• Julius Chang

How to Get Discounts on Business Travel

With more businesses going global, demand for corporate travel is increasing. According to GBTA, corporate travel industry will be worth USD 1.7 trillion by 2020. Travel managers need to prepare for the potential rise of business travel expenses as hotel and flight prices are expected to increase as well. (Read also: 7 tips to Survive as Travel Managers)

Still, it doesn’t exactly mean you have to irrationally cut down your employees’ per diems and sacrifice the quality of their travel to meet your company’s travel budget plan.

Instead, you can turn to corporate rates as your solution.

What is a corporate rate?

Corporate rates refer to special rates that are offered by airlines, hotels, and other travel providers to companies and their business travelers.

In exchange for the discounts, companies will refer to the partner travel vendors when sending their employees on business trips. It is a mutually beneficial relationship where travel providers gain regular and potentially loyal customers as well as business referrals while giving companies and business travelers a chance to minimize their travel costs.

Although many believe that corporate rates are usually limited to large corporations, but in reality, many travel providers will offer corporate rates in exchange for regular reservations.

How do You Request Corporate Rates?

When it comes to travel expenses, savings is the goal.

Corporate rates are usually unpublished rates that are not put out for public consumption, so how do you ask for them?

Airline Corporate Discounts

Negotiating corporate rates with airlines has become increasingly challenging as airlines love to consolidate, trim routes, and limit discounts to protect their “bottom lines”.

Here are some tips to ask for airline corporate rates:

  1. Set a realistic goal based on the scope of your trips. Do not agree to the airlines’ volume requirements unless you are certain you can meet them.

  2. Gather information related to your travelers’ travel patterns and needs. Determine which cities they visit the most and which airlines serve the needed routes.

  3. Identify your selling point. Perhaps your company has a high volume on a route that the airline has recently just added or is not traditionally busy. Or if you have lower travel volume, you can consider making an offer for the upgraded class tickets.

  4. Consider shifting the share of your travel volume to airlines within alliances, such as Star Alliance.

  5. Try to request different types of corporate discounts. You can request direct discounts on specific routes, special airfare classifications, or discounts on travel to a large event in a single city.

  6. If you’re an SME that started with small travel volume, aim for back-end rebates once you demonstrate a specific travel volume.

  7. Look for opportunities outside of fares, i.e. checked baggage fees, ticket upgrades, lounge access, frequent flyer miles, or VIP services, that can be used in personal trips.

Pro tip:

Talk to multiple airlines, including low-cost carriers, but beware of nondisclosure agreements!

Hotels Corporate Discounts

The best hotels always anticipate their guests’ return. They most likely keep a dossier of their regular guests’ profiles and preferences. Such business travel intimacy is rewarded to preferred customers who are privy to expedited check-ins and check-outs.

Here are some tips to ask for corporate rates in hotels you stay:

  1. Avoid using the word ‘corporate rates’. Asking for corporate rates in hotels doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a discounted price. Instead, state that you’d like a certain rate, number of rooms, the date, and that you will come to their hotels frequently.

  2. Call the hotel’s numbers directly. If that doesn’t work out, do your business on site with the General Manager.

  3. Consider negotiating contracts with independent, boutique, even new hotels. Large hotel chains generally require a large number of volumes to offer corporate discounts, while independents or boutiques will work with lesser number depending on the dates and stay frequencies.

  4. Find out what the hotels can offer other than direct discounts, i.e. extended stay rate, non-refundable rate, room upgrades, or travel reward points.

  5. Join AAA or other organizations that have negotiated corporate rates with hotels or hotel chains to get a better rate.

Pro tip:

Check for the last-minute rate! Hotels don’t want to waste nights with empty beds, so they will often offer lower rates to ensure they are getting something rather than nothing.

Rental Cars/Restaurants Corporate Discounts

Moving around a foreign city is challenging, especially when you’re on a business trip. If the meetings take place around your neighborhood, you might get by using personal vehicles and just reimburse the mileage, but if you’re flying to a different country or city, rental cars might be your go-to solution.

Asking for corporate rates from car rentals is a bit tricky. Here are some tips to get discounts:

  1. Avoid rental cars at the airports, if you can. Generally they impose extra surcharges due to higher demand. Find off-site rental car companies that offer cheaper prices and can be reached easily via public transportation.

  2. Try to ask corporate rates with rental companies that already offer discounts for special cases, i.e. students, corporations, government employees, or AAA members.

  3. Ask multiple rental companies and compare their offers in advance. Usually you can cancel car reservations at any time before you drive without a fee.

  4. Skip insurance. Negotiate options that include damage coverage and billing solutions for your transportation needs.

Pro tip:

Keep in mind the “rent it full, return it full” policy. Also, remember to keep the fuel receipt!

Likewise, negotiating corporate rates for restaurants in areas where your business travelers frequently visit or stay is one of the effective methods to optimize your travel budgets.

Here are some tips to help you out:

  1. Take advantage of hotel breakfast! When you negotiate corporate rates for hotels, try to include the amenities, i.e. free breakfast.

  2. Do research beforehand. Find out where your travelers mostly stay during their trips, what type of food they like to eat, the restaurant menus, and then reach out for local places that matched their preferences within the neighborhood.

  3. Look for restaurants that offer online coupons, specials, or discounts with specific credit cards. There are plenty of apps that can help you, i.e. Yelp, LivingSocial, or Groupon.

Pro tip:

Encourage your employees to have lunch instead of dinner for their splurge restaurant experience. Most restaurants charge less for lunch than dinner, even when the meal is identical.

Getting Discounts with Corporate Cards

Another alternative that can get you corporate discounts is by getting a corporate credit card. Used wisely, corporate credit cards can help corporate travelers simultaneously optimize their travel expenses and reap personal perks.

Other Considerations

Along with negotiating corporate rates with travel suppliers, you might also want to consider the following key points.

Travel policy

From booking flights, hotels, and accommodations for your corporate travelers, your company first needs to have an established travel policy implemented to manage all aspects of a corporate travel.

To find out how to write a travel policy, read here.

Group travel discounts

Traveling in packs usually comes with a massive stress, but it also has its own benefits. When it comes to large number of travel volume, airlines, hotels, and other travel providers usually offer special rates, which could be cheaper than corporate rates.

Read more about how to book for group travel here.

Skipping lines

Corporate travelers are always mobile. Skip the lines to save time by taking advantage of APEC cards.


From mobile taxi apps for easy commute, tracking expenses with expense software, to generate reports for easy expense claims, there are plenty of apps designed to make life easier for your road warriors, allowing them to maximize their time during the trips.

Corporate Travel Management

Corporate travel management such as Betravelo offers a complete travel solution for business travelers. From streamlining the booking process, travel policy compliance, to expense management, the software ensures that corporate travelers have the best travel experiences. (Learn more about business travel software here)

In conclusion

Corporate rate is one of the ways for companies to cut expenses, but it doesn’t always guarantee the best deal.

Utilize your resources to collect information and compare rates. Looking for special promotional rates or fares is also crucial to ensure you make the most out of your travel budget. Beyond that? Always plan ahead.