Support for SMEs includes creating access to programs with unique benefits to grow their global network, share ideas, and expand their reach via business travel and small meetings.
However, planning and booking travel can require resources that are not as readily available for SMEs as they are for major corporations. While larger companies tend to have dedicated personnel and tools for travel booking, SMEs may find it challenging to cope with the added logistical challenges of booking travel in a time of heightened health measures.
Among business travelers, SMEs are recovering faster from the pandemic-induced travel dip. Even though the sector is not immune to the uncertainty around new Covid variants, the ability to rapidly modify travel policies and embrace smaller meeting sizes means that SME business travel has been more resilient than other business travel sectors.
Nevertheless, even SMEs face new logistical hurdles. More than ever, travel management presents a particular set of challenges. Using an online travel booking platform dedicated to SMEs, in conjunction with a loyalty program can help streamline travel management while accessing valuable discounts and other benefits across all regions and properties.
The link between SMEs, small meetings and business travel
Since 2017, industry trends indicated that the size of meetings and events would decrease to simpler, smaller meeting sizes. IHG is staying ahead of that trend by creating seamless platforms and tools for small meetings and events perfectly designed for SMEs. The current climate suggests that the pandemic has only doubled down this trend, with small groups and meetings being one of the fastest-growing sub-sectors within the events industry, and often SMEs will fall into this category.
With the need for SME organizations to gather with their teams and clients through meaningful face-to-face interactions — particularly when remote work is becoming more common — streamlined meeting booking platforms that cover all the essentials of sleeping rooms, meeting space, catering, and audiovisual are needed now more than ever to help facilitate and simplify the administrative process for SMEs.
IHG Instant Book caters to small-to-medium-sized groups that require rooms only, or rooms plus event space, and includes seamless capabilities to order food and beverage, audiovisual equipment (in-person and hybrid), and other small meeting needs in a streamlined instant book web experience. This program is a useful travel tool for groups of up to 50 attendees or for booking up to 50 guest rooms on peak.
The travel needs of SMEs
The main objectives of business travel for SMEs are to grow their network and enhance their company activity. But the travel arrangements needed to achieve SMEs’ goals of meeting face-to-face and growing their business often come at a higher price when compared to their larger counterparts.
When it comes to business travel, large corporations tend to have more structured travel programs available to them. Unfortunately, these programs are usually unavailable for SMEs.
IHG Hotels & Resorts Business Edge program found that small and midsize enterprises find most travel programs too narrow and focused solely on discounts. These businesses want to tap into a community of similar organizations, interact with the provider on their terms while benefiting from a simple administrative process, and enter into a business travel program with perks designed for SMEs.
For these reasons, SMEs can benefit from access to a travel program with relevant tools, providing a discount at nearly 6,000 hotels globally.
What is a centralized travel program, and how does it work?
A centralized travel program is a tool that allows all authorized employees to book their business travel themselves. The booking portal may take many shapes, but in all cases, the booking is centralized.
While larger companies are likely to have dedicated travel managers, this is not usually the case with SMEs. Using a centralized travel program allows for a simple and effective travel management process while creating further opportunities for special rates based on overall travel-related spending — a relevant benefit for SMEs looking to cut costs.
With a program like IHG Business Edge, the SME admin can book via the portal, and travelers can book via ihg.com or the IHG app to receive the guaranteed discount for business or personal use, and loyalty program benefits. SMEs have access to reports that provide a view of overall stay activity, spend, and savings with IHG.
The benefits of using an online SME travel program
SMEs are constantly looking for new ways to grow their business by streamlining processes, expanding their network, and saving resources like time and money — and this includes the management of internal business travel. An online travel platform can offer essential benefits for a variety of SME travel needs. These range from wanting to extend a business meeting for an incentive travel trip, looking for better loyalty rewards, or having specific travel preferences that their corporate travel policy does not satisfy, to organizing small meetings — vital connections that aid in the growth of SMEs.
By signing up for an SME-focused travel program like IHG Business Edge and using the online portal, SMEs can benefit from savings, curated SME community content, and travel and revenue tracking.
Registered travelers also receive Gold Elite status with IHG Rewards and flexible booking options. SMEs can upgrade their membership status after their first IHG Business Edge stay and gain access to free wifi, special offers, and hotels when they want — with no blackout dates on free nights, among other elite benefits.
Another benefit of using a one-stop-shop business travel program like IHG Business Edge is to help SMEs grow their global connections via a peer-to-peer network to engage in discussions and learn from other SMEs about topics relevant to their business.
Top travel planning tips for SME event professionals
SME business travel programs like the IHG Business Edge program will allow you to streamline the administrative process of booking a place to stay at your destination. However, other elements also contribute to the planning and execution of successful business trips.
Follow the practical top tips below to make travel a breeze:
Passport: Your passport is one of your most important travel documents; be sure to keep it in a safe and easily accessible place before and during your travels.
Hotel info: Keeping your hotel information on hand makes life easier upon arrival at your destination. With the IHG app, travelers can access their hotel information at their fingertips. IHG accommodates a host of other small meeting needs in a streamlined instant book web experience — from their mobile phone whenever, wherever.
Vaccination/Covid documentation: Vaccination status for travel varies from country to country. Be sure to keep all necessary documentation in a safe place or on a mobile app when traveling.
Clothes: The clothes you pack will depend on your business travel needs. Choose items that have multiple uses and don’t crease. Investing in a good suitcase to pack your belongings will also help keep everything safe.
Essentials: Take only toiletries that you need and remember to restock any items that may run out along with any daily medication. Also, pack hand sanitizer and spare masks depending on your destination’s Covid regulations.
Hotel amenities: for items you forgot, or other needs along your travels, many of IHG Hotels & Resorts properties have markets where you can purchase snacks, sundries and other items, many with 24/7 access, truly at your convenience.
Flight info and travel itinerary: Check all your flight info before leaving for the airport. This pre-travel prep includes your flight number, luggage check-in, and boarding time.
Comfy travel clothes and snacks: Traveling in restrictive or tight clothing will not equate to a pleasant business travel experience — be sure to wear comfortable clothing and flat shoes, and take appropriate travel snacks you can eat while waiting to board or in-between connecting flights.
Time zones and weather: Check the time zone, season, and weather of your destination to pack accordingly. Communicating time zones with colleagues will also help should they need to contact you while away.
Meeting prep: Be sure to have all your meeting documents and presentations ready before you leave. Include back-ups on spare USB devices and any other items you may need. And if you’ve not yet booked your meeting space, source easily with IHG Hotels & Resorts by visiting meetings.ihg.com at nearly 6,000 hotels, or book instantly at select hotels in the U.S.
Currency: Research the currency used at your destination and plan accordingly — this could mean phoning your bank to allow for withdrawals to be made internationally and keeping some cash on hand in the destination’s currency.
As business travel returns, an increased focus has been given to SMEs — who are currently the most agile market segment within the sector. Programs designed specifically for SMEs carry the most benefits and can help simplify administrative processes, control costs, and develop global networks.