This is particularly true of business travel. Standard business expense items can vary in cost by as much as 200 per cent, according to a survey involving 10 cities in western Europe by Visa International, the credit and debit card company.
For example, the cost of hiring a mid- range car can range from pounds 50 a day in Amsterdam to more than pounds 130 in nearby Brussels. Even more dramatically, the cost of a day's secretarial help at a hotel business centre can vary from just over pounds 40 in Milan to nearly pounds 250 in Geneva.
London - despite its published single room rates at a four-star hotel being the highest in the region at pounds 223 - does have some bargains on offer: daily car hire costs pounds 56.50 and a day's secretarial service came to just pounds 77.
The result is a tough obstacle to any company seeking to rationalise its travel and entertainment (T&E) costs, says John Chaplin, Visa's vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Pointing out that these expenses tend to be a company's largest controllable overhead, after personnel and data processing, he said this level of disparity made the task of formulating a coherent travel policy 'all the harder'.
'If a company pays pounds 120 for a hotel room in Dublin and is then charged pounds 220 for a similar room in Brussels, forward budgeting and cost control can become a nightmare.'
One solution he suggests - not surprisingly - is to use a Visa business card programme that allows a company to forecast realistic budgets, negotiate bulk discounts with suppliers and monitor the spending patterns of particular employees or departments.Reuse content