As the emphasis on duty of care and expense management increases in this new normal, Gavin Smith, director of Element, encourages TMCs to invest in tech that helps to manage business policy and guidelines, and provide advice when business travel restarts fully
We are all being urged to get back to work, get the economy going again, start networking and meeting up. Even though Zoom has been a lifeline for many, the demand for face-to-face business meetings will return, and when it does you need to be ready.
Budgets are tight for every travel business and many are rethinking their technology spending plans in preparation for when people in business start travelling again. Others are being more cautious. They know they need to adopt new technologies but they‚Äôre holding back.
Agents are looking to improve the services they provide and for many this starts with the way they manage their business budgets. Businesses want to track staff expenses more efficiently. According to the Aberdeen Group which collects and analyses data on buyer behaviour, up to 70 per cent of companies want new ways to manage their travel-related corporate expenses.
In 2019, The New York Business Journal reported that companies were spending 10 per cent or more of their annual expenditure on employee travel expenses.
According to Travelex, staff want to explore when they travel on business. Three in five people like to visit local attractions while just under half make a point of exploring the local cuisine. Many are taking clients with them and paying for their expenses on the company‚Äôs corporate credit card.
Agents are buying solutions that optimise expense report processes and budget monitoring so that businesses can easily control their expenses and ensure compliance measures are in place when their staff start travelling again.
While this pandemic has forced a scaling back of efforts in certain areas, many TMCs are prioritising their tech needs. There is an increased demand to self-manage the commercials, suppliers, back-office, and management information while corporates are able to configure the travel policies, approvals, and reporting.
TMCs are looking for systems that provide New Distribution Capability (NDC) with direct airline connects and hotel consolidators and aggregators. These platforms give TMCs, travel agencies, and consolidators an option to generate bookings outside of many global distribution system processes and related fees.
Trust and duty of care
Unique travel restrictions imposed by each country and the subsequent effect on business travel have placed an even greater emphasis on duty of care within TMCs.
Roles and responsibilities have changed for travel managers in businesses and agents. Managers now have to review all trips, conduct risk assessments and create internal guidelines and policies on travel. New platforms such as the Egencia Covid-19 travel reporting hub help them mitigate the financial impact to their business by providing downloadable data for air and hotel bookings.
Travel consultants need to be fully compliant with these new procedures. Correct information is difficult to access and usually found by searching through lengthy online resources. Fact-checking and dependency on human interpretation increases financial and reputational risks for the TMC and many are investing in technology that gives them access to trusted information. TMCs are installing the latest permission-based applications such as Travel Radar that enable them to configure and manage their client‚Äôs policies and ensure that the travel consultant can access the correct information and booking capability.
TMCs spending on technology that configures the policy for each client around the allowed countries, cities, airlines and hotels. These new applications close the entire loop of sufficient information and immediate decision making and will drive the next duty of care level for TMCs when the ‚Äúreturn to travel‚ÄĚ policies and processes are in place.
Technology is playing a critical role in the recovery of the travel industry and this year we are seeing new deals being struck and partnerships happening.
Recently, Flight Centre Travel Group acquired tech company WhereTo for its AI platform that recommends hotels, flights and transportation to employees. Sabre integrated Mindsay technology to enable automated customer service for TMCs and airlines. At Element, we partnered with tech company Zenmer to provide its booking solutions for TMCs.
Similarly, businesses are sharing complementary data to better understand their clients‚Äô travel needs, concerns and behaviour in order to provide greater client personalisation.
The industry is getting ready for when travel is high on the agenda and it points toward innovation and technology. TMCs are investing in tech to improve or change the way they do business and helping people stay safe. Those that offer improved processes and greater duty of care will stand out. Don‚Äôt get left behind.
Gavin Smith is the director of Element, a travel technology company that helps TMCs to gain access to cutting-edge travel technology. A former manager at SAP Concur, Smith has vast experience across various functions within TMCs. He has worked with TMCs of all sizes supporting their goals to deliver technology and payments to their clients.