*This letter is not real! It is only a didatic and funny way to illustrate to the general travelers and travel arrangers the overall difficulties of this professional in our region.
I am responsible for the travel area of our company. You question me a lot by e-mail, in the cafeteria, at the bus where we meet, at the smokehouse – or through your boss himself. Most of your grievances are common to my colleagues from other organizations, made by their travelers, because most of our challenges come from the outside environment – that is, everyone in your “square” deals with the following external forces questioned by you:
- Why do you ALWAYS find lower fares buying directly, outside the official channels that I am responsible for managing – and at this point I feel wronged, because analyzing our volume of travel these cases are no more than 1% of the total; But you always use the word “always” when we talk;
- Why isn’t the official agency proactive, and is often limited in its service (and that agency of your friend, of course, is much better than the one that our company chose and that by coincidence of the destination I manage);
- Why the hotels we deal with are not good at rates and services;
- Why the internal OBT is not user friendly like a “normal” website, from Booking.com or from Decolar;
- Why do you need so many approvals to travel or to claim for expenses.
As my internal client and organizational colleague, let me try to explain a few facts to help understand why these things happen (though it does not exonerate us from the fact that we are responsible for improving them – even requiring enormous coordination and persistence, besides Herculean adjustments and external to our capacity as improvement of the country’s infrastructure, legal security, cost-Brazil’s reduction, etc:
1 – With the expansion of the market, there has been a proliferation, and still, of new solutions and distribution channels (which is great, capitalism being capitalism). Latin American markets have a huge range of hotels and most of them are independent and have little structure to finance the distribution of their rates through the traditional, expensive global distributors. This “monopoly” of distributors is one of the obstacles that has been the focus of the new solutions, which seek to distribute hotel rates at a lower cost, but this takes a lot of time and involves many commercial and operational interests. They have been conducting Tourism for 60 years and are being challenged only now. We are in the middle of the hurricane, that phase of the market that forces collide until they begin to settle.
Example: when an agency reserves for you a very low rate, but that is from an online agency like Decolar, Booking, Expedia, or a company like Trend, Hotel employees do not know which company you are from – different from when Is a rate of the agency itself or our company (we call it “corporate rate” or “negotiated rate”). They are generally cheaper because these companies have very high bargaining power when assembling volumes, giant teams focused on this – but also often have pitfalls such as not being refundable, can not be canceled, without breakfast included. Our big challenge is to connect the whole network to reach you in the OBT or via the agency:
Hotel -> Distributor (GDS / HRS / Trend / Travel / Booking / Expedia) -> Travel Agency / Online Booking -> Traveler -> Visibility in travel management/ finance reports
With an average of 200 hotels negotiated a year by our company + all others that are not negotiated, but we use, imagine the difficulty of making this system work. I have to make you have access to the cheapest, but also the most comfortable and safe hotels. That is speaking of Brazil, but some of us are also regional managers and we have exactly the same problems in Argentina, Peru, Chile, Paraguay … much more immature markets, many Hotels without commercial contacts or that do not care for our volume – because they sell alone or simply have no commercial appetite.
2- Although business trips in Brazil, and probably in other countries, represent 65 to 70% of the volume of airlines, they still think a lot about the user who purchases via their website, the individual, to define fare rules and forms of distribution (I have to say in many cases that the international ones do not give a damn about us either – they change baggage rules and seats bookings without thinking about how this will run in corporate travel, without supporting the change they are causing at all). So they sell block seats to the same online agencies I mentioned earlier, but not to the corporate agencies that serve us, or publish unique rates for purchase via website that are not available to you via our travel agency or via the internal company system . But in the same way, these rates are rarely remarkable, reimbursable, etc. In addition, by advancing from the first page of the most famous tools, you notice an increase in the initial price due to the service fee of the site + airport taxes.
Yes, international tickets (especially) if not well-priced by an experienced consultant may be cheaper on the site due to the combination of schedules, rules and fares in carrier inventories that the algorithms can do more efficiently (and this Is not only a privilege of Travel algorithms, read any Artificial Intelligence report to note that this has already occurred and is occuring in other sectors of the economy).
That’s why we ask in our Policy that you buy in advance: there are more and more people traveling in the world, and fewer flights being operated. Imagine the number of air groups being blocked at this point that you read my post and people searching on Skyscanner or another metasearcher that seat you want to buy in economy class – it’s almost like buying tickets for Rock in Rio.
3- Generally what we complain about from our agencies, lack of proactivity, slow responses and high prices, makes sense and occurs in every country in the world, especially with the big travel agencies that have mass-sized corporate services (and this is not a criticism, it’s reality). By having mass-sized, they have the financial and operational structure to support our companies in different countries. Do we pay the fair to them? It is true that the seller is the one who should value the product because the buyer will almost always want to pay less and have more – but in some cases our companies simply crush suppliers with unsustainable prices (and some are wrong to accept and lower the bar) . It is also true that during the hiring of the agency there are agreed levels of service and bonuses and financial penalties for them, but how do you want to have excellent service paying for a bad one? Do not forget also that the basic educational level of our Country / LATAM is still low and this is reflected in the whole market. With this, the profession of travel consultant ends up being devalued because the wages are low, as well as the receptionist of Hotels and other operational functions of our suppliers of Travel and Events. It is a perverse scenario that generates high turnover, expenses with training of the companies so after that these people exchange of company for $ 200 more in their salaries – and I am not judging them, each one knows of the bills that expire in their months.
Still talking about service, we also have our share of guilt when we are not clear in our needs as customers, when we send only emails and we do not use the old and still useful phone call to clarify doubts. Transparent and constructive feedback from you, as a traveler, also helps the supplier improve and get to know us better – and do not forget to praise when it’s a good service/product!
4- Approvals are more than necessary in our South Hemisphere countries. Until we learn to deal with the company’s money as if it was ours, while we do not stop breaking rules by knowing that no one is following up on them (usually we do sample audits), excessive approvals will continue to exist. Employees who extrapolate on the corporate card at dinners, who go to the hairdresser, who use executive taxi, rent a luxury car instead of Economical 1.4, stay in 5 Star Hotels and buy the most expensive flight make approvals necessary – this when the the company releases the corporate card and does not oblige agencies, rental car companies and hotels to work with an outdated billing device – because it is one of the few ways to not have to have an internal team to control and leave responsibility to the supplier, who will only bill what was previously agreed, running the risk of never receiving if they bill what they should not. It is true that we also use the billing to improve cash management, after all we have to deliver results to the HQ, but this practice generates a lot of unproductiveness and draws from the suppliers financial breath to invest in technological and human improvement.
5- Our company often does not see value in managing Corporate Travel strategically and gives me several categories to negotiate / manage, such as Fleet, Restaurants, Gardening, Warehousing, Post Office, Benefits, etc. It also does not release me to go to travel industry events, think that we will just chat and that I will not bring news to improve the service of suppliers for you, or the processes and rules of Travel. Or I just do not have time to go because it’s so much work, so many emergencies, that it gets “embarassing” to leave the office while my team or colleagues get in the eye of the hurricane. And right on that day that I decide to go, 10 people call my desk, they do not find me and they already asked the boss where I am.
PS: while in other categories 10, 20 suppliers are managed, I can have up to 100 (considering hotel chains, independent properties, Airlines, Travel Agency, Events, Car Rental, Travel Insurance, Reservations Tool, Dispatcher, Hotel Content Distributor, etc.).
Even with these difficulties that I have listed (many are missing, but of course every professional has their own ones), the fact is that buying everything centrally is still the best strategy rather than letting you buy yourselves in your preferred agencies or websites (or do you also want to buy grain from the coffee machine, toilet paper, computer, desk, chair, health plan, the lunch of every day?). I need visibility to negotiate better, to charge responses from suppliers and to know where you are if a terrorist attack, a flood, a hurricane occurs. I am responsible for supporting you in these cases. I am responsible for decreasing or at least keeping travel costs under control, not just looking at the cost-trip, but the gain they bring to our business (a less tiring and logistically smarter journey makes you more productive to close new contracts , for our president to get a new business, for the company attorney to represent us well in an audience, for a trainee to go out even more motivated and prepared to soon be one of our Managers and for the Director of Government Relations to get approval for one Project, ordinance, law that benefits our industry).
That is it my dear traveler. I just wanted to tell you a little bit more about what my day is and why we can not always (my suppliers and myself) meet or exceed your expectations, even though we try hard. The good part is that the people in this industry are very passionate about what they do, they strive to overcome the difficulties – especially the Hotel people.
Your Travel and Events Manager.
The opinions expressed in this text are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the position of WTM Latin America.