When Is a TMC not a TMC?

Posted by Liz · Mar 09 · in Vancouver, British Columbia · about Business

TMC stands for “Travel Management Company.” These are agencies that specialize in managing the corporate travel and logistics for companies. While some TMCs are large multi-nationals (eg. Carlson Wagonlit), others are moderate-sized single office travel agencies like ours.

Large or small, what they have in common is a commitment to price transparency and to outstanding service levels. A TMC will police corporate travel policy, negotiate special rates at hotels and car rental firms, manage a meeting or conference, and – most importantly – save your travelers and travel-planners an enormous amount time by efficiently managing all aspects of a business trip and take away the worry of being responsible for mistakes or misjudgments.

Unfortunately, after decades of building trust, predators (in the form of very well known travel company brands)  have arrived to exploit the reputation of true TMCs.  These are retailers who go after corporate travel business without the integrity, transparency, or high standards of a genuine travel management company. What they offer instead of trust and quality are low (or even zero) fees. And some of the less savvy companies out there have learned the hard way the old truth that you “get what you pay for!” Mistakes, low levels of service, and inflated prices are the result.

If you’ve been approached by a slick sales person from what appears to be a legitimate Travel Management Company, here’s a check-list of things to watch out for: 

1. Do they promise low fees or no fees? It costs between CA$40 and CA$55 for any agency to process a business trip. If you’ve been quoted less than this for a fee, something beneath the surface is going on.

2. Are they bribing your travel-planners with kick-backs or a “rewards program”?  If so, you’re paying for it; you just don’t know it.

3. Are they promising no change fees?  Airline ticket changes are costly and tricky. This is also the place where bogus TMCs can most easily hide their hidden mark-ups. Airline change costs are next to impossible to audit – all the more reason to deal with a trustworthy travel agency.

4. Is their sales person perhaps a bit too slick and have an impressive expense allowance? You’ll be paying for it!

5. Do they fail to include the legal, IATA e-ticket receipt when you order your ticket? A sure sign things are going on behind the scenes, at your expense.

6. Who processes your credit card – airline or agency?  If it’s the agency, there’s only one reason for it: hidden mark-ups! 

The bottom line as a corporate travel buyer is that if you do not understand how your TMC is making their money, you are most likely being taken advantage of.

I would like to give credit for the idea for this article and the checklist to an industry colleague as this is a common discussion point within the community of independent TMCs like ours.

If you want help with your corporate travel arrangements please do not hesitate to get in touch!

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