Booking more than two weeks ahead, asking for last room availability, and choosing fares that offer like-for-like credit options with cancellations. These are just some of the top hacks that helped the savviest businesses shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off their travel spend last year, as revealed by Corporate Traveller.
Flight Centre Travel Group’s flagship SME travel management business has lifted the lid on the best travel tactics that have helped some of their most strategic business customers save more than 30 per cent on corporate travel over 2023. And with a recent survey revealing that 91 per cent of SMEs would continue to travel regardless of economic pressures this year, Tom Walley, Corporate Traveller’s Australian-based global managing director, said these tips could put thousands back in the company coffers.
Walley said: “Simple but effective hacks such as booking airfares a month out from the travel date can alone save a company up to $200 on a single one-way domestic ticket. And given there was a 28.7 per cent increase in ‘revenue passenger kilometres’ to 67.6 billion last year within Australia, we know Aussies are spending more and more on travel.”
Corporate Traveller reveals the top seven cost-saving travel hacks from its savviest customers:
1. Ditch the myth of last-minute travel deals and ensure you book those flights more than two weeks out from the travel date.
Last-minute travel deals are a myth, says Walley, with the cheapest airfares now typically available at least two weeks out from the travel date, but booking as soon as six months in advance would see the largest savings. He further adds that organisation is key when it comes to nabbing the cheapest deals.
Walley says: “Last year one of our clients gave themselves the goal of improving their annual advance purchase by 20 per cent, by simply shifting 33 per cent of their bookings from within two weeks to at least four weeks in advance. By doing so, they reduced their average trip cost year on year by $137 per booking, for a total savings of $120,000 over 800 bookings.”
Airlines offer their cheapest rates on any given flight more than 14 days out, as their algorithms work to seat availability, and as seats get snapped up, the price of the remaining spots tend to increase. Additionally, says Walley, Corporate Travellers’ savviest clients frequently book on the quarter or half hour to nab cheaper fares, with companies that opt for a flexible departure time able to secure the best deals.
Walley says: “Remember that many travel hacks that worked years ago have also changed. Travellers used to think travelling on a Tuesday, for example, would guarantee the best fare. But now, by tracking flight prices, booking in advance and being flexible with meeting times at the destination, you’re far more likely to reap savings.
“But, as is the nature of business travel, advance organisation of meetings and events is not always as easy as it may sound. Travel Management Companies exist to help corporate travellers secure the best deal for those unavoidable last minute travel scenarios.”
2. Maximise travel value adds by signing up for a travel programs
Alongside utilising a travel management partner such as Corporate Traveller to help you secure the most competitive rates, Walley says many of their business customers also enjoy increased value in their travel through travel programs. Corporate Traveller’s SmartStay program, for instance, offers exclusive hotel deals, with add-ons including free breakfast, late checkout, and upgrades.
Walley said: “Travel management companies are typically able to secure better deals because of their buying power and their strong relationships with suppliers. By signing up to hotel or airline newsletters, our clients have also nabbed special coupons and offers.”
3. Book a flight that offers the best terms and conditions for changes, credits or cancellations
Not all airline terms and conditions were created equal, Walley says, and by purchasing a flight that lets you get a full credit that can be used on the same economy flight type has the potential to save you thousands in the long run when those corporate travel plans change. Smart travellers and bookers should always check the terms and conditions of a fare, as some economy tickets may appear to allow flight credits in the case of cancellation, but it may come with restrictions.
Walley said: “Some flight credits only allow you to purchase a flex fare, which means in some cases you’ll end up paying hundreds of dollars more. Others hit you with hefty fees for changing flight dates.
“Our smartest customers opt for flights with good credit and refund policies.”
4. Encourage a carry-on luggage culture
During domestic travel, encouraging staff to fly with just carry-on luggage for short trips can save a company significantly over the course of a year. Some of the more budget-conscious businesses are educating their travellers about what they can pack and how to do it efficiently, leading to savings of up to $90 per airfare.
By taking travel-sized toiletries, separating electronic devices and carrying your laptop separately, Walley says the carry-on luggage limits have proven to be ample on two-to-four-day trips.
5. Always ask for last room availability
Hotel rates vary wildly based on the time of year and city events, said Walley, but by utilising ‘last room availability’, Corporate Traveller’s budget-conscious customers get a guaranteed set contracted rate at the hotel they partner with. Last room availability is a contract between a company and a hotel that ensures a hotel sells their rooms to the company at a contracted price, regardless of how many rooms are left or whether a rare event, such as a concert, has inflated prices.
6. Package your flight, hotel and airport pick-up and drop-off service
Some business travellers make the mistake of booking each component of their travel separately in the hopes of snagging a better deal, but by bundling the trip, their customers usually pay the same, Walley says. This means less time spent organising a car rental or a rideshare, less hassle, and less room for error – after all, for busy business travellers, time is money.
“Our top customers know that time is also money and that with bundled deals that include airport transport, the booking and travel process is seamless,” Walley said.
7. Select hotels that are in close proximity to the CBD, transport and meetings
Businesses that booked hotels in walking distance to major amenities and meeting locations also clocked major savings last year by cutting down on rideshares and even restaurant expenses. By booking a hotel in the city centre, Walley says corporate travellers enjoyed more dining options and less need for a rental car or taxi.
“With Australians projected to spend a record $1.77 billion USD on ride-hailing apps this year, our savviest customers are realising a well-located hotel can reap major annual savings,” Walley concluded.