Over the past two to three years, business travel has evolved into travel management with many companies rebranding to reflect the change.
It’s a shift that has extended way beyond the major travel corporations.
St Andrews Travel Business Travel Management, based in Bolton, rebranded 18 months ago, changing its name from St Andrews Business Travel.
Sales director Paul Sutton said: “We decided we needed to come more in line with the way business travel was moving. We aren’t agents earning commission anymore, we manage the company travel. The new name is in line with what we do.”
The change incorporates two key components: transaction fees and the technology to provide the kind of management information cost-conscious clients crave.
BTI UK managing director Mike Platt said: “Agents just focus on transactions, making bookings.
“Travel management companies handle everything. TMCs are for the clients, as opposed to agents acting as middlemen.”
Apollo Business Travel managing director Paul Broadhead agreed. “TMC is the buzz phrase. It’s more up to date and a description of what we do for our money,” he said.
But not everyone is entirely convinced.
Davis World Travel Business Centre business travel manager Jim Tomlinson said: “I’ve been in the sector a long time and still think of it as business travel.
“But since fees came in we’ve had to do a lot more on accounts. We manage accounts, we’re not just making bookings. Travel management encapsulates that.”
Fleet Street Travel operations director Carol Richardson said: “We’ve thought of ourselves as a TMC for a couple of years.
“It’s all connected with the fees process. We had to re-educate clients that our services were worth paying for.
“We trained our consultants to explain the fees and the value of them. It worked. Clients accept fees now and appreciate them.
“Those who don’t like them will never really need a TMC anyway.”
Sabra Travel director of business travel and conference sales Katy Savvides said: “What was difficult was adapting our own mindset to transaction fees.
“It was surprising how easily customers came around to them.”
According to Nigel Turner, Carlson Wagonlit Travel UK director of account management, the next big change is already underway – the move to electronic booking.
“Self-booking appeared a few years ago. Companies are starting to look at it again now,” he said. “We give them the tool, help them implement the system and fulfil all bookings. But they make the bookings on screen rather than by phoning us.”