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Travel Management

 September 03, 2010
FCm: Corporations Risk Overpaying When Booking Online

 Business travellers who book discounted flights and accommodation on 'last-minute' and other agency websites need to understand the true cost implications or risk paying much more, says FCm Travel Solutions Greater China.

The corporate travel management consultancy has warned corporates that website bookings are usually pre-paid and non-refundable, and fail to provide them with cost control measures, travel policy compliance, and traveller security.

"Travel websites offering discounted airfares and hotel nights are sometimes thought to be the cheapest and fastest way to book travel, but that's a misperception," said David Fraser, general manager of FCm Greater China.

"We see supplier websites offering upfront discounts of three to five per cent on airfares, but this is likely to be less than what a company could save through a well-managed travel program," he said. Discounted rates often need to be pre-paid in full. So if the traveller has to make any changes or cancellations to their bookings, they may have to forfeit the entire booking amount - plus pay for a whole new booking."

"FCm will sometimes book last-minute rates on websites for clients whose plans are 100% fixed. But in Mainland China, changes are made to the majority of corporate flight and hotel bookings prior to ticketing. Further changes are then made to 20-30 per cent of bookings after ticketing, reinforcing companies' need for flexibility in their travel plans. For companies that like the convenience of booking online, the best solution is to use an online booking tool provided by a travel management company, which provides far more benefits than booking via an online agency or supplier website."

Mr Fraser said FCm China offered companies an online booking tool that not only searched for the lowest rates and fares across multiple hotels and airlines, but offered additional cost-saving benefits such as travel policy management and reporting.

"Policy compliance is incredibly important, and this is where agency and supplier websites let corporates down. Companies with travellers who are making their own bookings to their own preferences risk losing control of their travel expenses and billings," he said. "Our OBT is an air/hotel booking and travel management platform with real-time links to the global distribution system (GDS)."

Mr Fraser said the FCm tool searched the lowest airfares for domestic travel in China, in addition to negotiated rates that were just as competitive as discounted rates - and more flexible.

"In some cases, the rates we source from airlines and hotels are even lower than the rates available on their websites, because we are negotiating based on our strong relationships and on higher volumes. And while travel suppliers can only offer their own product at discounted rates, we can provide an extensive choice of suppliers so clients can select the best services, schedules and prices to suit their needs," he said. "We also have many instances where we are given value-adds for our clients, such as free hotel breakfasts and complimentary cocktail vouchers."

Mr Fraser added that FCm's online booking tool (OBT) streamlines bookings and generates productivity gains for companies, due to the real-time access it provides to last-seat web, client negotiated and FCm-negotiated rates. A point-to-point booking involving air fares and accommodation can be completed in less than three minutes.

"Traveller security is also a major issue, as there is no after-sales support with a web booking. Global travel management companies, on the other hand, provide 24/7 emergency support for clients caught in a crisis situation, anywhere in the world," he said.

"During the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, FCm's clients had complete peace of mind. We kept them constantly updated, we searched all travel options for them, we liaised direct with airlines and hotels on their behalf, and we made all the booking changes. Travellers who booked their tickets through supplier websites were among the many thousands desperately trying to get through to airlines, hotels, and airports. Our OBT enables companies to uphold their duty of care to travellers, while reducing their average ticket prices and achieving long-term savings in their travel management."