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Unmanaged versus Managed Business Travel

We all like a bit of spontaneity every now and then – but business travel is not the area to be following a whim. As one of the top three spend areas for many organizations, corporate travel is one facet of your business that needs structure and support just as much as any other. But how? With a travel program that’s supported by a travel management company (TMC). 

You might feel like your company doesn’t travel enough to warrant a TMC. Or maybe you think your staff is managing business travel bookings well enough on their own and you’re getting a good deal out of it. Think again. Managing business travel with a comprehensive travel policy and solid structure is critical for traveler safety, employee wellbeing, and your bottom line. So, how does unmanaged travel compare to a managed travel program? Let’s dive in. 

What is unmanaged travel? 

Unmanaged travel is where an organization handles its own business travel arrangements. In some cases, travel tasks and responsibilities may be delegated to a travel arranger or assistant. In others, businesses leave employees to book for themselves directly on InsertAirlineHere.com 

For some businesses, it’s a highly attractive option. But things aren’t always as they seem. Let’s take a look at what lies beyond this untamed frontier of travel logistics. 

What are the benefits of unmanaged business travel? 

  • Employee freedom and flexibility – Team members may enjoy more control over their travel arrangements, which could give them a sense of autonomy and independence. But with great power comes…well, human error. *Cue red flags waving from both HR and your finance department.* 
  • Perceived easier, preferred method – Note the emphasis on “perceived.” Unmanaged employee travel may seem easier due to direct booking, but it can come with complexities and potential pitfalls. 
  • Direct travel supplier access – Cut out the middleman and dive straight into the source. Sounds great until you realize you’re also cutting out deals and discounts often come hand-in-hand with a TMC. 
  • Potential savings costs – By bypassing the TMC, you might think you're saving big bucks, but you’re forgoing group rates that could pad your travel spend wallet. And let’s not forget that human errors come with a price tag. 

What is a managed travel program? 

Managed travel, on the other hand, refers to any business travel that is supported by the services and expertise of a TMC. Travel bookings are either made with a dedicated travel consultant or via the travel company’s online booking tool (OBT), all of which are consolidated into a single, easy-to-digest report. 

But that’s not all to be gained through a managed travel program. Let’s take a look at some other benefits of managed business travel: 

Save on time, money, and stress 

TMCs aren't just about fancy bookings. They wield the power of experienced expertise and industry know-how. What does that mean for you? Quick, cost-effective options for flights, accommodation, transport, and more. Plus, when you leave the heavy lifting to the professionals, you’re taking the weight of corporate travel management off your own teams’ shoulders. That means less headaches over business trips, and more time to get back to the work that matters. 

One platform. For everything 

You don’t need an unmanaged model to give your travelers a sense of independence. When your travel program is managed, you empower your staff with consistent, constant access to a one-stop shop for all their needs. That means they can book, receive updates, and even chat with a live travel expert all from one travel platform

Safety first 

In a world where safety is king, managed travel is the fortress. Instant access to vital traveler info, a beacon in emergencies, and global support 24/7? Check. Integrated travel apps serving up real-time alerts for delays and disruptions, offering live chat for different communication options? Double check. 

The great divide: Unmanaged vs. managed business travel 

Need a recap? No worries – let’s take a closer look at some key differences between unmanaged and managed travel. 


Unmanaged Travel 

Managed Travel 

Travel policy 

Typically no formal travel policy. 

A travel policy that advises travelers of the how, what, where, who and why of travel. 

Travel bookings 

Bookings are being made ad-hoc over the internet or direct with suppliers by the travelers themselves or by someone internally who looks after travel for the company. 

As a TMC customer you can book through your dedicated travel consultant or through an OBT. Your TMC can handle all travel requests from VIP itineraries to groups, last minute bookings and cancellations – 24/7/365 days. 

Trip approval process 

Usually, no approval process exists. And without an approval process, a company risks paying more for travel due to out of policy bookings. This also means you don’t always know where your people are. 

An automated trip approval process can be integrated into your OBT whereby a manager can approve the trip, before the booking is made. For bookings made with agent, the travel consultants are also across your policy and can flag when something is out of policy. 

Preferred suppliers 

Travelers fly with whoever they want, stay in whatever hotel they like and rent cars ad hoc. Rarely use or monitor the use of preferred travel suppliers.  

Policies in place that advise travelers to book with preferred air, hotel and car hire suppliers. Your TMC will help you to tap into specially negotiated corporate fares and rates. 

Travel tech 

Missing out on the added benefits of technology that supports everything from booking and management to expense reporting and traveler tracking. 

These days TMC have tools and tech that is specially designed for an SME. Think one simple platform that houses tools for booking, reporting, traveler tracking and alerts as well as integrated mobile apps that can be used on any device. 


Duty of Care  
and traveler safety 

No visibility of where and how your people have booked travel, which can be problematic if an emergency arises. Difficult for businesses to manage information and alerts without the right technology in place. 

Instant access to vital traveler information, one point of contact in an emergency and 24/7/365 global support. Integrated travel mobile apps support travelers with real time alerts for delays and disruptions and provide options for communication. 

Managed matters 

The choice between unmanaged and managed business travel isn't merely a matter of convenience; it's about securing the well-being of your travelers, optimizing cost savings, and ensuring operational efficiency. 

Step out of the chaos of unmanaged travel and dive into the precision of a managed travel program. The journey to efficiency, safety, and savings starts here. 

In today’s constantly changing travel environment, a managed program makes sense – in every way.


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