Seeking a Modern Solution: Fresh Tracks Canada Explores New Ways to Manage Spend
The travel agency turned to Float to drive efficiencies while empowering teams to spend across the company.
January 26, 2024
There was a point when it seemed the pandemic would break Fresh Tracks Canada, a Vancouver-based travel-agency — a fate faced by many businesses and industries in those tough times. As it happened, navigating the challenges helped the company thrive.
That is because, despite a more than twenty-year track record of delivering stellar personalized travel experiences across Canada, many of the company’s processes and systems had fallen out of date. Then the pandemic hit, and the company was forced to lay off more than half of its staff.
“The pandemic was chaos, but chaos brings opportunity,” says the company’s Director of Finance, Robert O’Herlihy. “We broke down a lot of our systems and processes and rebuilt them up during the pandemic to be more efficient, and we’re seeing the rewards of that right now.”
Bringing A Travel Agency into the Digital Age
O’Herlihy says that the company emerged from the pandemic under new management with a mandate to operationalize new technology projects to drive productivity. For the accounting team, the area most ripe for improvement was payments.
O’Herlihy explains that in the hospitality industry just about everything runs on credit cards, from hotel and tour bookings to employee expenses and even overhead costs. Overall, he estimates about half of the company’s transactions go through credit cards, which often racked up six-figure statements, with thousands of transactions requiring manual reconciliation.
To make matters more complicated, Fresh Tracks Canada used one provider for its physical cards and another for virtual cards, of which they required many.
“The process we used was to assign a new virtual card to every booking,” O’Herlihy says. “Customer service would apply for a card, which had to be approved by finance — so inevitably there was a time lag before someone sees and approves it — then it goes back to customer service so they could book the hotels and tours and other components.”
Not only was the process itself inefficient for customer service staff, but it was also a nightmare for the accounting team, who had to chase staff for receipts and spend hours comparing them against bookings. As the company emerged from the pandemic with a mandate to find modern solutions, O’Herlihy says Float seemed like the most obvious fit.
“It seemed to have a lot more features than other options on the market,” he says. “Some of them had receipt matching but didn’t allow us to add a description [to each transaction], or they might not integrate with our accounting system — Float just seemed like the full package of features we wanted.”
One Platform, Many Solutions
Fresh Tracks Canada began using Float in August of 2022, following what O’Herlihy describes as a seamless onboarding process.
“The integrations with our online banking and to our accounting software Xero were very easy, there was no custom API needed, it was plug and play essentially,” he says. “The system itself is also pretty intuitive, there wasn’t a lot of training that we had to give to the teams.”
O’Herlihy adds that reception at Fresh Tracks Canada was “overwhelmingly positive” because Float provided a degree of autonomy and efficiency that had been lacking previously.
“They don’t have to seek approvals, we don’t have to chase them for receipts; it’s all kind of self-managed,” he says. “When someone’s name is on a card, they’re more likely to manage it correctly, but we can set approvals in Float as well.”
Within the accounting team O’Herlihy says life has gotten a lot easier now that all the company’s cards are managed in one system, including their U.S. dollar transactions, of which the travel company processes many. In fact, O’Herlihy says the company is saving thousands on American transaction fees alone, but cash savings wasn’t even the biggest benefit of the transition.
“Time savings is the biggest one, like operational efficiencies, because we’re enabling our Legendary Hospitality team to take ownership and accountability of their own spending,” he says. “Getting the Float system in place was a big win for us, especially because it integrates with our accounting software, so there’s no manual entry into our accounting system — it’s all uploaded automatically.”
How Float Improves Supplier Relations
In fact, O’Herlihy says that the change has even had a positive impact on the company’s relationship with its suppliers, as Fresh Tracks Canada can now issue virtual cards with spending limits to tour operators directly.
“We give them a dedicated virtual supplier card, so ‘here’s a Visa, it’s got a limit of $5,000 or whatever it might, whenever you serve our clients feel free to charge that,’” he explains. “That builds trust with them and good relationships with them, and they know they won’t have any problems dealing with us.”
While the pandemic nearly ended the now 26-year-old business, O’Herlihy says it ultimately made it stronger. These days Fresh Tracks Canada is back to its pre-pandemic headcount, even hiring back many of the staff it previously let go, and is now on track to surpass pre-pandemic revenues.
“We’re striving to play our part in facilitating more efficient operations across the board, not just in the finance department, which is where the idea of using Float was born,” he says. “We kind of became a little stagnant before the pandemic, and in hindsight tearing down the system and rebuilding it was the best thing for the company.”
About Fresh Tracks Canada
Vancouver-based Fresh Tracks Canada has been creating personalized Canadian vacations since 1996. Their team has explored the country — because they love to travel too — and have used this insider knowledge to create more than 25,000 personalized trip itineraries.
Find Fresh Tracks Canada at www.freshtrackscanada.com. You can also book tours and vacations operated by the Fresh Tracks Canada team at www.canadiantrainvacations.com and www.northernlightscanada.com.
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