Coporate Travel

What Are the Risks of Booking Your Own Work Travel?

Gallivant Africa

With a big trip looming, it’s normal to feel a nagging sense of worry that you may have overlooked something important. From forgotten cell phone chargers to unpredictable weather (hello, Hurricane Ian), plenty of potential travel snafus can catch you off guard. 

If you’re planning a leisure trip, it’s not the end of the world. But you can’t afford to make mistakes if you’re travelling for business. Yet, according to a Skift survey, 69% of business travellers say they book their own travel or book it outside of their company’s own booking tool or corporate travel agency – what’s known in the business travel industry as “unmanaged travel,” “leakage” or “going rogue.” Whether this is down to perceived convenience and/or perceived cost savings, self-booking can actually be a double-edged sword. 

“Business travel is often more complex than leisure travel as you must meet specific deadlines at your destination. A travel management expert can help you plan your trip and make sure everything runs smoothly,” says Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Traveller.

Bonnie Smith

There are so many things that can go wrong on a business trip. You want to be fresh, rested and ready to smash out those deals – which is impossible if you’re constantly faced with curveballs. 

Here are some examples of travel dramas that can occur when you book your own travel – and how you can avoid them.

Your passport is past its shelf life

Who knew you needed 6 months of validity? It’s a sinking feeling when you realise at passport control that your document’s expiration date is coming up. In South Africa, your passport must be valid for at least six more months when you travel abroad, and each country has its own rules and restrictions regarding passport validity and expiration dates. If this happens to you, home is the only place you’ll be going. 

There’s no more room for a stamp

Your passport is pretty full, but there are still blank pages, so you’re good to go. That’s only sometimes the case. You need at least two blank pages in your passport to board a flight in South Africa. Generally, it’s recommended that you have a total of five blank pages in your passports if you’re travelling for business. If you travel frequently, you should apply for a maxi passport, which has 48 pages, as opposed to a regular tourist passport, which has 32 pages. Another tip? Ask passport officials to stamp on used pages and consecutive pages, so you don’t “waste” your blanks. 

You have the wrong type of visa

Business visas? They’re a thing. If you’re travelling to one of the 90 countries that don’t require a South African tourist visa, you don’t need to apply for a business visa first. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you’re attending a conference or bidding on a business deal in a country, you may be denied entry if you don’t have a business visa. 

“Visas can be a real headache for business travellers, and requirements can frequently change due to changes in individual countries’ policies. European business travel can also cause confusion. Business travellers may not be aware that they need visas for certain countries if they’re taking a multi-stop trip through Europe, for example. Having a travel manager to guide you and explain which visas you need is a game-changer,” Smith says. 

You missed your flight, and now you have to pay up

Meeting running late? Maybe HO called and asked you to stitch on a couple of days to meet with a new potential client. Heads up – you’ll have to rebook your flights. The problem: If you booked a flight online, it might have been “cheap,” but it’s also probably non-refundable and non-changeable. An expensive mistake. 

“Using a travel management company (TMC) has many benefits, one of which is that you don’t have to worry about flight cancellations. TMCs offer 24/7 customer service and can help rebook or refund flights in the event of a cancellation,” Smith says.

There’s no room at the inn (aka business lounge)

Business travel can sometimes require extended layovers at airports – time you should be using productively. Working with a travel manager who knows your profile and itinerary inside and out can literally buy you time. 

What would happen if you checked in only to find that the airport lounge was fully booked? Just think of the consequences: Your phone isn’t fully charged, you need to work through your emails, and you could use a quick shower. A TMC gets to know your profile and preferences and takes care of the smallest details on your behalf – like booking a seat in a business lounge and your seating and dining preferences on the plane. 

Your hotel comes with a commute

Choosing the best accommodations for your business trip isn’t just about picking the fanciest (or most budget-conscious) hotel. Location is key – you don’t want to be 45 minutes away from your meetings. If you’re booking on your own, you might be swayed by the many different options, but it’s important to consider all factors before deciding.

If you’re looking for a place to stay during your business trip, it’s always best to check with your company – or your travel manager –  first to see if they have any preferred hotels. You may be able to get a great deal this way. Also, be sure to pay attention to the amenities offered at the hotel. Some tourist-focused hotels may serve breakfast too late for your early starts, and as a business traveller, you’re likely to want free Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service, and plenty of power outlets for charging your devices.

Your per dium runs out by lunchtime

What gets you a great lunch in Lisbon isn’t going to get your far in London. The same goes for accommodation. According to FCM Consulting’s Global Quarterly Trend Report Q2-2022, the average hotel room price in London is R5,773 per night – double the price you would have paid in 2019.

 Travelling on the rand is no joke, so you want to get as much value as possible for your buck and manage unexpected costs. “The advantage of a corporate travel programme is that they can leverage relationships with their trusted suppliers and associated loyalty programmes, giving a traveller access to additional services such as free Wi-Fi, laundry service, breakfast, and, in the case of airlines, additional baggage,” says Smith. 

“Working with a travel management partner saves you the risk, time and hassle of booking your own business travel. They will provide you with vital traveller information you need before a trip to help you avoid things going wrong and are contactable for emergencies when they do,” Smith says.

Gallivant Africa
Gallivant Africa hosts junior journalists and intern travel writers to share their stories and experiences with our audience. Read their stories and help them grow into leaders of the industry.

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