The Hidden Costs in Business Travel

An article in this month’s Business Travel Magazine got me thinking about travel costs and just how visible the total costs of the trip are.The main costs (air fares, hotels, credit card bills) are easily visible, either because they’ve been organized by their TMC (travel management company) or they appear on expenses and credit card statements. Both Keesup Choe (Pi) and Paul Keery (Paul Keery Associates Ltd) talk about data inaccuracies (human error mostly) as being a key reason for the data not being right. However they both talk about how technology is closing the gap in the inaccuracies.There is still one cost that I believe is being ignored when companies look at the costs of, particularly, international travel: communications.We’ve all seen the headlines around billshock and the cost of roaming, particularly for roaming data.  What is often less publicised is the cost of calls.

Business travel isn’t the glamourous activity that people (generally those who don’t travel on business) think it is.  The endless monotony of train, airport, plane, taxi, office, hotel, office….. is the same whether your trip is to New York, to Dubai or just to Paris.  The trip is crammed full of activity to ensure maximum productivity levels, meaning Central Park, the souks and the Eiffel Tower may not even be seen, never mind visited.

What this all means is that you have to get your information whenever possible. It’s not always convenient to find a WiFi point in order to get your emails, to download your reports or to make those calls back to the office or to clients, either in the country you are in or internationally. They have to be done “on the run” and that means using roaming services. That means it’s going to cost.  Vodafone is currently charging £1.35 a minute in the USA for calls and up to £6 per MB for data. O2’s standard data rate is about £8 per MB.

So why are these costs being ignored when looking at the costs of business travel?

Simple. They are someone else’s problem.  Telephony costs and data costs are the IT Director’s problem. They are in his/her budget and so he needs to monitor the costs and do what can be done to reduce them. Let’s be honest, if something isn’t one of our KPI’s we rarely worry about it.

So the IT Director reviews the mobile costs and sees lumps in the spend. Lumps that are on a small number of phones’ costs. He knows (probably) that they travel a lot but is he able to move that out of his budget and into that of the Travel Manager – not likely.  We’ve seen individuals return from trips with bills into their £1,000’s for both voice and data.  That’s a big cost, but because it will be complicated (or at least time consuming) to identify exactly who, when and how much, the costs stay where they are – hidden.

The question now is whether they should be moved or should they simply stay where they are. I’d love your opinion. Tweet me @amiigomobile with your thoughts.

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