Travel doesn't have to be a budget-buster for small businesses

Most small business travelers don’t belong to a business travel club. According to a recent survey by the American Small Business Travelers Alliance (ASBTA), that means they are missing out on discounted rates, reward points and other travel benefits that could make business travel more affordable and enjoyable.

“Surprisingly, the survey revealed that almost 70 percent of respondents indicated that they are not taking advantage of travel clubs,” says Chuck Sharp, ASBTA President. “We’re talking about people working for small businesses on tight budgets and who are frequently taking ten or more business trips each year, but aren’t benefiting in any way from discounted fares and services, frequent flier miles and reward points, expedited services and upgrades, and even free or discounted leisure travel.”

Business travel clubs exist at a variety of travel-related companies from car rental agencies to hotels to travel agencies to airlines. The amount an individual traveler or company can save depends on the amount of travel being done as well as the number of clubs and companies being used. Most industry experts agree that using a limited number of preferred travel service providers leads to the greatest savings and the most perks.

“Travel clubs make it a whole lot easier in terms of type of places, the amenities, how I like to travel, and the seating I prefer,” Stephen Stroud, owner of Dallas-based Park Cities Event Planning, Inc, told Inc. explaining why he belongs to a travel club.

Since travel clubs have historically been geared toward the needs of the individual and corporate travelers, some small business travelers may think travel clubs will hold little benefit for them. According to the ASBTA survey, 29 percent of respondents indicate that they may not be aware that travel clubs now include so many different properties they are likely to receive benefits even when booking travel through a travel agent.

“It’s easier for a small company to simply do what they can on the fly, to try to find the lowest deal as it is,” Marc Osborn, spokesperson for Orbitz for Business told Inc.

In fact, many travel clubs have designed new programs around the needs of small business travelers.

“There is certainly no lack of opportunities for small businesses to benefit from travel clubs, it’s just a matter of making them aware of their option,” said Sharp. “Our goal is to help build this awareness and build the bridge between the travel clubs and small businesses.

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