Managed and DIY vs Unmanaged Business Travel

We all like a bit of spontaneity every now and then - but business travel is not the area to be following a whim. As one of the top three spend areas for many organisations, corporate travel is one facet of your business that needs structure and support just as much as any other. But how? With a travel programme that’s supported by a travel management company (TMC).
You might feel like your company doesn’t travel enough to warrant a TMC. Or maybe you think your staff is managing business travel bookings well enough on their own and you’re getting a good deal out of it. Think again. Managing business travel with a comprehensive travel policy and solid structure is critical for traveller safety, employee wellbeing, and your bottom line. So, how does unmanaged travel compare to a managed travel programme? Let’s dive in.

What is unmanaged travel?

Unmanaged travel is where an organisation handles its own business travel arrangements. In some cases, travel tasks and responsibilities may be delegated to a travel arranger or assistant. In others, businesses leave employees to book for themselves directly on ''.

For some businesses, it’s a highly attractive option. But things aren’t always as they seem. Let’s take a look at what lies beyond this untamed frontier of travel logistics.

What are the benefits of unmanaged business travel?

  • Employee freedom and flexibility - Team members may enjoy more control over their travel arrangements, which could give them a sense of autonomy and independence. But with great power comes…well, human error. (Cue red flags waving from both HR and your finance department.)
  • Perceived easier, preferred method - Note the emphasis on ‘perceived’. Unmanaged employee travel may seem easier due to direct booking, but it can come with complexities and potential pitfalls.
  • Direct travel supplier access - Cut out the middleman and dive straight into the source. Sounds great until you realise you’re also cutting out deals and discounts often come hand-in-hand with a TMC.
  • Potential savings costs - By bypassing the TMC, you might think you're saving big bucks, but you’re forgoing group rates that could pad your travel spend wallet. And let’s not forget that human errors come with a price tag.

Here's a quick side-by-side look to see what you're missing

What is a managed travel programme?

Managed travel, on the other hand, refers to any business travel that is supported by the services and expertise of a TMC. Travel bookings are either made with a dedicated travel manager or via the travel company’s online booking tool (OBT), all of which are consolidated into a single, easy-to-digest report.

But that’s not all to be gained through a managed travel programme. Let’s take a look at some other benefits of managed business travel:

1. Save on time, money, and stress

TMCs aren't just about fancy bookings. They wield the power of experienced expertise and industry know-how. What does that mean for you? Quick, cost-effective options for flights, accommodation, transport, and more. Plus, when you leave the heavy lifting to the professionals, you’re taking the weight of corporate travel management off your own teams’ shoulders. That means less headaches over business trips, and more time to get back to the work that matters.

2. One corporate travel platform. For everything

You don’t need an unmanaged model to give your travellers a sense of independence. When your travel programme is managed, you empower your staff with consistent, constant access to a one-stop shop for all their needs. That means they can book, receive updates, and even chat with a live travel expert all from one travel platform.

3. Safety first

In a world where safety is king, managed travel is the fortress. Instant access to vital traveller info, a beacon in emergencies, and global support 24/7? Check. Integrated travel apps serving up real-time alerts for delays and disruptions, offering live chat for different communication options? Double check.

The great divide: Unmanaged vs. managed business travel

Need a recap? No worries – let’s take a closer look at some key differences between unmanaged and managed travel.


Unmanaged Travel

Managed Travel

Travel policy

Typically no formal travel policy.

A travel policy that advises travellers of the how, what, where, who and why of travel.

Travel bookings

Bookings are being made ad-hoc over the internet or direct with suppliers by the travellers themselves or by someone internally who looks after travel for the company.

As a TMC customer you can book through your dedicated travel manager or through an OBT. Your TMC can handle all travel requests from VIP itineraries to groups, last minute bookings and cancellations – 24/7/365 days.

Trip approval process

Usually, no approval process exists. And without an approval process, a company risks paying more for travel due to out of policy bookings. This also means you don’t always know where your people are.


An automated trip approval process can be integrated into your OBT whereby a manager can approve the trip, before the booking is made. For bookings made with agent, the travel managers are also across your policy and can flag when something is out of policy.

Preferred suppliers


Travellers fly with whoever they want, stay in whatever hotel they like and rent cars ad hoc. Rarely use or monitor the use of preferred travel suppliers. 

Policies in place that advise travellers to book with preferred air, hotel and car hire suppliers. Your TMC will help you to tap into specially negotiated corporate fares and rates.

Travel tech

Missing out on the added benefits of technology that supports everything from booking and management to expense reporting and traveller tracking.

These days TMC have tools and tech that is specially designed for an SME. Think one simple platform that houses tools for booking, reporting, traveller tracking and alerts as well as an integrated travel app that can be used on any device.

Duty of Care and traveller safety

No visibility of where and how your people have booked travel, which can be problematic if an emergency arises. Difficult for businesses to manage information and alerts without the right technology in place. Equals? No emergency assist.

Instant access to vital traveller information, one point of contact in an emergency and 24/7/365 global support. Integrated travel mobile apps support travellers with real-time alerts for delays and disruptions and provide options for communication.

Managed matters

The choice between unmanaged and managed business travel isn't merely a matter of convenience; it's about securing employee wellbeing, optimising cost savings, and ensuring operational efficiency.

Step out of the chaos of unmanaged travel and dive into the precision of a managed travel programme. The journey to efficiency, safety, and savings starts here.

In today’s constantly changing travel environment, a managed programme makes sense - in every way. Talk to us today.