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Talking Tech: What travel managers should be asking TMCs?

September 19, 2019 Tech No Comments Email Email

The Australian corporate travel services industry is expected to rise by 3.6 per cent annually over the five years through 2018-19, to $1.4 billion. This means a huge amount of business travellers getting on planes, checking into hotels and whizzing around in rental cars – more than ever before.

This increased mobility may be good for business, but it also presents a challenge for travel managers: how do you keep everyone happy, healthy and safe whilst managing costs and still have time left for other tasks?

Luckily, we’re at an interesting time in our industry where emerging technologies are helping us work smarter and gain greater levels of insight about travel than ever before. These insights are helping companies streamline planning processes and save millions of dollars. Travel management companies (TMCs) regularly talk to their customers about how they can help them get the most out of the technologies available to them.

There are now three important questions travel managers should be asking their TMCs:

1 How can I identify the new technologies that I need to deliver value for my business and ensure that I don’t just buy into hype?

2 I’m sitting on a lot of data – how do I analyse it and use it to make better decisions?

3 How do I provide my travellers with a great experience within our corporate travel policy?

Here’s some help with how to go about answering these questions:

The right technology for the job

The graveyard of technology is full of products that have failed spectacularly. Many of them were built around a sound principle; they simply lacked the right application.

For example, blockchain may have the potential to speed up processing times for invoicing, payments and contract negotiations, but its use among closed supplier groups is unlikely to benefit many travel managers – yet.

Blockchain is leading the charge in this respect. IBM, BCD Travel and Travelport have recently been joining forces in developing a blockchain solution that aims to optimise the hotel commission reconciliation process.

TMCs can and should be providing advice about these topics to travel managers – keeping up to date on current trends as the speed of disruption continues to reduce product lifecycles becomes increasingly important for both parties. 

Personalising through AI

Advances in AI are helping travel managers deliver more relevant, personalised insights in real-time and on user-friendly dashboards. Yet many businesses are only just starting to realise and explore its full potential.

This is the rationale behind IBM Travel Manager – co-launched by IBM and Travelport – which makes use of the massive volume of shopping and booking data contained in our systems. This data is used to create real-time predictive analytics and make recommendations about how adjustments in travel booking behaviour patterns can positively impact a company’s travel budget.

Other decisions made easier by an AI-powered platform include the ability to build a complete picture of where non-compliant spend is happening and take steps to reduce it.

The content-driven traveller

The goal of technology is to help travel managers unlock hidden opportunities to better track, manage, predict and analyse travel costs; and enhance the overall experience for travellers.

With the growth of ‘bleisure’ and more travellers combining business and leisure in single trips with already complex itineraries, the challenges travel managers now face in building tailored itineraries is growing.

Although employees are not responsible for costs, a recent Travelport traveller study found that Australian business travellers booked more via their computers online (48%) than they did using a corporate booking tool (45%). Additionally, 39% of Australian business travellers saw time spent trying to find a best price as a pain point when booking their trip.

Business travellers adhering to travel policy compliance protocols is an increasing concern. Further research found that 38% of respondents considered staying within corporate travel policy as another pain point when booking travel – a reflection of bleisure travellers’ eagerness to book elsewhere.

Ensuring travellers adhere to the approved systems and policies of their companies is guided by the content TMCs provide them. It is therefore important that the TMC’s GDS partner has positive relationships and negotiated rates across a broad range of hotels in whatever city or region the individual is travelling to.

Technology has become the driver of improved content. It is this content that determines the unique personalisation of any traveller’s itinerary. Travel managers should ensure they are asking the right questions to get the right answers and transform their employee travel experience.

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