Businesses are sprouting branches around the world and international business travel has become a necessity for many executives and international traders alike. Multinational companies have begun to open travel departments to cater for their expanding travel needs.
An easy way out is to outsource these duties to a business travel agency. Travel agencies are better experienced with emigration matters like permits and visas.
The priorities of business travel are very different from that of holiday trips. You want a private vehicle for commute and not an open group-tour bus. You would rather do your paper work than seek an adrenalin rush and souvenirs, so your travel needs would lean more in the direction of proximity, comfort and privacy and less on extra luggage.
The business travel agent would sell you a complete travel package at a fixed rate and it would cover accommodation, transportation, and meals amongst other things. It is cheaper and faster than when you do it on your own
Travel agencies usually operate on behalf of airlines, hotel and car rental companies and sell packages as a third-party provider. For every booking, the airline or hotel will pay the agency a commission; percentage which can range from 10% to 15% percent.
To do this, business travel agencies must be certified. They would receive formal approvals from the legislating agencies like the International Airline Travel Agency Network (IATAN) and accreditation from organisations like the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Companies also get these agencies to create travel packages for their employees as travel gifts-rewards for excellence.
You are also less likely to get stranded with a reputable agent as they tend to know the routes better. They understand the hazards and know their way around them. Some international business travel agents work under exclusivity contracts and that could be a disadvantage if you are stuck with the wrong one.
Before you sign an exclusivity contract, like every other contract, read the small print and the disclaimer clauses – the ‘no refunds’ clauses and every document they place in front of you.
Do not sign exclusivity contracts with agents that specialise in only one (tourist) location in world. Always ask what locations they have packages for and how many they sell annually. This would give you a clue as to their competences and network; the wider the reach of a travel agent, the better for you.
The truth is that you are better off not signing exclusivity contracts. It is wiser to have a handful of business travel agents at your disposal.
Compare And Contrast Agents
Compare agents and contrast before settling for one. A good travel agency would not just hand you a package (flight tickets, hotel accommodation, meals, and commute), the agency would be right by your side if any problems occurs along the way. It would offer you alternative flights, where one is cancelled at no extra charge and if you have to pay for the new flight, it would help you get your refund for the old flight. It would also arrange for alternative hotels and transportation should the unforeseen happen.
When you are choosing a travel agent, enquire about the communication lines between you and the agent while you are on the trip.
Many travel agencies specialise in cruises and group holidays. They might want to squeeze your business trip into their plans on the pretext that it would save you money. Bear in mind that as a business traveller you have a goal for your trip and you need to focus. You are better off choosing an agent that specialises on business trips.
Some Nigerian travel agencies provide individual business travel items like business class tickets but only offer packages for holidaymakers. Where there is no readymade business package, you can have the agency create a customised bouquet for you. This package should leave out the video coverage, sightseeing and the like. Ensure that you are not charged for services you would not use. Security is important and Nigerian agencies factor this into the usual holiday packages, so ask about how this can also apply to you.
A trip to the internet would yield several websites of reputable travel agencies on the African continent, including Nigeria. These websites would provide you information about the agents’ airline-network as well as hotel and car hire networks. These websites would show you images of these hotels their ratings and details about their specific locations.
Foreign Travel Agencies
You would also find foreign travel agencies based in places like London but which have a strong African network and sometimes offices in Nigeria. Those who do not have offices in Nigeria tend to collaborate with local travel agencies and operate through their offices; use them as subsidiaries. These international agencies bring business travellers into Africa and Nigeria, provide their travel needs and then take these travellers back to their home bases around the world. These agencies also have strong networks in many parts of the world.
If you are using an agent for the first time check the prices yourself. Visit the websites of the hotels, airlines, car hire companies, and restaurants. There are online hotel directories with information about hotels in Nigeria and abroad. Ensure that you know what you are paying for.
Also there are numerous websites that offer a comparison of various flight tickets around the world. This would help you determine whether you are getting a ‘prudent bouquet.’ An agent can only offer you a deal on flight tickets from flyers that it has subscribed to, so if a flyer has cheaper tickets for the flight you seek, find out if that flyer is on the agent’s network and ask for a switch.
For instance, the airfare from Lagos to London on Alitalia-Compagnia Aerea Italiana Spa is from $914 for a round trip, but if you are flying with Royal Air Maroc, you would be spending $716 for a round trip. About 39 flights leave Lagos for London every week. The smallest aircraft flying this route is said to be operated by Kenya Airways: A 737 aircraft with 116 seats. That is about 217,689 seats daily so you should be able to get a bargain.
You would do well to check agents’ reference and list of clients. It would not do you any harm to find out if they keep their promises. Paying attention to details would save you from shocks like; paying for a five star hotel and getting booked into a rundown hostel.