As business travel expenses nose upward, companies My Latest News realize that better cost-management techniques can make a difference in the U.S. According to American Express ‘ most recent survey on business travel management, corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years Fanz Live.

Corporate T&E costs, now the third-largest controllable expense behind sales and data-processing prices, are under new scrutiny. Corporations realize that even a savings of 1 or 2 percent can translate into millions of dollars added to their bottom line. Savings of that order are sure to get management’s attention, which is a requirement for this project. Involvement begins with understanding and evaluating the components of T&E management to control and monitor it more effectively.

Travel Expenses

Hands-on management includes assigning responsibility for travel management, implementing a quality-measurement system for travel services, and writing and distributing a formal travel policy. Only 64 percent of U.S. corporations have travel policies. Even with senior management’s support, the road to savings is rocky- only one in three companies has successfully instituted an internal program that will help cut travel expenses, and the myriad aspects of travel are so overwhelming that most companies don’t know where to start.

“The travel industry is based on information,” says Steven R. Schoen, founder and CEO of The Global Group Inc. “Until a passenger sets foot on the plane, they’ve [only] been purchasing information. If that’s the case, information technology seems a viable place to hammer out those elusive but highly sought-after savings. “Technological innovations in the business travel industry are allowing firms to realize the potential of automation to control and reduce indirect [travel] costs,” says Roger H. Ballou, president of the Travel Services Group USA of American Express.

“In addition, many companies are embarking on quality programs that include sophisticated process improvement and reengineering efforts designed to improve T&E management processes and reduce indirect costs substantially. As companies look to technology to make potential savings a reality, they can get creative about their methods.

The Great Leveler

Centralized reservation systems were long the exclusive domain of travel agents and other industry professionals. But all that changed in November 1992 when a Department of Transportation ruling allowed the general public access to systems such as Apollo and SABRE. Travel-management software, such as TripPower and TravelNet, immediately sprang up, providing corporations insight into where their T&E dollars are being spent.

The software tracks spending trends by interfacing with the corporation’s database and providing access to centralized reservation systems that provide immediate information to airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies. These programs also allow users to generate computerized travel reports on cost savings with details on where discounts were obtained, hotel and car usage, and travel patterns between cities. Actual data gives corporations added leverage when negotiating deals with travel suppliers. When you own the information, you don’t have to go back to square one every time you decide to change agencies,” says Mary Savovie Stephens, travel manager for biotech giant Chiron Corp.

Sybase Inc., a client/server software leader with an annual T&E budget of over $15 million, agrees. “Software gives us unprecedented visibility into how employees are spending their travel dollars and better leverage to negotiate with travel service suppliers,” says Robert Lerner, director of credit and corporate travel services for Sybase Inc. “We have better access to data, faster, in a real-time environment, which is expected to bring us big savings in T&E. Now we have control over our travel information and no longer have to depend exclusively on the agencies and airlines.”

The cost for this privilege depends on the volume of business. One-time purchases of travel-management software can run from under $100 to more than $125,000. Some software providers will accommodate smaller users by selling software piecemeal for $5 to $12 per booked trip, still significant savings from the $50 industry norm per transaction.