Business Travel Blunders: Common Mistakes that Can Bust Your Budget

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6 min read

JOHANNESBURG – Underpacking – that’s one of the top mistakes business travellers make, according to research by passport app Photoaid. While it might lead to awkward moments like wearing your Hawaiian shirt to a formal dinner or attempting to pass off your gym clothes as appropriate attire during a client presentation, it won’t hurt your business. 

The real danger, the one that could significantly impact both your business and budget, lies in errors during your trip’s booking process. Even a seemingly insignificant error like a typo can turn out to be a costly blunder. Here’s food for thought: an astonishing 55 percent of businesses are bypassing potential savings by managing their travel plans internally. Furthermore, due to last-minute arrangements, 22% end up splurging unnecessarily on bookings.

These findings result from a survey conducted by Corporate Traveller involving 255 SME owners and decision-makers from diverse industries. The survey set out to identify common mistakes when arranging business travel.

So, what are the most common pitfalls of poor business travel planning, and how can you sidestep the drama?

Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Traveller, takes us through the common pain points:

Last-Minute Mayhem: Missing out on sweet deals

Ah, the thrill of booking travel at the eleventh hour! We all have co-workers who like living on the edge, right? Booking last-minute travel is a convenient option when faced with urgent business needs or unforeseen trips. However, this common mistake (we know that two out of 10 business travellers are repeat offenders) can have significant financial repercussions.

Procrastinating on travel arrangements and booking too close to the travel date could lead to wasted business opportunities by eating into the travel budget and leaving team members unable to travel when needed.

The solution? Smith explains that a travel management company (TMC) provides helpful services to ensure you don’t run into travel-related troubles.

“A TMC will have access to advanced booking technologies that allows them to find the best deals ahead of time,” she says.

Bungled bookings: Spelling goofs and birthdate blunders

Your name is spelt wrong on your boarding pass. Or worse – the wrong name entirely! It’s the stuff of sitcoms, but it happens more often than you’d think. Fourteen percent of business travellers confessed they had suffered this fate.

Fixing these errors after booking requires a lot of time and resources. It can lead to confusion during check-ins, delays in boarding, or even being denied boarding.

The solution? TMCs maintain comprehensive and accurate traveller profiles for each employee. “By capturing essential information and preferences, TMCs minimise the risk of manual errors during bookings. These profiles ensure a seamless booking process and enable personalised travel experiences for each traveller,” says Smith.

Destination Dramas: Wrong place, wrong time

Arriving at a hotel when it’s too late for check-in or missing connecting flights because the schedules don’t match up. This can lead to stress and safety worries and cause unexpected expenses, like having to book hotels at the last minute or change flight plans. The Corporate Traveller survey revealed 11% of business travellers fell victim to this mistake – just consider the financial fallout of this!

The solution? “A TMC will know how to carefully organise and improve travel plans. They make sure that flights are scheduled to work well together, arrange suitable layovers, and take care of other important details. This helps travellers move smoothly from one place to another and reduces the chances of travel problems,” says Smith.

Rogue Bookings: Sneaky overspending creeps in

So you found a swanky hotel or a fancy flight deal, but is it within your budget? When employees book their travel, they’re more likely to exceed approved budgets or book services without proper authorisation – and 14% of business travellers confessed to this travel crime.

The solution? TMCs work with businesses to create clear travel and spending limit rules. “These guidelines are shared in a transparent travel policy which helps ensure that employees stay within their budget and don’t spend money without authorisation. This simplifies the process of getting approval for travel and allows employees to make travel arrangements confidently,” says Smith.

Inconvenient Adventures: When travel plans don’t match your needs

You arrive at the hotel, only to find it’s miles from your meeting location. Or your flight time clashes with your morning coffee routine. Day ruined just like that.

Travel plans that cause inconvenience can hurt the well-being and productivity of business travellers. When employees have to deal with issues like jetlag, lack of rest, or not having access to essential facilities, it can make it difficult for them to perform at their best. Imagine how this set back the 13% of business travellers who complained about this issue.

The solution? TMCs are pros at gathering detailed information about traveller preferences and needs. “By adjusting travel plans to suit their needs, companies ensure employees have a better and more enjoyable time on their business trips. These personalised arrangements make employees happier and lead to better results for the company,” says Smith.

Service Scaries: Travelling on the wild side

Thirteen percent of business travellers shared that bookings they had made fell short of acceptable standards. Picture this. The hotel’s “state-of-the-art” conference room turns out to be an old basement with flickering lights and a temperamental projector, and the “high-speed” internet has some ups and downs – mostly downs. When you’re travelling for work, you don’t want any curveballs.

The solution? TMCs use their expertise to help businesses choose the right providers that perfectly match their unique travel requirements and expectations. “Businesses can trust TMCs to find the best travel options for them, thanks to their strong partnerships and industry knowledge,” says Smith.

The “Where Am I?” Wobble: Wrong destinations and dates

Milan, Italy; Mulan, China – an easy mistake to make? However, when it sinks in that your ticket is as rigid as a rock – non-refundable and non-changeable – well, let’s say you’ll have a sense of humour failure.

If a business chooses the least expensive airline tickets that cannot be changed or refunded, they might face significant losses if they change their travel plans. In this case, 11% of business travellers have found themselves in this conundrum.

The solution? TMCs use advanced booking systems to carefully review and double-check all the travel details before confirming reservations. This helps them avoid expensive mistakes and ensures that employees travel to the right place on the correct dates.

Group Booking Gaffes: Too many or too few

Booking travel for large groups is like herding cats. Your colleagues won’t be amused when they discover the incentive trip has transformed into a “sofa bed sleepover” because their names slipped off the reservation list – as has occurred to 8% of respondents in the Corporate Traveller survey. Mistakes in the number of travellers or incorrect names can lead to complications with availability – and refunds.

The solution? TMCs are experts in handling group bookings. They keep precise information about travellers and use booking tools to ensure everyone in the group is cared for. This way, they can make reservations that match each person’s specific needs and preferences.

“It’s not just about fixing the financial mess caused by these slip-ups; a company’s reputation is at stake when a simple booking mistake makes a traveller late for a crucial meeting. The pandemic has brought travel consultants into the spotlight like never before. Business travellers are ditching the DIY approach and turning to these experts who can give them back their precious time and take away the stress of dealing with the never-ending hassles,” says Smith.

For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Bonnie Smith, call Dorine Reinstein on 083 278 8994 or email dorine@bigambitions.co.za.