6 Signs Your Travel Management Company (TMC) Has Lost Its Magic: Is Your Business Travel Partner Still “The One”?

4 min read

JOHANNESBURG – Are you settling for less than you deserve with your current business travel agency? The stars may have aligned when you first met – it felt like fate. But if the honeymoon phase has given way to a comfortable but dull routine, you’re not going to feel your business travel needs are being met. What better time than Valentine’s Day to give your relationship with your travel management company (TMC) an MOT?

Watch for these red flags that mean it may be time to move on, according to Bonnie Smith, GM of FCM: 

1. You rarely talk anymore

Remember when you’d chat about every detail of your travel programme and your travel preferences and quirks? Now it’s nothing but an endless phone tree when you need questions answered. Without a dedicated agent in your corner who gets you, you feel lost in the shuffle. Not on a first-name basis with them? Time for a heart-to-heart or find someone else to take care of your business travel.

When seeking a new match, prioritise partners who promise single points of contact – like a dedicated Travel Consultant. You want embedded advocates who feel like extensions of your team.

2. Your calls always go to voicemail 

A healthy relationship means your partner is showing up when you need them, right? You used to feel like a priority when your travel manager picked up on the first ring. But delays addressing booking snafus now feel routine, leaving voicemails unreturned for ages. Could explicit service level agreements (SLAs) around reasonable response times get communication flowing again? Ask your travel provider about SLAs – the love language of efficient service. When evaluating new options, confirm guaranteed rapid response for your tier, backed by concrete metrics.

3. You never know where they are at night

When crisis strikes on a dark road or your flight is cancelled, you need trusted companions at your side, not just a pre-recorded message or a bot. Without 24/7 access to a live in-region or global assistance team should disruptions arise, you may feel abandoned in your hour of need.

“Your travel management team isn’t just there for logistical help – they’re a crucial component of your travel risk management strategy. They should be able to give your travellers the support before and during a trip to ensure your duty of care responsibilities are met,” says Smith.  

4. You’ve outgrown your vows

Like any long-lasting relationship, your travel programme thrives with some TLC. Are you on a first-name basis with your Account Manager? Do they make sure your travel policy and programme get the attention it needs to keep up with your needs? Travel policies left static quickly grow stale. Ensure your provider reviews your programme annually, aligning governance with evolving regional regulations.

If you’re on the hunt for a new partner, ask them to outline how they will benchmark innovations to keep your frameworks compliant and competitive. 

5. They don’t keep their word

Few things erode trust like tools that are all hype, little action. Buggy sites branded as seamless booking platforms but missing key features like virtual payment or duty of care? Buyer beware.

When evaluating new travel tech systems, ensure they integrate visibility, savings and support to drive user adoption. Ask about specific time-savers, credit management, policy compliance support and safe travel components.

“Ask the TMC you’re considering working with about tech for automated reconciliation, flexible payments, and comprehensive travel data,” adds Smith.

6. They never surprise you anymore

In healthy relationships, little thoughtful touches show partners value you. But upgrades, insurance perks, and loyalty boosts may seem rare lately for you and your road warriors. See it as a red flag if bureaucracy makes your programme feel impersonal.

If you want to regain that feeling of being special, ask travel vendors how they’ll secure preferential rates, space and surprises to add delight and comfort to your business trips.

In life and travel, we all seek partners who champion our dreams, adapt to our needs, and help us thrive. Once the signs appear that the magic is gone, find the courage to seek out true compatibility again. “The right partner makes travel feel less like a contract and more like a collaborative journey to transform how your organisation connects and cares. You deserve nothing less,” concludes Smith.