

The time frame on your insurance policy needs to be restricted to the actual time you’re out of the country; the shorter the duration will obviously reduce the cost. Some travel insurance plans don’t accept hazardous vocations such as mountain climbing. After you get your insurance, in case any minor emergency medical treatment is needed, have all the expenses listed in itemized bills to make a claim when you get back home.

Getting low cost or cheap international travel medical insurance quotes online from several insurance companies is easy enough to do. The watchword in your travel insurance should be attention to the smallest of details.

Some of the insurance policies don’t cover any pre-existing illnesses, and will ask for a history of any medical problems. All around the world medical costs are skyrocketing, due mostly to the advances in specialized equipment and the cost of advanced medicines and training specialists in a number of medical fields.

Finally international travel medical insurance is a must for all travelers going out of their home country. You want to make sure that evacuation coverage is included in your plan, because that can be a major expense; getting you out of a isolated or difficult location such as a cruise ship, mountain top or safari can be very costly.

Getting low cost or cheap health insurance is certainly a good possibility without giving up any quality care you might need away from home. International travel medical insurance quotes are easy to get online and an important travel necessity for individuals and families when they live or travel outside their home country. Just make sure you know exactly what is covered in your travel insurance policy

International Travel Insurance is a Must For Every Traveller

Few things are as exciting as launching off on an international travel excursion. Whether for business or pleasure, traveling overseas gives you the chance to broaden your horizons and see sights that you have only imagined. With this excitement also comes risk because when you leave your home country there are a variety of things that can not only interrupt your trip but make it dangerous too. The good news is that international travel insurance can greatly reduce the risks that come with traveling abroad.

A key element of international travel insurance, and one you should investigate thoroughly, is medical coverage. You want to be sure that you have adequate coverage for in-hospital or acute care but you also want to make sure that if you should have to be medically evacuated you can get home without breaking the bank. A medical evacuation can very easily exceed 100 thousand dollars, depending on where you are coming from and what country you are returning to. It is not uncommon for international travel insurance to cover the cost of a loved one to be transported home with you.

Keep in mind that we said “most” international travel health insurance policies will cover the cost of having a companion bring you home. That means that not all international travel insurances plans offer similar coverage. You need to be sure to examine all the exclusions and considerations for the medical insurance that you are looking at to make sure that the plan you choose really fits with the type of travel that you do.

Because we have access to computer technology it is very possible to find a good cheap travel insurance. You will need to be sure to look for the type of international travel insurance that best matches your needs though. Will you be taking just one trip or do you think that you will have multi trips throughout the year? Will you be engaging in adventure sports? Are you traveling for business or for pleasure? These are all factors that will go into the actual prices you are quoted for travellers insurance.

Fortunately most of the troubles that can upset an international trip are not pricey medical problems. Smaller problems can cost you money too though. International travel insurance can ensure that you are not left holding the bad should your trip be cancelled or delayed due to circumstances beyond your control. This is of particular concern to holiday travelers who have invested a great deal to take their annual vacation only to have lost baggage, a stolen wallet, or some other incident cause difficulties. Having international travelers insurance can eliminate the worry over these types of occurrences.

The real message here is that whatever type of overseas travel you intend to do, there is an international travel insurance policy that can help you avoid the kind of situations that can disrupt your trip and end up costing you a great deal of money. It will be up to you to do the research necessary to find cheap international travel insurance but it can be done. In the end, you will be very glad that you took care of this one very important detail. It will take the worry about of your plans and help to make your travel stress and worry free.

How To Know When You Should Buy International Travel Medical Insurance

Many international travelers today don’t think they need international travel medical insurance because they don’t realize their company insurance, travel insurance or personal medical insurance may not be valid outside of the United States. And this goes for government-funded health insurance too. Check to see what your health insurance or travel medical insurance policies cover. Make sure to read the fine print and the exclusion clauses.

Most comprehensive insurance policies offer three types of coverage – financial reimbursement for trip cancellation or lost baggage, medical coverage and emergency medical transportation and they differ from standard travel insurance policies. The cost of international travel health insurance policies depends on the type of coverage you need, your destination, your age and gender and the cost of the trip.

International trips or trips abroad are generally more expensive so you should consider getting additional insurance for any trip outside of the mainland USA, especially one with nonrefundable deposits.

There are a number of unforeseen circumstances that can interrupt your vacation or even cancel it, such as an unexpected illness, bad weather, a sudden death in your family or even a job change or jury duty that you can’t leave.

Any time that you have nonrefundable deposits or purchases you should have travel insurance. You should consider buying international travel medical insurance if you have invested a lot of money in your vacation or if you can’t cover any unexpected medical costs or emergency costs at you arrival destination.

If you’re traveling by yourself or with your family at an additional cost to you or if you’re traveling to areas that have known catastrophic events such as natural disasters, extreme political turmoil or health advisories, you should have international travel medical insurance. Or if you have an existing medical condition that is cause for concern, then by all means get insured properly.

You don’t want to be sitting in a hospital emergency room in another country and find out that you’re not covered by any of your other insurance policies. And Medicare doesn’t cover any eligible U.S. citizen traveling in Canada or Mexico either.

One of the most important reasons to buy international travel medial insurance is for getting emergency transportation out of an undeveloped country and into a country with proper medical facilities. It can easily cost $20,000 to get airlifted out of a foreign country. International travel medical insurance may seem cheap after an experience like this.

Oftentimes people think when they have travel insurance that they are fully covered for international travel or they think they are covered on their health insurance policy for medical expenses. This is usually not true.

Make sure to read your existing policies thoroughly especially the fine print and the EXCLUSION clauses to fully understand what you have and don’t have. There is a big difference between travel insurance policies and international travel insurance policies. And make sure to get several quotes to get the best low cost international travel insurance. It’s important to think ahead and it can be a tough decision for some but you can’t buy international travel medical insurance when you NEED it!

What Travel Agents Need to Know About Corporate Travel Today

This is rightly named as the age of traveler-centricity and with the evolution of the new era of personalized travel; it is leading to research and development of a host of new so-called intelligent services. The command-and-control perspectives of traveling have changed a lot from the past and the focus has shifted more on the traveler and the productivity of each trip. It has become essential to maintain that the travelers have the greatest return on investment on each trip. New generations of young employees and managers, who have been growing up and dwelling in a digital age, are moving up the ranks as travelers. It has become essential to recognize the need for greater flexibility acknowledging that the employees who travel on corporate trips also consider a percentage of their trip to be a leisure outlet. With increasing globalization and rise in companies sending their staff overseas to network and connect with their offshore prospects/customers/suppliers, corporate travel is a highly profitable tourism segment. Before we talk about how tourism companies can better cater to business travelers, let us first look at why they prefer to use specialized corporate agencies over traditional agents

Why do businesses use Corporate Travel Agencies?

This might be the most basic question for a travel agency as to why they need to use agencies specializing in corporate travel when there are plenty of regular travel agents in the market. Here is the importance of corporate travel agencies who have online systems which allow business travelers access to their complete itinerary.

The following information is at the fingertips of the CTAs:-

full business itinerary details
up-to-date tracking details of flights (including delays or rescheduling)
transparent details about additional costs such as baggage fees or in-flight fees
travel alerts, if any, in the destined area
complete and up-to-date details about the visa procurement policies and identification required
currency requirement and conversion rates

What do corporate clients expect from Corporate Travel Agencies?

Negotiated Fares

The Corporate Agencies tend to have tie-ups with hotels, car rentals, flights etc. giving them access to lower fares which can be used only by the frequent business travelers. Discounted prices are not the only advantage though as they also offer flight upgrades, room upgrades, and VIP check-in lines as required.

In-depth information about the travel industry

Corporate travel agents have access to many travel resources and most importantly, quickly, than any other leisure travel agent. Additional information helps to make the business trips convenient and comfortable.

Changes in Itinerary

When an airline ticket needs to get rescheduled or cancelled, chances are the airline or the online service provider will charge lofty fees. When booking with a corporate travel agent, most of the times schedule changes can be done at zero or minimal extra charges.

Viable emergency contacts

It is important for the business travelers to reach the correct person at the need of trouble. Corporate travel agents have the experience and professionalism to relieve stress for both the traveler and the company.

What you need to consider as corporate travel increases?

Business Travel Barometer reported that corporate travel is witnessing an accelerated growth. However, when poorly managed, it may be no longer an advantage to companies and may, in fact become a burden. There are some factors which the corporations and CTAs must consider to get the best out of the time spent traveling.

Adopting a travel policy

The corporate must define a travel policy which is applicable to and respected by travelers at all levels. This policy should be used to establish the standards which will help to track the improvement of business travel. It will eventually help to reduce the costs of the entire package.

Do not limit the traveler’s autonomy

The management is responsible for budgeting the travel policy which helps to improve cost management however, it is also essential to give a degree of autonomy to the traveler. The policy should be flexible enough to allow the employee to adapt the trip as per the situation.

Traveler’s security should be a major concern

Business travelers need to have security in place. The company needs to stick to its definition of standards to ensure the employee’s integrity. The CTAs should have reliable partners (travel insurance, airlines, hotel chains etc.).

Mobility and automation

To optimize time and ease the processes, the administration of management platforms should have automated processes. This means they should adopt mobile solutions where search options, travel alerts, ticket reservations etc. can be accessed quickly, easily and on the go.

Corporate Travel Trends in 2016

Corporate travel trends tend to change regularly. 2016 has also not been any different and the travel management companies (TMCs) and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) are quite focused to provide steady if not strong axis all over. A growing MICE sector, investments in mobile and big data and enhanced focus on duty of care are some of their areas of focus.

Rising prices

The consolidated buzzword among global suppliers, airfares, hotel rates etc. is the rising fares. It is sometimes the move of the suppliers to generate discounts which encourage travel if there is a strong decline in demand. A positive 2016 world economy has been bringing an increase in air fares of a few percentage points, hotels are expected to see 4%-6% rise in average global rates and the competition will remain moderate in the car rental services.

Duty of care

Risk management is one of the major points of emphasis for corporations. Corporate customers are allowing new policies and improved technologies to monitor employees’ location in case of an emergency, especially when they are travelling to foreign destinations. For instance, Concur Risk Messaging helps to identify the travelers moving around in the world and alerts them with alternate travel arrangement as and when needed.

Focusing on MICE

Meetings industry is a major growing sector and the corporate travel trend is developing on it. The corporate travel agencies should better start aligning the various meeting procurement methodologies with its transient travel sourcing. One of the ways could be to broaden the variety of meeting services by incorporating incentive trips within it.

Investing in technology

A sharper focus on increasing value and becoming more traveler-centric can be done by bringing in mobile friendly technologies. Mobile and big data are definitely the two most significant technological investments which any corporate travel agency must focus to make their platform more appealing.

Business travel analysis after Brexit

Following Brexit, ACTE and CAPA shared their speculations. According to them, the greatest short-term effects on the travel industry will come from the weakening of the pound against other world currencies. Greeley Koch, executive director for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives said that the business travel industry will trend on currency fluctuations; with some companies taking advantage of the weaker pound and traveling more, while others may withhold business travel until world markets find their own level.

Impact of terrorism on corporate travelers

Travel policy makers and administrators need to be guided by rising terrorism scare. For executives and staff undertaking travel on behalf of businesses, the travel agents and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) should prove the reassurance for their safety through the travel policies. It is more than likely that the surveys conducted over corporate travelers reflect the general concern of the global business travelers about the spate of terrorism. However, there is no denying the fact that terrorist threat is changing the patterns of business travel. The key impact of this is to keep in mind that the companies providing travel services for business travelers need to enhance their focus on security and the associated risks in delivering the services to corporate clients. According to a recent finding, travel managers have higher estimation of their policy’s effectiveness in addressing risk compared to skeptical business travelers.

Concluding

Although the corporate travel sector has continued to progress, there are a plethora of challenges faced by the industry. A rapidly changing consumer market, the emergence of new business models, the impact of technology, man-made and natural crises are some of the fulcrum points that need to be considered before planning corporate trips.

Base Tendriling Travel Expenses

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.