Travel buyer Q&A: Caroline French, Inmarsat – Buying Business Travel

Travel buyer Q&A: Caroline French, Inmarsat
Buying Business Travel
We have to be careful about what we implement, due to encryption of the network. We do use an expense management tool and an online booking tool with the internal travel team, and we have cloud technology rolling out in parts of the business. But from ...

Investment firm pumps £125m into Monarch travel business – The Guardian

The Guardian

Investment firm pumps £125m into Monarch travel business
The Guardian
The sale of travel business Monarch Group has been agreed it has been announced. The company will be sold to a London-based investment firm and will see the new owner pump in £125m to save the company and about 2,500 jobs with it. Greybull Capital ...
Monarch Group sale saves 2500 jobsFinancial Times
Monarch completes sale of group to Greybull CapitalTTG Digital

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Travel buyer Q&A: Caroline French, Inmarsat

Does being a technology company make you more inclined to use travel technology?

We have to be careful about what we implement, due to encryption of the network. We do use an expense management tool and an online booking tool with the internal travel team, and we have cloud technology rolling out in parts of the business. But from a travel point of view, we are not quite embracing some of the recent developments. I think we are cautious and that may be down to the average age of the workforce, which is 42 – although that is coming down all the time.

What does your travel programme look like?

We have a global travel policy, and we have more than 900 travellers. Our travel policy provides the guidelines, and business-unit heads can use their discretion as to how they implement it.

Do you think there is sufficient transparency in your supply chain?

I still believe business travel has an over-complicated business model and [therefore] people question the transparency of cost. There is frustration in the industry because people know overrides happen, but they get hidden in additional costs. We need to unbundle the costs.

What one piece of advice would you give to suppliers?

I’d like to see consistency in the industry and a willingness to commit to sustained innovation. Technology is opening up a new path in business travel and we all have to work to make it succeed – because it will be forced upon us by an ever-younger workforce, who will want change. The first port of call is the TMC [travel management company], so it has to start with the TMC.

What is the greatest challenge you face in your role, and how are you dealing with it?

Over two years, we have acquired and integrated four organisations. My role has been consolidating the travel practices that came across with those organisations: I started off with 18 TMCs and we are down to six. One of the key challenges is bringing together the data – we have to understand our total travel spend. Everything was going well, until we acquired another organisation at Christmas... Also, when I started in this role, my remit was for the UK, and a small amount of travel in the US with probably 250 travellers, and now it’s nearer 1,000.

How does the future of the travel industry look to you?

It’s all up for change. There will definitely be further mergers within TMCs. The supply chain has to change. The need to capture data from booking mechanisms is going to drive the need for consistency – technology developers will have to look

at that. And if the industry embraces ‘travel management 2.0’ – so that our travellers are making their own bookings with apps on a company phone – there will be a greater need for employer accountability. The travel manager will have to have greater knowledge of company risk, employee risk and employee welfare – the role will change.

You returned from a sabbatical thisyear. What made you decide to have one?

Company policy allows for a career break or extended leave, and I’d been thinking about taking a few months off to do the winter ski season. So my partner and I left for Austria at the end of December and got a ski pass for 26 resorts, although we didn’t ski them all. The arrangement was that I would work two days a month, so there was always an opportunity for someone to contact me should anything come up, and that was no problem. The idea was to take a break and step off the treadmill of commuting life. I would thoroughly recommend it.

Has that changed your approach to work?

Yes, definitely. Work won’t change – it is very busy – but I feel I am now able to relax at the end of the day and say work has finished. I now switch off my Blackberry when I get home – that’s one important thing it’s taught me.


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Buying Business Travel
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5 things you need to know before signing a TMC contract


So you have chosen a new travel management company but are yet to start working with them, and despite conducting a thorough tender process and rigourous price negotiation, how can you be sure you will have a successful relationship?

That’s why TMC Click Travel has come up with five things to look at before signing that contract:

  1. Define what they are actually going to do for you

Make sure you have a tight definition of the services that your supplier is going to provide. If you are contracting on your own legal terms, the standard services agreement (that the legal team has just dusted off) is unlikely to be bespoke to travel management. So make sure your agreement actually covers what you expect them to do.

  1. Incorporate the service level agreement (SLA) into the contract

Many organisations spend a fair amount of time discussing service levels at the tender stage and then forget to incorporate the SLA into the legal agreement! This gives the travel management company the chance to wriggle out of delivery.

  1. Agree what happens if your partner’s ownership changes

If your preferred business travel agent gets bought out by another supplier (this happens quite a lot in the business travel industry) the service could be very different. It could even be the supplier you dismissed at the first stage of your tender! So make sure that your contract includes a ‘change of control’ clause enabling you to terminate if your supplier’s ownership changes.

  1. Look at the termination clauses carefully

Can you terminate easily if things are not going well? What if they fail to deliver at all? You need to be able to move on if it’s not working and the mediation has failed. Look at how easily your travel management company can get out as well - they may be able to terminate on three months notice at any time, which is the last thing you want after all your hard work spent appointing them.

  1. Watch out for crafty price increase clauses

If you’ve contracted for a set period of time, your travel management company should commit to that price for the entire contract. Make sure they haven't slipped an RPI (Retail Price Increase) clause into the small print.

Going through the legals is not the most interesting part of the process, but investing time at the outset should prevent a costly break up further down the line. If you have any more tips please share them in the comments below.

Click Travel was named in the top 25 UK TMCs in BBT’s Top 50 TMCs in 2014.

5 things you need to know before signing a TMC contract

Click Travel gives buyers its top tips to ensure sucessful relationship with your TMC

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