Business travel is often a casualty

By on June 8, 2013
Business Travel 300x336Business travel is often a casualty in an economic downturn, as corporations tighten spending.
Here are my top nine suggestions to business travelers for weathering the recession.
1. Waiting may pay. In normal times, purchasing travel as early as possible is the best way to lock in the lowest rates. Travel suppliers generally raise prices as unsold inventory depletes. But in an economic crisis, suppliers are more likely to be forced to eat unsold inventory and may offer the best bargains at the last minute as they desperately try to fill unoccupied rooms, seats or vehicles. Hotels and rental cars are most vulnerable, as they cannot easily eliminate capacity to match demand as airlines can by simply grounding flights.
2. Consider booking directly with the supplier. If you aren’t locked into a corporate travel program with a specific travel agency, booking directly on supplier websites can often be a cost saver.
3. Re-check prices after purchase. Prices can often drop after you’ve purchased or locked in a rate. These days it pays to re-check prices numerous times after booking and before your trip. Many suppliers will allow you to rebook at the lower rate if the price drops after booking. Many online travel retailers offer a “best price” guarantee alerting customers when prices fall.
4. Traditional booking rules may not apply. Airlines have trained travelers to stay over a Saturday night or fly all segments on the same trip on a single airline for the lowest price, but these rules may no longer apply. Many discount airlines, like Southwest, price all flights as one-way segments with no incentive for round-trip purchase. In many cases, other airlines will follow those rules to remain competitive. Booking two one-way tickets on different airlines may allow you to obtain the lowest price (or optimal scheduling) on each segment and split your ticket among multiple airlines if necessary.
5. Consider alternative airports. Airfares and car rental prices may vary wildly between airports across town or an hour or two apart by car.
6. Day trips vs. extended trips. With travel budgets under scrutiny, some corporations are encouraging travelers to take more one day trips, eliminating overnight hotel stays. Others are asking travelers to consolidate multiple stops, visits or meetings on a single trip to minimize airfare. Either option can be sound strategy, depending on the airfares and hotel rates in each situation.
7. Suite and extended stay hotels. Whenever possible, try to stay in suite or extended-stay hotels, such as Marriott’s Residence Inns or Hilton’s Embassy Suites. These properties generally offer free breakfast, parking, and Internet access, and provide kitchens where you can store and cook your own food. Avoiding the costs of room service and other amenities offered by full-service hotels can offer tremendous savings.
8. Business- and first-class bargains. With many corporations trimming travel budgets and some companies downgrading travelers from first or business class to coach, this is an excellent time to locate bargains in the forward cabins as airlines struggle to fill those premium seats. It is also wise to shop across multiple airlines as first- and business-class fares may vary greatly on the same route.
9. Stronger dollar for cheaper travel abroad. One benefit of the dismal economic downturn is a strengthening U.S. dollar, making foreign travel less expensive than in previous years. In the last year, the U.S. dollar gained 25 percent against the Euro, 32 percent against the Canadian dollar, and a whopping 43 percent against the British Pound. If you have international business abroad, now is the time to go.

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