Diversify to bring in corporate business


Travel agents would do well to look at diversifying their businesses to offer a wide range of solutions for corporate travellers, including the creation of group insurance and travel policies.

Dnata’s Abdulla Tawakul, vice-president, Government and Corporate Travel, talked to TTN following the inaugural Business Travel Show in Dubai about these and other matters. Excerpts:

How is Dnata diversifying its product range to meet the challenges of the maket?
HRG UAE (Dnata) has access to the comprehensive range of products and services offered on a global basis by Hogg Robinson Group (HRG). Among these are  corporate travel management, consulting, expense management, events and meetings management and sports. The range is designed to add demonstrable value to corporate clients’ travel and related expenditure.  Much of our diversification will rely on technology as we soon launch our on-line booking tool.

Have you seen a decline in customers with internet bookings?
Whilst business in Dubai booms and an ever growing list of multinationals set-up in the city, we haven’t noticed any decline or loss in customers.  We are in the process of developing our own on-line booking tool as we see it as the future and Dnata has a long and successful history as market leaders especially when it comes to technology.

How important is it for corporate companies to establish a travel policy?
The development of an appropriate and flexible travel policy that fits well with corporate culture and meets business requirements is a valuable tool for companies and offers quantifiable returns on investment including incremental savings; supplier negotiation and leverage opportunities; quantifiable and measurable service level agreements; increased safety and security of corporate travellers through increased and readily available MIS; and potential cost savings and increased efficiencies of expense management.

But can an effective travel policy help minimise costs?
Yes, in a number of ways, including helping to maximise the return on investment of the company’s corporate travel expenditure. Such a policy can generate 12 to 15 per cent incremental savings over a three-year period through a combination of return on investment and supplier negotiation and leverage opportunities. A good policy will increase adoption rates to supplier agreements and maximise savings.

What is the relevance of travel insurance? Has the level of awareness for it improved over the years?
In order to ensure the safety and security of corporate travellers, it is essential that adequate travel insurance is arranged prior to taking a business trip. For most large companies this means negotiating an annual travel insurance agreement designed to meet these requirements.

What new travel trends do you foresee in this region?
The development of low cost carrier presence across the region, continued introduction and development of self-service reservation (online) booking tools for simple travel needs, changes in commission/ payment structures including a trend towards management and/ or transaction fees, ongoing consolidation of clients’ business-travel-related activity across the region, a continued strong growth in hotel industry (HRG’s last hotel survey noted a 14 per cent rise in hotel rates across the region particularly in Dubai plus continued development in Abu Dhabi and Qatar).

What are the company’s plans for 2008 and beyond?
HRG continues its regional expansion throughout the Middle East & West Asia Region and we have several countries in the pipeline.  After recently signing Algeria we are now looking towards Libya and Tunisia. We can boast of 16 HRG Partners in MEWA with this number to  further grow year on year as part of our strategy.