A snapshot of travel in the UK academic world, according to Key Travel’s 2013 booking data and latest survey figures, is that university staff travelled to over 155 countries from the UK and that future travel booking confidence is looking strong.
Moreover, online technology, which encompasses mobile platforms is a top factor predicted to influence travel procurement over the next three years.
So are universities getting the message that piece-meal booking across departments is not cost-effective and that smart travel booking these days is best achieved collectively through centralised travel purchasing, thereby reducing the overall cost ‘from purchase to pay’?
It appears so. For Key Travel, which has 70 university clients, the use of online tools for booking travel journeys has doubled in the past year and nearly half (46%) of all European flights are now booked online.
To reach this point, many universities become members of a purchasing consortium which saves them considerable time in choosing a supplier and allows them access to the latest technology and innovation. It also enables them to circumvent the otherwise mandatory competitive procurement process, saving additional cost and staff resource.
Paul Mander, Head of Operational Procurement at the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC), leads on one of the largest framework agreements in the sector and sees the importance of online tools for travel booking. More institutions are recognising the benefits of centralised travel purchasing and online booking technology. This not only provides cost savings: it makes it far easier to deliver other obligations such as risk management and duty of care. The SUPC travel agreement is available to all members of the Consortium and the issue of sustainability and emission reduction is regularly raised by members.
Key Travel’s reporting and tracking tools have proved immensely helpful in this respect.
Linda Wardle, Procurement Manager at Lancaster University, is a recent convert to centralised travel booking. She is one of only a few universities to have instigated a compulsory policy through which all staff are required to book travel centrally through Key Travel. Some were initially resistant; naturally so for many independent-minded academic staff who had procured their own travel for their departments for many years.
Linda managed change through a gradual process of persuasion – giving staff the positive benefits – such as no longer having to pay up front and wait for reimbursement, 24-hour emergency support; travel risk intelligence; automatic sending of email notifications; traveller tracking and alerts – all important factors in risk management and duty of care.
Through this centralised booking process using Key Travel, Linda can now identify and monitor competitive prices, early booking windows, classes and types of travel to operate at maximum efficiency while making cost savings in the university.
“Online booking technology plays an increasingly important role in helping universities to centralise their travel buying and monitor behaviour,” said Steve Acott.
“It is also important for us to focus on the booker’s experience, ensuring the process is simple and efficient and that they feel supported. By delivering competitive prices and content that cannot be found from other sources, we help universities centralise ‘maverick spend’ on contract while assisting with their duty of care obligations.”