The importance of ensuring a smooth travel experience for conference attendees should never be underestimated. When it comes to catering for faculty members (conference committee members, the president, speakers as well as other VIP attendees), this task takes on an entirely new dimension. In this article, we examine three reasons why it pays off for an association to use a specialised conference travel agency to accommodate the needs of VIP executives.
1. It makes financial sense to use a professional conference travel agency
Whether your association organises an annual conference or more frequent events, meeting planning involves making substantial investments. Costs have been on the rise for a while across the whole meetings and events industry, and cutting corners is not an option. Hiring a specialised travel agent to do the job may seem counter-intuitive, but can, in fact, help cut costs and make the event more profitable. Some of the cost-effective services an agent can provide include:
- Help you start on the right foot and simplify the budgeting process by creating a global budget for travel expenses. Moreover, an expert travel agency will be able to offer a real-time overview of overall travel costs so you can keep track of expenses easily.
- An experienced conference travel agency will have an extensive network of contacts that result in exclusive contract conditions and heavily discounted rates with airlines, accommodation providers and other big-ticket items.
- Since virtually every airline has its own reward or frequent flyer programme, it can be very time-consuming for organisers to compare them individually. A travel agent can help select and manage corporate loyalty programmes that offer the most significant savings.
- Make the most of early bird rates to minimise overall travel expenses.
- By taking charge of bookings, the travel agency sticks to an allocated budget and avoids situations where delegates are allowed to make their individual bookings. This often leads to delegates booking the highest possible fares to earn more miles or other rewards. Since the agent has nothing to win from this situation, the focus for the agent is always on efficiently managing the client’s financial resources
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2. A specialised conference travel agency helps streamline operations
A dedicated conference travel agency integrated into a professional conference organiser with inside knowledge of the events and travel industry can handle logistics efficiently without putting pressure on your human or organisational resources. This is handy when it comes to managing short lead times, one of the most common challenges for annual conference organisers. Some ways in which this can help streamline operations include:
- Accommodation and flights can be booked as soon as the agent knows the event dates. This eliminates the need for staff to deal with changes and last-minute errors.
- The agent can send the organiser a clear overview of travel-related expenses on a monthly basis, outlining both total charges in single or multiple currencies as well as itemised costs per faculty member. Again, this saves time and resources, since there is no need for staff members to keep a tally of such details.
- The agent has on-the-ground knowledge of the destination. This means they can plan for unexpected contingencies such as strikes, extreme weather, traffic and other disturbances, keeping communication and customer service a top priority.
- Contracts with suppliers can be prepared and handled on behalf of the organisers to save time. Staff without experience in this field of event planning can overlook fundamental details, but this is not a concern if an agency takes care of it.
- Substantial time and human resources savings for admin and accounting staff who would typically deal with reimbursing individual faculty members.
Related: The PCO as a Consultant
3. The PCO integrated travel agency offers superior comfort and convenience to delegates
A specialised agent knows when to go the extra mile, addressing common issues raised by VIP conference attendees before they even appear. In turn, well-managed events make it easier to attract influencers in future editions. Some of the services that can be offered to achieve this include:
- Arranging and overseeing private transfers from the airport/train station to the hotel or event venue and vice versa. A flawless first impression counts towards the overall experience!
- An on-site office or support desk during the conference, which offers executives a single point of contact from the second they arrive until the moment they leave.
- Room for personalisation regarding travel extras. For example, the organiser may not cover the cost of higher cabin class or hotel room upgrade, but if a delegate chooses to go for it, the travel agent can arrange direct debit collection.
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Hiring a dedicated conference travel agency integrated into a professional conference organiser to manage travel arrangements pays off in many ways. PCOs take a professional approach to meeting planning and can take care of specific aspects of the event while helping the organiser make more efficient use of financial and operational resources. The result is a superior experience that goes above and beyond the expectations of VIP delegates and executives.
Congrex Switzerland is an internationally operating agency delivering customised solutions. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings including the management of hotel rooms and the strategic consultancy. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 33 events with over 73’000 delegates. Amongst our clients are international associations, governmental organisations and corporations.
If you wish to receive additional information about Congrex Switzerland, please feel free to contact us.