According to recently conducted studies, SMEs currently account for 90 per cent of registered companies in the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region. Another 2017 study (done by Mena Research Partners) states that in the GCC region alone (UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia), the SME market is forecast to grow to $920 billion by 2022.
Regardless of the growth percentage, the SME sector will play a significant part in absorbing a large number of youths entering the job market in the next few years. And this positive perspective is supported by the willingness of private and institutional investors to push funding into this market segment.
Looking at these numbers, some questions immediately pop up. Will SMEs manage to drive efficiency while their business travel management is concerned? Will they avoid TMCs altogether seeing them as too expensive? They will book their business trips themselves or maybe opt for one to the tech start-ups, which are targeting these business travellers directly?
Understanding the SMEs travel management approach
If I were to draft a quick profile of the regular SME I would see it as the company:
• Emphasizing more on bringing added value to the business;
• Being more cost driven than larger companies;
• Not having enough booking volume to justify a dedicated department;
• Sometimes having to manage a rapid growth, leading to a fast increase of travel spend that needs to be quickly managed.
While large corporations’ focus areas are on improving an existing travel policy or the risk management programme, optimising the supplier agreements, the SMEs are at the opposite end. They need help in understanding the travel patterns, ensure the compliance with the desired travel policies, gain travel spend visibility, increase cost savings and improve travellers’ satisfaction.
In this context, the SMEs, without the right travel expertise in their corner, might fall into the trap of handling their business travel by themselves or switching agencies because they feel like they don’t benefit from the appropriate price vs service quality ratio.
Consequently, travel management companies need to adapt and find solutions and implement tools to help SMEs travel managers face these challenges, while assuring their own business efficiency.
Having the right technology in place is the answer.
Technology is the right answer when trying to optimise costs overall and improve the traveller experience at the same time. Following the adoption of a corporate booking tool, an SME will benefit from both the cost control it craves and the intuitive and simple booking flow that business travellers love. And TMCs will reinforce the significant role played in their customers lives.
* The writer is regional general manager Mena at dcs plus. The dcs plus team can be met at ITB Berlin Hall 5.1/stand 127 as well as at ATM Dubai 2019, on stand TT1655