Navigating 2016: Advice for Corporate Travel Buyers

CB-0815By Colleen Black, Partner

Recently, Buying Business Travel released their list of the top 20 challenges for corporate travel buyers in 2016. The list, based on the sixth annual Business Travel Show survey, included 187 travel buyers and named the following as the top five challenges:

  1. Cutting costs while maintaining quality
  2. Increasing compliance
  3. GDS content
  4. Risk management vs. cost savings
  5. Increasing hotel rates

For the full list, click here.

At first blush, this list does seem daunting. What are the best actions for corporate travel buyers to take to address these topics in a proactive and efficient manner? Although all travel programs are different, there are several things travel buyers can do to help successfully navigate 2016. From renegotiation with your suppliers to increasing traveler communication and engagement, the following can help you address these top five challenges:

  1. Cutting costs while maintaining quality
    Updating your travel policy to address sharing economies as well as ancillary fees is one way to save money and keep your travelers informed and happy. Another area to review is airline contracting. Airline pricing is complicated and may require further investment if your program is not providing the expected savings. The effect of book downs and varying fare class structures, as well as taxes, fees and surcharges can derail even the best-laid plans. To successfully navigate the negotiations process, it is important to know the effect of each on your air program. In addition to airline contracting, it is important to come well prepared to hotel RFP season. See #5 below for tips on how to handle increasing hotel rates in 2016.
  2. Increasing compliance
    Increasing compliance is key to improving managed travel and cost savings. Understanding why travelers choose to book outside of policy will help improve compliance. The best way to discover traveler dissatisfaction levels across your organization is the own the survey process to avoid limitations in scope and benchmark data with supplier managed surveys.
  3. GDS Content
    Challenges abound with GDS content, from fragmented content to traveler confusion. Airline surcharges are another area of concern, but taking actions like booking through partner airlines to avoid fees can mitigate the effects. Keep an eye on developments in this area, like the progress of the New Distribution Capability (NDC) initiative by IATA. This topic boils down to channel management: travel suppliers want to have direct customer relationships to tailor offerings to the end customer’s (meaning traveler) value, versus travel buyers who want tailored offerings to the company’s value. Travel suppliers can then vary their offers by channel (GDS, OBT, direct website purchase, private fares via TMCs, etc.). If so, travel buyers will add a new skill to their resumes – channel manager.
  4. Risk management vs. cost savings
    Balancing the costs and benefits of a risk management program is definitely a challenge. How can travel buyers’ budgets best be used to get the maximum benefit? Taking a look at your travel policy, analyzing your risk management needs, and determining the services required will help you put the appropriate risk management program in place.
  5. Increasing hotel rates
    Keeping an eye on trends for 2016 will allow you to negotiate the best rates by anticipating where rates are up, flat or down, and what’s different on the amenities front. In addition, finding out the preferences of your travelers and understanding their definition of quality can help you leverage their feedback in negotiating your hotel rates.

Despite the consternation over coming challenges, it is possible to successfully navigate, and even thrive, as a corporate travel buyer in 2016. Taking proactive action to address the issues above can lessen the impact of, or help avoid altogether, these potential pitfalls for your travel program.

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