Business travel suppliers have for years designed products and services to target small and midsized businesses, often focused on implementation simplicity and ease of use to assist those organizations that might not have a fully managed travel operation.
Right now, the need to combat rising costs is paramount too. Without sufficient travel volumes or spend to meet suppliers at the negotiating table, SMEs can at least enjoy small discounts and soft perks provided by dedicated loyalty programmes. And though they are by no means a new concept, their number and diversity are growing.
SME programmes come in many different shapes and sizes, from loyalty schemes that reward flights or hotel stays with points to spend later to those that offer up-front discounts and added perks. Many also recognise different volumes of client travel through the use of tier systems whereby discounts increase in line with spend.
Perhaps the biggest selling point for SMEs that have trouble committing to a certain number of flights or room nights is the fact that many of these schemes have at least an introductory tier that requires no minimum spend but still offers invaluable savings while allowing them to progress through the ranks the more they use the service.
Several suppliers have furthered their efforts in recent years while TMCs are upping their game too, with perhaps most notably a joint effort from the Lufthansa Group and TripActions. In May this year, the companies launched a co-branded travel booking and management platform for SMEs.
BusinessToGo provides direct access to flight content from the Lufthansa Group and its joint venture partners as well as hotel, train and car rental content from TripActions. The content includes “attractive” NDC offers from Lufthansa and TripActions’ negotiated hotel rates. The platform also provides reporting on duty of care and carbon emissions, management data and centralised billing.
First launched in Lufthansa’s home markets of Austria, Germany and Switzerland, as well as Belgium, additional markets will be added “successively” as well as additional features including upgrades, corporate products and additional languages, according to the companies.
Elsewhere, Australia-based travel management company Corporate Travel Management acquired 1000 Miles Travel Group in July, a travel agency that focuses on SMEs via an independent-consultant set-up. 1000 Miles predominately does business in Australia and the UK, according to CTM, through a “network of independent travel experts specialising in SME business travel services.”
“1000 Mile Travel Group is a highly successful business that has crafted a unique value proposition for those agents wanting to not only manage their own SME portfolio from home, but also grow that portfolio and provide services demanded by corporate clients,” according to CTM founder and managing director Jamie Pherous. The acquisition was valued at about US$1.38 million.
Last September, meanwhile, Corporate Traveller launched Melon, a proprietary booking, travel management and mobile platform geared toward SMEs. That platform offers traveller-facing functions including a booking tool and trip management features, along with manager-targeted controls and duty of care and data analytics capabilities, all designed to be equally accessible via desktop and mobile, or a combination of those two channels.
Read on to discover some of the leading SME programmes offered by airlines, hotels and other travel providers.
Supplier: Air France-KLM/Delta/Virgin Atlantic
Programme name: Bluebiz
Benefits and terms: Free membership is open to companies of all sizes. For every ticket booked, clients earn credits at a rate of 3.5 per €100/£100 spent, which can be redeemed for free tickets, cabin upgrades, flight-related services, or carbon offsets. Members also have benefits such as free name changes, a guaranteed economy seat on full flights and 'book now, pay later'.
Supplier: British Airways
Programme name: On Business
Benefits and terms: This programme extends to American Airlines and Iberia and gives members the ability to choose between earning Avios points for both the company and passenger or taking a discount. Members move through tiers based on annual spend that determine their points-earning rate. It also provides a portal for managing and monitoring spend with the airline.
Supplier: Cathay Pacific
Programme name: Business Plus
Benefits and terms: Open to any company, this tier-based system rewards members with points for each flight completed. Points determine the member's tier status, with each level offering benefits such as discounts, priority baggage and bonus points. The programme works on a 12-month contract basis. Travel managers have access to a portal to view and manage bookings, benefits, points and tier status.
Programme name: Business Rewards
Benefits and terms: This scheme is open to organisations of any size with no minimum spend required. Members earn one point for every dollar spent with Emirates (not on codeshare, interline or other partner flights), and points can be spent on reward flights and upgrades. Individuals still earn Skywards Miles. Companies can appoint an administrator to book flights, manage travel for employees and keep track of the points balance.
Supplier: Etihad Airways
Programme name: BusinessConnect
Benefits and terms: Open to any business in a participating country, BusinessConnect is free to join. Members earn miles based on the distance flown and cabin class. Miles can be spent on flights with Etihad and more than 20 airline partners, cabin upgrades, or products from the Reward Shop.
Programme name: Finnair Corporate Programme
Benefits and terms: Finnair's scheme is open to companies of all sizes. Members are entitled to discounts on long-haul flights in the Flex fare category, including business, premium economy and economy (although special conditions apply to some flights to Japan and North America). Classic and Light fares and European routes are not discounted, but companies are guaranteed the 'best price of the day'.
Programme name: PartnerPlusBenefit
Benefits and terms: This free-to-join loyalty programme is open to companies of all sizes. When members book with Lufthansa or one of its partner airlines – including United – they earn BenefitPoints depending on booking class and destination. Points can be spent on rewards such as free flights, upgrades, ancillary products, discounts on future flights, lounge access, products from the WorldShop, or Sixt car rental vouchers.
Supplier: Qatar Airways
Programme name: Beyond Business
Benefits and terms: Beyond Business gives customers access to discounted fares. It has five tiers depending on spend, with the two highest including benefits such as Priviledge Club tier offers and priority baggage. Customers can earn one to three Qrewards for every dollar spent, dependent on their tier.
Programme name: SAS For Business
Benefits and terms: For businesses with a minimum spend of 500,000 Swedish Kronor (around €47,800), SAS offers instant discounts on flights to qualifying destinations within Europe, the US and Asia. Companies are placed into tiers depending on their spend, with each successive level offering greater discounts.
Supplier: Singapore Airlines
Programme name: HighFlyer
Benefits and terms: SIA merged its two corporate programmes in 2021. Customers can earn HighFlyer points on eligible Singapore Airlines and Scoot flights (and individual flyers will still earn KrisFlyer miles), with preferential fares available according to the membership tier (which depends on annual spend). Points can be spent on ancillary products, reward flights, or vouchers to spend with partner airlines.
Supplier: TAP Air Portugal
Programme name: TAP Corporate
Benefits and terms: This programme is free of charge and has no minimum spend requirement. Every flight with TAP earns 'balance', which can be used to pay for future flights, either in full or for part of the fare, as well as services and other TAP products. Balance is calculated by the value of the fare plus the airline surcharge.
Programme name: Business Offer/Business Plus/Ibis Business
Benefits and terms: This programme gives members discounts of up to nine per cent. Membership is free and there is no minimum spend. Alternatively, the Business Plus card entitles individual travellers to discounts and other benefits across Accor’s portfolio. Cards cost €170 per year per traveller, but companies ordering five or more can negotiate a tailored price. The Ibis Business card works in a similar way only at Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget properties and costs €90 per year per traveller.
Programme name: Hyatt Leverage
Benefits and terms: Hyatt's free-to-join programme is open to businesses of any size, provided they do not have a worldwide agreement in place (members can keep property-specific agreements). Members can receive up to 15 per cent off standard rates at participating hotels, as well as an administrator portal that includes traveller information, trips and room expenses. To maintain eligibility, companies must book at least 50 room nights over a 12-month period.
Programme name: IHG Business Edge
Benefits and terms: This free-to-join programme has no minimum spend. Members gain access to a personalised portal with spend and savings data as well as a booking tool. Registered travellers are upgraded to IHG One Rewards Silver Elite status after their first Business Edge stay, while companies have access to guaranteed discounts for both business and personal stays.
Supplier: Marriott International
Programme name: Marriott Bonvoy Business Ready
Benefits and terms: A business travel extension of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty scheme, this programme gives SMEs in the EMEA region access to exclusive discounted rates across all group brands except Bulgari and Design Hotels, including breakfast, mobile check-in, late check-out and upgraded wifi. New members also receive 2,500 bonus Bonvoy points for their first paid stay.
Supplier: Millennium Hotels & Resorts
Programme name: Millennium for Business
Benefits and terms: Members can gain access to negotiated rates and the group's Best Rate Promise at more than 130 hotels worldwide. My Millennium Pro members will also receive 4 My Points for every dollar spent, which can be redeemed for room upgrades, gifts and vouchers. The programme also includes guaranteed room upgrades and a booking platform.
Supplier: NH Hotel Group
Programme name: NH+
Benefits and terms: NH+ is designed for companies and self-employed people and gives them access to the NH Pro booking site. It offers up to 25 per cent off (or 5 per cent off promotional rates), with the discount percentage increasing with every booking made, as well as 10 per cent off in hotels’ restaurants and bars. Companies with negotiated rates can access them via the platform.
Supplier: Premier Inn
Programme name: Business Booker
Benefits and terms: Business Booker requires no minimum spend and has no contracts or fees attached. Members gain access to a guaranteed five per cent discount and the ability to save up to 15 per cent on Flex rate bookings at any Premier Inn property except London Leicester Square. Companies are also given the flexibility to cancel or amend their bookings up to 1pm on the day of arrival.
Supplier: Radisson Hotels
Programme name: Radisson Rewards for Business
Benefits and terms: Radisson's programme offers savings of up to 10 per cent at participating hotels, though individual travellers must also be a Radisson Rewards member. Companies earn 10 points for every dollar spent, which can be redeemed on Award Nights, airline miles and Priority Pass lounge access. Points can also be turned into donations for select charities.
Programme name: Travelodge Business
Benefits and terms: This scheme replaced Travelodge's former programme and has two levels – Business and Business PLUS, which is aimed at corporates spending more than £50,000 a year with the chain. It incorporates a booking portal featuring customers' preferred locations, detailed reporting and VAT invoices. Members receive a five per cent discount on flexible room rates, as well as account support and up to six weeks interest-free credit. The programme is free to join and members are not charged credit card or booking fees.
Supplier: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Programme name: Wyndham Easy Book
Benefits and terms: Easy Book is aimed at smaller businesses in EMEA and Eurasia. It offers members volume-based discounts of up to 15 per cent on the best available rate when booked direct. To be eligible, companies must not book through a travel agency or have a formal RFP process and must have more than 100 estimated annual room nights.
Programme name: Eurostar for Business
Benefits and terms: Launched in September 2020, this programme includes a booking platform that provides data on spend and gives members access to free upgrades after every 15 completed return trips, or a free Business Premier ticket for every 15 return trips completed in that class. Travellers can still earn Club Eurostar rewards.
Supplier: TripActions/Lufthansa Group
Programme name: BusinessToGo
Benefits and terms: This new booking portal is currently available in the DACH region and Belgium. There are two tiers: Essentials and Premium. Both packages allow access to Lufthansa Group airlines' fares, including NDC, as well as hotel, rail and car rental content from TripActions. Members of the PartnerPlusBenefit programme can continue to collect and redeem points through the platform. It also includes reporting and analytics capabilities for spend, compliance and carbon emissions. Premium customers pay a €22 fee per trip, which includes unlimited use of TripActions' offline servicing support and access to offers from other airlines.
Supplier: Ultimate Travel Club
Benefits and terms: This UK subscription-based service was launched to customers in 2021 and provides SMEs with "trade prices". Organisations pay £99 per employee per year (or a reduced fee if buying more than 10 memberships) and the company claims members can save up to 40 per cent on hotels compared to other channels. Employees can also use the platform to book leisure trips and are provided with discounts on restaurants, cinema tickets and days out in the UK.