Air travel can be taxing, inconvenient, and stressful. Luckily, UNIGLOBE Travel works to defeat that thinking, providing more value for the travel dollar and improving the entire travel process and experience.

Joel Kopstick, Regional Vice-President of UNIGLOBE Travel (Eastern Canada), and Mark Crone, President of UNIGLOBE Normark Travel Inc. and a UNIGLOBE agency owner, spoke with The Canadian Business Journal this month about the importance of business travel management.

Traditional roots

UNIGLOBE Travel has been in operation for 30 years and is truly a Canadian success story. With global headquarters in Vancouver, UNIGLOBE Travel has expanded to 60 countries worldwide with nearly 800 locations. Specializing in business travel management, UNIGLOBE Travel assists organizations in managing the diverse expense of business travel.

Years ago, many predicted travel agencies would become obsolete, particularly because of the growing online presence and accessibility of travel booking over the web. But according to Kopstick, this trend simply hasn’t occurred.

“In fact, that has not been the case at all,” explained Kopstick, acknowledging UNIGLOBE Travel’s year-over-year growth. “In the last few years, there has been a resurgence to traditional travel management. In 2011, travel management companies grew at a faster rate than online travel companies.”

Quite simply, UNIGLOBE Travel has knowledge of the industry that is not available online.

“Unfortunately when you work online, the computer is only smart enough to know what you ask it. When you have an agent who has many years of experience helping business travellers get around the world, they ask questions that lead to lower fares and they look at many alternatives that the consumer never asks for — alternate dates, times, airlines, airports — plus many fares are not displayed online that we have access to,” Kopstick continued.

UNIGLOBE does have corporate self-booking systems for those who prefer that reservation option. The competitive difference of UNIGLOBE Travel is that its online product is managed. A unique company booking site is created with company specific travel information (travel policy, individual travel preferences, etc.) to control and manage travel, all supported by UNIGLOBE personnel and its 24-hour agency assistance.

UNIGLOBE Travel believes that it offers the best of both worlds — a combination of its unique corporate online booking tool and experienced agent service. Its great value-add only furthers the UNIGLOBE Travel product.

“Our intent is to help with the entire travel portfolio of a company,” Crone said. “We try to add value wherever we can to the whole travel process, like helping clients plan meetings and incentives.”

Customer service

Across all of its operations, UNIGLOBE Travel uses personalized customer service to its advantage. Unique from the industry norm of a “call centre experience,” UNIGLOBE accounts are provided a dedicated senior Travel Consultant who truly understands client company culture and incorporate this into their offering.

Ease of service is a big part of the success of UNIGLOBE Travel. Booking through UNIGLOBE Travel is a seamless process. The company has also furthered its level of customer service by incorporating technology to aid travel. One example is the development of its check-in notification value-add service, as this enables clients to get the first choice of seats.

“I think about how UNIGLOBE has evolved over time and how it has changed with the times. 15 years ago, there was no such thing as online booking systems.

We jumped into it with both feet and figured out how to incorporate that into our businesses, same with flight notification, check-in emails, and quality control,” Crone summarized. “Moving forward, we’re evaluating new services and new technologies and seeing how we might benefit from them and ultimately how our customers would benefit as well.”

Kopstick added, “Since the industry moved to electronic tickets, a big issue these days is keeping track of unused or partially unused airline tickets. We manage unused credits on behalf of our clients ensuring they are utilized and no money goes wasted.”

Perhaps best described as “taking away the surprises” of air travel, UNIGLOBE Travel consults with business travellers, as well as leisure travellers, to best understand the their priorities and how the company can work to make life easier for them.

Air travel is always changing and, looking toward the future, UNIGLOBE Travel is highly committed to continue changing and evolving with it. The plan is for further growth in Canada, in addition to expanding to more and more countries. Interestingly enough, UNIGLOBE Travel even grew through the recent economic downturn, and was able to use this period to its advantage.

Kopstick explained, “With companies looking to reduce costs, we were very aggressive in seeking new corporate clients. We have a range of ideas to help companies reduce costs and gain greater control.”

Crone concluded, “During the recession, there is no question that companies reduced their travel. The levels we’re at now are better than pre-recession levels. Business travel has come back quite strong in the past year. People realize that you can’t do business by telephone and email to service clients properly, or to get new clients you need to be face-to-face.

“Air travel is tough enough and no question it is a hassle for the person doing it. It is an upset to your normal life, but at least if travel is taken care of easily up front, you’ve got a little stress out of the process.”