Traveling for business can eat up significant portions of corporate budgets. Whether you’re planning your company’s next global offsite or want to send your sales team on a extended roadshow, business travel can quickly add up. But with proper planning and negotiation, corporations can secure significant travel discounts that help stretch their travel dollars further. With a little hard work and planning, you can secure discounts that help your travel budget go further.
In this article, we’ll walk through the essential techniques you need to get the most value for your company’s travel budget. From leveraging your business’s scale and spending power to establishing relationships with key vendors, we’ll cover negotiation strategies that can chisel away at bloated costs over time.
So grab your notepad and bargaining hat because you’ll be armed with effective methods after reading this.
Potential Negotiating Strategies for Corporate Travel Discount
Negotiating corporate travel discounts can be a great way to save money and stay within your company’s travel budget. Here are some potential negotiating strategies to help you secure better travel discounts for your business.
Analyze Your Travel Needs
Before approaching any travel vendor, understand your travel management company‘s specific travel needs. Identify your most common travel destinations and how often employees typically fly or stay in hotels. Information is power. Armed with details about your travel volume, frequent destinations and patterns, you’ll be in a stronger position to negotiate discounts. Vendors want customers who provide reliable revenue, so be prepared to justify why you deserve better rates based on your needs.
Gather Data on Current Travel Expenses
Before negotiating discounts, gather data on your organization’s travel expenses. This information establishes a baseline for how much discount rates could yield savings. It also shows vendors the magnitude of your travel budget, underscoring why discounts matter to your business.
To gather expense data:
- Review statements and receipts from the past 6-12 months of travel through your travel management system.
- Look for totals spent on airfare, lodging and other travel categories.
- Track expenses by travel provider to identify your largest vendors.
Presenting vendors with data on your current spending demonstrates the financial impact better rates could have. They’ll be more motivated to offer discounts that retain a valuable customer and gain a larger share of your travel budget.
Research Industry Standards and Competitors
Don’t rely solely on your own travel needs. Research industry standards and what competitors offer their employees to identify reasonable discount rates to request.
To conduct research:
- Search online for reports on typical corporate discounts for airfare and hotels.
- Check industry forums to see the ranges of discounts other companies negotiate.
- Consider anonymously surveying peer companies about their negotiated travel rates.
- Find out the discounts offered to comparable clients by your vendors.
Identify Potential Suppliers
Finding suitable suppliers for your business is essential to get the best deals and provide quality products or services. Multiple options allow you to compare and choose the best suppliers that fit your needs. Suppliers will compete for your travel management company by offering lower prices, better terms, and higher quality services.
Do your research – ask other business owners, search online, and check industry directories. List potential suppliers that are good matches based on location, reputation, features offered and pricing. Contact shortlisted suppliers – gather proposals, pricing details, sample work, references and credentials. Meet representatives to get a feel for their business and how you’ll work together.
Being flexible with travel dates and times can lead to discounts from travel management system suppliers. For potential savings, consider off-peak travel like weekday flights, mid-week stays, and non-holiday periods. Explain your flexibility when negotiating to see if suppliers can offer any benefits. Suppliers may offer better rates for less in-demand travel times to fill more bookings. Be open to switching between similar hotel options based on best available rates. The more flexibility you can offer, the greater potential for savings suppliers may provide. Flexible travel policies that empower employees with booking options also allow you to take advantage of last-minute discounts, making your travel budget go further.
Develop a Negotiation Strategy
A well-thought-out negotiation strategy is critical to achieving the best possible deal for your business. It helps you identify your goals, priorities, leverage, and walk away point in advance to negotiate confidently and persuasively.
Key elements of the strategy:
- Cost targets – the pricing and fee structure you want to achieve
- Key contract terms – flexibility, reporting/data access, service level agreements, etc.
- Negotiating team – who will be involved in negotiations and their roles
- Negotiating tactics – which you’ll employ to reach your goals and deflect supplier tactics
- Backup options – in case negotiations fail to reach your minimum
By developing a clear negotiation strategy that outlines your targets, leverage, contingencies and tactics, you’ll be prepared to negotiate confidently and persuasively with potential travel management system suppliers to secure the best deal for your business.
Leverage Your Volume of Business
Leverage your organization’s total travel spend and volume to negotiate better rates and terms with travel management system suppliers. Estimate your total air, hotel, car rental and other travel expenses to show suppliers the revenue potential. Provide data on past trip volume and spend amounts to demonstrate your value. Consider bundling services from one supplier to increase volume leverage further. Be willing to walk away from deals that don’t meet your needs given your program size; this will motivate suppliers to improve offers. The higher your travel volume, the more valuable you are and the better leverage you have to negotiate the contract you want.
Partner with a TMC
Leveraging the total business volume from all clients, you can help travel management companies negotiate better discounts from airlines, hotels and ground transport vendors. They can segment negotiations by travel types like air, hotel and car rental to secure the best rates. The company’s data and analytics help identify optimal rates while complying with your policies to balance costs, compliance and satisfaction. Ensure reasonable service fees and negotiated contracts include benefits like flexible cancellation and loyalty rewards. Work with the company to define travel policies they can enforce through tools to monitor compliance and exception management. This allows the company to optimize corporate travel spending through effective negotiation.
Establish Relationships with Airlines, and Hotels
Commit to negotiating with airlines and hotels for better corporate travel rates. Schedule the approximate number of flights, room nights and spend each year for better deal from vendors. Stay loyal to specific partners to build rapport over time. Request to work directly with sales representatives who can know your company’s unique needs.
Provide analytics on your business and travel patterns to demonstrate your value as a customer. Maintain consistent and timely payments. Request flexibility with certain policies like cancellation windows and changes. Building strong, long-term relationships through good communication and trust allows airlines and hotels to offer customized discounts tailored to your business needs.
Negotiating effectively with travel management companies and suppliers can yield significant savings and benefits for your organization. By leveraging your business’s travel volume, identifying multiple suppliers, and developing a strong negotiation strategy, you can secure better contract terms, higher contractual discounts, and improved customer service.
The resulting cost savings on airfare, lodging and other travel expenses can positively impact your organization’s bottom line. Optimizing your travel program through negotiations improves efficiency, compliance and traveler satisfaction. As business travel demands grow, finding ways to trim costs through negotiation becomes increasingly important. By taking an assertive approach to negotiations and planning strategically, your organization can maximize the value received from its travel management systems and suppliers.
With the right negotiations in place, your travel management system can enhances efficiency, responsiveness and competitiveness for your broader business. Start by identifying your goals, leverage and walkaway points, and build from there. Good luck.