Expert Insight

Small Wonders: Helping SMEs make the most of their travel spend

8 October 2019 by Leanne Fowler

UK organisations spent £20bn on meetings in 2018, but do we always understand the total meeting cost? Leanne Fowler explores the link between meetings and travel, sharing tips for smaller businesses that should be considered when planning an internal or external meeting.

When travel bookers are looking to squeeze travel budgets, Leanne highlights why organisations need to look at their meeting profile to really understand their true travel spend and how to reduce costs.

Behind every meeting there is a trip. In fact, the actual meeting is just 15% of the costs – meaning 85% is made up of travel costs. For example, the potential costs associated with a meeting taking place could include; rail, air or mileage costs, hotel costs and ancillary costs. With the average cost per delegate equating to £316pp – £273 is linked to travel which is typically booked individually and expensed separately.

Therefore, to save on travel and meeting expenditure, anyone planning a meeting should ask themselves three basic questions:

1. What is the best way to meet?

Ask yourself:

  1. What’s the purpose of the meeting?
  2. Who needs to attend?
  3. Can we do this through technology?

For example: If you are a team getting together for the first time, you should absolutely consider a face-to-face meeting. However, if you are an established team and the meeting is to push information to that team, can you do this through virtual tools such as Skype or Microsoft Teams? This not only saves travel time, but associated travel costs.

2. Where is the best place to meet?

Consider:

  1. Where are delegates travelling from?
  2. Which cities are cost effective?
  3. Which cities have good transport networks?

For example: If a venue is walking distance from a main line station this would avoid taxis costs or, equally, if your teams have company cars a venue that provides free car parking would reduce travel costs.

We did some research into the top travel and meeting locations, finding that London is the top location for meetings and is also the top location for rail journeys. The average day delegate cost in London is high at £60.06pp, which makes us question whether there is another key city you could use for example Manchester or Birmingham (who’s average day delegate rate is around £41.00pp) to help stretch your budget further?

Taking it a step further, if you consider alternative cities, like Leicester, Peterborough and Stoke-on-Trent, you can snap up average day delegate rates from as low as £26.00pp.

Not only will it save you money on your meeting, but a more central hub for delegates to travel to with access to lower travel fares as there is an evident correlation between lower meeting rates and hotel rates within cities.

3. How can my meeting agenda help with travel costs?

Think about:

  1. Start and finish times - For example if you are holding a meeting in London, you can you start the meeting after 10.00am this will allow delegates to access off peak train fares instead of peak - which can save up to 50% per ticket.
  2. Multiple day meetings can these be shorter to avoid overnight stays and accommodation expenses.
  3. If you are going to see a customer for a meeting have you checked your travel costs before proposing a time for the meeting?
  4. Have you considered non-peak meeting days, such as Mondays as an alternative to Tuesdays and Wednesdays?

By looking at the meeting agenda, it can also help ensure delegate wellbeing by considering having concise/shorter meetings, which mean delegates do not have to travel in their own time. Plus, longer booking lead times allow delegates to make family arrangements (where applicable), but also access advance purchase rates, preferred hotel rates and rates within guidelines (particularly in major cities) - leading to a better travel experience and/or higher rated venue for your budget.

By reviewing meetings with travel costs you can also cover your duty of care agenda. Do you know where all your meetings are taking place and who is travelling to those meetings domestic and internationally?  Are you confident you have checked all the relevant venue contract, terms and liability cover should an incident occur? If something does go wrong it could be a big cost to your organisation and your budget.

Finally, ask whether your policy include meetings? It’s common to have guidelines and governance around travel expenditure to make your budget stretch that bit further, but do you have the same in place for meetings - especially given the close link between the two spend areas? Really, meeting bookings should be added to a travel policy just like travel bookings are.

By making these arrangements smarter and in tandem you can make positive impacts on travel spend and budgets.

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit your details below.