We had a great time at the show and are eager to share insights! Whether you were there as well or had to miss it this time around, we hope you will enjoy this quick read of our Top Ten Takeaways.
1. AI Is a Must! TMCs cannot continue to serve low value transactions at high labor costs, therefore automation must serve these needs. Buyers will not pay today’s prices for these types of services.
2. Stay Safe! TMCs are innovating in risk products - starting to give more options to those who can’t afford a full travel risk management contract with specialized risk companies. Assessing travel risk policy and sourcing the right partnership is critical.
3. Pre-Trip Is Back! Its foundation was built on cost savings, and it is now focused on traveler wellbeing. Safety protocols starting when leaving the house until return (ground, security, carrier, hotel, etc.) are paramount to keep travelers healthy and build trust that the travel program has their back.
4. Unused Tickets - OMG! The abundance of prepaid assets waiting to be used requires detailed accounting, management and infrastructure coordination like never before. Airlines are grateful for any usage throttling possible, while buyers are using last period's expenses to defray future expenses (since they were paid for earlier). Suppliers that best manage / utilize these are certain to win new customers.
5. Traveler Tracking! Data accuracy is still an issue even while many new travel technology companies have released products, A year or two ago, this space was dominated by just the travel risk companies and a few key players in the market. Now several new companies are providing similar services in this same space. Accuracy in data and streamlined reporting will be the big differentiators.
6. Dynamic Hotels! Wild swings in pricing and inventory mean only portions of static rates will still add value, therefore managing rates in real time is a required best practice. A hybrid approach with static rates/RFP for preferred hotels and high-demand locations is still recommended.
7. Find the flight! Schedule changes necessitate continual oversight to effectively manage the airline program. Carriers have been supportive of a “wait and see” approach to market share/discount level changes, which allows a bit of breathing room. Once demand upticks, so will prices and tighter inventory management - pressing the buyers to manage daily for maximum value.
8. RFP Tidal Wave! All travel suppliers will change their commercial terms with their clients. Some buyers will work together on these changes, while others will choose to competitively bid. Consider if only 5% of ALL managed travel programs choose to go to market, imagine the impact on the business travel market. Buyers will want to get ahead of the wave.
9. Communication! - Buyers are in the spotlight as the center of trust. Trust from stakeholders to manage the ecosystem and trust from travelers to receive correct and timely information. Buyers must manage the message to coordinate with HR, legal, preferred suppliers and travelers to keep trust at the program’s core.
10. Meetings Money! There can be more dollars to utilize with postponed and cancelled meetings than with the unused tickets. A plan to re-use is critical. And if you don’t have an SMM program now is the time to implement and include a digital meetings strategy.