If you’re like most people and you believe that government travel advisories, warning and alerts represent the most accurate advice for business travelers then you are terribly mistaken.

Here are the key elements that all business travelers and travel managers need to know regarding the validity and application of government travel alerts and travel related advice. Knowing and understanding these few simple issues will save your company unnecessary travel delays and disruptions under almost any circumstance. The main points to always consider in the wake of a renewed or updated advisory, warning or alert is the target audience, specific government resources, commercial relevance and the avoidance of evacuation scenarios.

The primary demographic for government advisories are first time travelers, backpackers, families and anyone else with little to no prior traveling experience and preparation or the lowest possible denominator. It is this group that governments aim their advice and analysis towards with the belief that if this group is adequately informed, then all remaining demographics will be covered. Unfortunately this results in an artificially low benchmark for all travelers not within this group.These other groups depend upon travel for business productivity, management and administration and the more likely to have their travel plans altered unnecessarily due to many government alerts. This is in part due to corporate risk avoidance (in the belief the government travel advisories are adequate) and insurance companies bench-marking many of their travel policy exclusions on that of government travel advice (again, in the belief the government are catering to their needs too). Unless you are a first time traveler, significantly inexperienced or lack appropriate business support while traveling, then the majority of government travel advice does not apply to you.

Detailed examination of dedicated resources aimed at travel related advice and content typically reveals little more than a handful of “specific” resources. That is, someone or department dedicated solely to the collection, analysis and dissemination of commercially relevant travel advice. Most government resources are “shared” services when it comes to travel intelligence and advice with general non-government travel a very small increment of their overall mandate. Smaller countries have no dedicated resources and simply “share” the advice from coalition partners or more populace countries, further diluting the relevance to their citizens. Most continuous travel advisory services, provided by a government, are little more than a chronology of publicly available media updates. While resources are limited in the first instance, it is the lack of commercial experience that constitutes the greatest flaw to government travel advisories.

What little resources there are that are aimed at travel intelligence typically lack any direct commercial experience. Therefore, all their apparent advice is predicated more on the interests of the government (resulting in censorship, omissions and politically correct publications) than that of any business sector or commercial demographic. When you have soldiers, government agents and police officers commenting on matters relating to commerce and business travel, you get little actionable advice due to their inability to put into commercial context the impact events may have from a purely commercial perspective rather than a transnational or political viewpoint.

Behind closed doors, most governments admit they do not maintain nor posses the resources (assumed by most of their citizens) for large scale evacuations from any corner of the globe. Regrettably many travelers have grown to assume that complete failure to take responsibility for their own safety and security while traveling will always be compensated by the government’s ability to swoop in and save then if they should so choose. This is wrong and very dangerous for those with such a belief. For those governments that would even consider an evacuation of their nationals (not very many) they will often go to great lengths to advise their citizens to leave or make personal arrangements long before any government is forced into acting. Landing troops or foreign government elements in someone else country is always the choice of last resort and highly prone to complications, even if it were possible.

Anything published by a government will always have the country’s national interests such as economy, trade and diplomatic relationships carefully considered before release. Anything that may threaten such strategic goals is likely to be withheld, including government travel advisories, warnings and alerts. Now that you understand the importance of being self sufficient and discerning when it comes to government travel advice you will waste less time placing priority on such updates and focus on more commercially relevant inputs. As a result, your company travel risk management process will be far more resilient and less impacted by the stop/start affect created by government updates, warnings and alerts. You may also now identify gaps that need to be filled by insufficient commercial content from government sources.

Government travel advisories, warnings and alerts focus on the wrong target demographic, lack the appropriate resources, have little commercial relevance and seek to avoid last minute acts such as evacuations. Now that you too are aware of these limitations you should be better positioned to make business decisions in the wake of crisis, emergency and dynamic events that affect a location and your business travelers. Business travel risk management is a commercial process and can only be achieved with appropriate commercial products and services.

In order to make the most of your corporate travel budget, it is critical to plan for leveraging your program for all it is worth. Telling travelers to select the lowest logical airfare is just not enough. Here are the elements that should be considered when planning or evaluating your travel program.

1. Travel policy

A well written and disseminated travel policy is the foundation of any good travel program, and I am consistently amazed that so many corporations have such an outdated and poorly conceived travel policy, if they have one at all. It is not difficult to find a well written policy. One can be found online quite easily. All that remains is that it is edited to reflect corporate culture, and disseminated within the company so that everyone understands and agrees to follow it. For this reason, it is a good idea to have everyone sign a copy of the travel policy to ensure that it is read, understood and owned by all company staff. I suggest that everyone in the company signs a copy of the travel policy, whether they travel or not. They may change positions in the company later and be required to travel. A travel policy need not be long or complex. Some of the best travel policies I have ever seen were only a few pages long.

2. Centralized travel internally and externally

Many companies do not centralize their travel program, and they pay a price in terms of a loss of expense reduction opportunities and internal efficiencies. Many companies that do not centralize travel have a fear of requiring travelers to do something they may not want to do, along with the idea that centralizing travel will require hiring a Travel Manager. Both of these may be legitimate concerns but they do not have to be in most cases. By requiring travelers to book centrally, you are not necessarily causing them to lose flexibility. You can centralize travel while still allowing travelers to book on their own, either with a travel agency of your choice, or online through a provider that you have partnered with and have confidence in. By assigning someone with the responsibility of overseeing travel, you are getting a single point of contact both internally and externally for travel issues. If your company spends less than $1 million in air travel, you probably do not need a full time travel manager. In these cases, travel oversight can be given to the finance department, human resources, or even an executive level assistant. Here is a look at the advantages to be gained by centralizing travel.

When you centralize travel with a single agency, you gain in a number of important ways. You will have a single point of contact for problems while travelers are on the road, and you will have one entity to go to for all your travel needs. This eliminates the problem of consolidating a travel report from among several sources. By bringing travel together, you will gain significantly from economies of scale. If you can measure total travel among various divisions or locations, you can get more for your money from travel suppliers. This will allow you to gain more from airline soft dollar programs, which means more free tickets and upgrades, get a higher percentage discount from our preferred airline, and get better negotiated rates from your hotel and car contracts. Your fulfillment costs will decrease as well, as your travel agency will often discount their fees for a higher overall volume of travel.

3. Mix of online booking and personal service

This is an addendum to the previous element, which calls for centralizing travel with one travel agency. This is important, but in doing so, you need not require travelers to use an online booking system, and you need not require travelers to call the agency directly. By offering travelers the option of doing either, you are accomplishing several goals. You will reduce your fulfillment costs, as online booking is cheaper in terms of a service fee. By giving travelers the option, you are giving them a sense of control, thereby increasing morale and standing a better chance of a high adoption rate. Thirdly, you leave open a best practice of using your online booking engine for less complex itineraries, and allowing senior executives, frequent travelers, and complex itineraries to be booked directly with a travel agent that can offer a higher level of service and a better overall travel experience where it is most warranted.

4. Look under every stone

While the bulk of most travel programs revolve around the air budget, there are several other areas one can investigate to find savings opportunities. There are a couple of more obvious areas to look, such as negotiated hotel rates at your favorite hotels, or car rental discounts with a favored supplier. Often your travel agency will already have discounted rates through consortia affiliations and agency car contracts. There are also some less common areas that should be investigated. For example, if ground transportation is a concern, most suppliers will offer discounted rates and a direct billing option. Direct billing arrangements with hotels and car rental agencies are also a great way to increase efficiencies and make the job of the accounting department easier.

5. Leverage hard dollar and soft dollar contracts

Most major airlines today offer hard dollar discounts as well as soft dollar incentives in exchange for company loyalty to their product. If your travel program is over $1 million in air spend, you can secure a discount off of the lowest fares of your carrier of choice in return for a market share commitment. For your secondary carriers, or if your volume is less than the minimum required by the airline, you can enter in to soft dollar programs for free tickets and free upgrades, as well as traveler status enhancements or airport club passes. These programs require little in the way of volume, but they are not well publicized so you may need to hunt for them or ask Baker Travel or your current agency to point you in the right direction.

6. Do not neglect hotel volume

Hotel volume is sometimes overlooked but it should not be. Negotiated rates can be had through your travel agency or directly with the hotel properties of your choice. Individual hotels near corporate locations will negotiate discounted rates for you in exchange for a minimum room/night commitment. By utilizing a travel agency, you are likely to receive discounts of 5% to 50% on thousands of hotels worldwide.

7. Have at least one car rental contract

Rental car contracts are easy to enter into and require little in the way of commitment from the corporation. Choose a partner that has airport locations and a reputation for excellent customer service. You can save 5-10% very easily and can also negotiate frequent renter membership for all your employees. This will make them more efficient and enhance morale. You can also enter in to direct billing agreements at the same time that can make the jobs of your travelers and accounting staff much less stressful.

8. Understand group and meeting contracts

Airlines and hotels will discount your fares and rates when you have groups traveling together or meeting at a single destination from multiple points of origin. These meeting contracts can bring you airfare discounts of 2-10%, and if you have enough travelers on a single airline, you may be able to negotiate for free tickets to be awarded at contract completion. The minimum requirement is usually 10 travelers going to the same place at the same time. Some airlines have higher minimums so be sure to ask before a contract is generated. Hotels will discount their rates in a similar way with a minimum of 10 room nights. These discounts can range from 10% to a much higher discount depending upon occupancy rate and seasonal variances.

9. Use reporting to consistently improve metrics

Well managed travel programs require constant monitoring and financial controls to be properly leveraged. Insist on timely and customized reports that can be designed to bring you the information you need most. By receiving regular reporting on traveler behavior and provider contract performance, you will be in a better position to fulfill contract obligations, achieve cost reduction objectives and see where opportunities for future savings may lie.

10. Use all avenues to enhance traveler comfort and efficiency

Lastly, any well managed travel program will take in to account the comfort and productivity of their travelers. When travelers are comfortable, they can focus on their main priorities that help propel your business forward. If travelers are happy, they perform at a higher level. Ask if your travel agency can upgrade traveler status on a preferred airline. Look in to purchasing blocks of airport club passes so they can be used strategically during long and complex itineraries. There are many ways to reward travelers for the difficult and often grueling chore of travel. These kinds of rewards generate feelings of loyalty and increased productivity and efficiency.

If you would like to learn more about how your company can better leverage their travel program to benefit your bottom line and the satisfaction of your executive level, feel free to contact me. I am delighted to point you in the right direction.

The proliferation of ‘factory outlets’ or ‘manufacturer-direct’ prices has become common place, but are we getting true ‘outlet or direct’ prices?

The middleman, agent or even retailer is suffering in our modern internet-based environment and big-box stores which appear to offer rock-bottom prices but still make enormous profits are commonplace.

The world of agents from insurance to travel to financial are feeling the crunch as they are rapidly being considered as expensive cost overheads by the producer, provider or manufacturer.

The airlines started the demise of the travel agency system when they started eliminating agent commissions and over-rides and turned to online booking systems aimed directly at the consumer, forcing some retail agencies to charge additional booking fees. Now you can find airline reservation sites charging fees for online seat selection plus anything else that they can get away with. Are the savings they are making being passed on to the consumer?

Insurance companies began advertising for direct dealings as did banks with their development of in-house financial planners (not at all independent, but merely another name for a bank products salesperson). Are they keeping the old commission for themselves or do they pass on the savings to the consumer?

Let’s focus on one of the consumers’ largest expenditures over a lifetime – recreational travel, business travel, vacations and trips and the Retail Travel Agent or Agency:

1.These were really needed before the consumer could access websites from B&B’s to Hotels,
Luxury Lodges and Tour Operators or if you wanted to pick up an expensive glossy brochure.
2.These were really needed before travel providers and tour operators enabled the consumer to
book directly with them on the internet with reservation systems and booking requirements that required little training or expertise.
3.These were really needed before airlines promoted their own booking services and became more greedy for any extra percentage or fee and wanted to be rid of travel agents as expensive and redundant overheads.

Now, these agents are only really needed if travelers want knowledge, experience and expertise of specific destinations, activities or tour companies, or of course, those travelers still not using the web.

Let’s not feel too sorry for retail agents as top-notch travel consultants are essential to travelers who have complex itineraries or who are venturing to the lesser know areas of the world. All is not dark for travel agents with knowledge, experience and expertise as consumers who need these professionals now have access to them with the web wherever they may be located and no longer need to use local agents unless they have the requisite skills. But, they still have to be found as they may not be in your local area or even in your own country.

There are various forms and levels of travel middlemen – Inbound Tour Operators, Wholesalers, Retail Agencies, all of which earn a percentage from the original travel provider for their advertising, promotion and sales efforts, these percentages can be anywhere from 10% to 25% or even more! When you see a travel advertisement offering $200 off per person and you book through a retail agent, you are still paying the commission, so by booking directly with the operator you should get the special offer and also save the commission.

Some travel operators already offer their products directly to the consumer but at the same prices as the consumer would get from a retail agent. Fair enough if these providers do not use middlemen but if they also sell through retailers their prices should be ‘net of commissions’ for direct bookers and ‘retail’ for agency sales.

When the consumer goes directly to the travel provider these middlemen percentages should not apply but the provider is sometimes in a predicament. To show a net price and retail price on their website could deter the middlemen from handling their products. Until now.

Travel providers are now able to offer net prices directly to consumers by using the TopTravelVoucher services. This website is in effect operating as a travel agent who does not sell travel on behalf of travel operators, but generates travelers who go directly to the providers for information and bookings. As the website does not need bricks and mortar offices, expensive glossy brochures, familiarization trips and computer reservation systems plus all the other paraphernalia of operating a travel agency, it is able to rebate sales commissions to travelers as a reward for handling their own arrangements directly with the travel operators.

This innovative consumer travel service offers travel discounts in over 70 countries to travelers who purchase their deeply discounted TopTravelVouchers. They offer their services to the global travel trade community and to the global traveler. They do not charge the travel trade for any promotion services and allow multiple listings for any kind of travel product as long as the consumer gets net pricing.

The consumer does not have to buy before seeing the travel offer and can also buy the vouchers to be used as gift certificates. All vouchers come with a 100% money back guarantee and even if the traveler is unhappy after completion of travel the monies for the vouchers are still 100% refundable.

At present you can get TopTravelVouchers for Escorted Tours, Eco Tours, Adventure Tours, Small Boat Cruises, Lodges, Resorts, Hotels, B&B’s and new products are arriving on a daily basis.

Some tours offer a flat percentage off of the retail price while other vouchers have a fixed value. One voucher for a Greek Cruise has a value of 1,500euros and can be purchased for only $100usd and there are many escorted tours around the world offering a 10% discount on the tour price, which can be significant depending on length of tour and number of travelers. If you have a family or group of travelers you can often buy a voucher for each person (there is a particular 7 day Thai River Rovers cruise that appeals to me if I can find a few friends to join the charter).

So now, no matter where you live or where you want to go, you can book discounted travel from your home, cyber-cafe or laptop anywhere in the world. You could be in the offices of a tour operator and go online and get a voucher and then hand it over to get instant savings. Not bad eh?

This website and concept is a first for the internet and with the support of the global travel trade from the smallest of travel operators to the giants, it can only grow larger with expanded product selections and savings as this aspect of internet travel is on a seemingly endless growth path.

Travelers who go directly to travel websites must do their own due diligence, talk free with skype, 800 number, or email with the operators, read testimonials, check the latest pricing and last minute deals, make a booking and check for deeply discounted TopTravelVouchers in order to get fairer fare prices. If your tour operator does not offer a ‘net of commissions’ tour price when you do your own bookings, ask for it or suggest they start to offer these vouchers and you will start saving on your travel.

Although this service is not yet a household word for travelers the TopTravelVoucher service is on the way to making a difference in that we can now find true outlet prices for a lot of travel choices directly from tour operators, wholesalers and even retail travel agents who often operate their own in-house tour programs. All want to expand their reach to the ever expanding international client base of travelers comfortable with handling their own travel arrangements and who all want fairer fare prices.

We like to freshen after long days of work, sometimes we fed up with our daily life. Busy and hectic life is not always good, our mind and soul needs some refreshments. Sometime, we need to break free and go for some refreshing travel.

Traveling to the new places and within different people and culture gets your body and mind re-energized. There are several time for travel You can go for weekend travel, a week travel or a months long travel. Some might like adventure travel and some like to explore new culture, food and traditions. One can choose nature of their travel according to time frame and interest.

For instance, we can categorize travel into two different segments, one is inbound traveling and other is outbound traveling. In bound travel refers to traveling inside one’s country, where outbound travel is traveling to another country. People do not only travel for fun, they travel sometime for business purpose too. For instance, meeting new corporate parties or to explore new business ventures, for this one needs everything that business class service has to offer. You are recommended to choose a dependable travel company or travel tour operators, who have a long experience of organizing, otherwise your time and money can go waste. You can also get advice from family members or friends who already have an experience of traveling that place in which you are going to.

Before deciding, you need to keep in mind many things such as booking a flight, train ticket to go to another country or city, booking a hotel or suite where you are It is a wise decision to book all these from a certified travel company or tour operators, they will manage all your traveling needs according to your requirements including hotel booking, flight, train ticket reservation, excursion or tour packages. You have to plan or book your travel in advance otherwise it can be problematic to get tickets and everything gets high-priced in the last minutes, as you know.

Before going for a vacation to another country there are few things you must ensure to check first-hand, about passport and visas, travel insurance, custom rules and regulations of visiting country and also the weather conditions. You must bring appropriate clothes according to the weather condition of the new place, if you gather information about customs, religions and society of visiting new place or country it will be very easy to travel as you are well aware of the situations.

Choosing a responsible and experienced travel company which provides the lowest ticket pricing and lowest travel package cost makes your travel pleasant and memorable.

Luxury in the way that you furnish your home

There is a school of thought that says that you should indulge in luxury regardless of whether you can afford it or not. The iconic piece of furniture in the form of the timeless black leather couch is one of the luxuries that you can bring to bear on your house. It is an item that will cost you a significant amount of money. At the same time it oozes class and sophistication. You should not get worried that it is up to you to manage the different elements that go into the creation of the different couches in the home that bring their own flavor to the decorative scheme in the living rooms. They are items that have been done to high specification.

One of the things that will trouble you is cost. You have to rationalize the expenditure that you are going to put on the products for the modern age that is used to improve the appearance of different living spaces within the constraints of the family budget. It might be enough to buy a small car. This might represent an indulgence that is going to set you back in terms of your financial planning. There has to be a reason for this purchase or spouse might query the decision. The first thing that you have to remember is the fact that you are getting good quality. This happens when you purchase the reviewed furniture items that are supposed to give the person a great outlook on the different product items that work in their favor. That justifies the costs when they come in.

It is also unlikely that you will have the need to buy similar items in the short term when you go for the new products that are used to improve the general stylistic qualities of a given living area. These are beautiful things that are expected to last the home for a significant period of time. In fact the owners are normally so proud of their purchase that they will take extra care to ensure that the item is well protected. This is what is expected and this is what should happen in normal circumstances. You get assurance and confidence when you purchase the Modern furniture center pieces that bring a touch of glamour to the living rooms of ordinary families. Even the people that visit your home will be impressed.

It is up to you to work out whether the efforts that you put into the glamorous furniture items that bring great joy to the home owners are worth it. Your family might feel that the money could be used in a different format but you are just holding on with some stubbornness. These are the risks that you are going to take and it is up to you to ensure that you have the right mix of ingredients to work them out. In short you would expect that your great furniture will make sense. If it does not then you will have wasted a good deal of money. That is something that you should avoid.