It’s often said that innovation in corporate travel doesn’t keep pace with advancements in consumer travel. Some accuse travel management companies of being stuck in the status quo. Others point fingers at booking technology providers for failing to adequately update systems. These may be fair criticisms, but travel managers shouldn’t shy away from recognizing who looks back at them in the mirror, or at least who those people work for.
A research paper released last week called for corporations to put more focus on measuring trip friction, success rates, and recruitment, retention and attrition. While survey results showed how far the profession has to go, there are examples of work underway. Not the first to make this case, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives and BCD Travel based findings on a September poll of more than 300 travel managers around the globe.
When ride-hailing apps sparked more attention to ground transportation, it became a dynamic spend category for travel management. At multinationals, this means slaying the excruciating complexity of suppliers, services and regulations in different countries. Even for a U.S.-only program, asking six experts where a travel manager should begin will get you a dozen answers.
It was inevitable. Following hotel bookings, air bookings are coming in full force to mobile devices for corporate travel. Concur, Egencia and several other travel management companies and booking tech providers already offer them through their mobile apps. American Express Global Business Travel and BCD Travel seem ready to follow in the near term. Carlson Wagonlit Travel started bringing the functionality to its mobile app in February in certain markets.
Industry players are working to smooth out the rough spots in virtual payment for managed travel. Even without commonality across all the players, many travel program managers are finding the benefits of virtual payment too good to pass up. The promise of reducing fraud, streamlining reconciliation and making things easier for travelers without corporate plastic outweighs the remaining concerns.
It’s potentially disruptive to a business travel operation when a travel management company changes global distribution systems. Managing such a change could be top of mind for many corporate travel buyers in the near term as one of the largest TMCs, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, has signaled plans to deemphasize Travelport in its operation. Sources said some other large TMCs also were in negotiations on their GDS contracts, raising the possibility of additional conversions across the industry.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger business travel headache than handling passport and visa applications. That’s why travel managers outsource faster than you can say “red tape.” But with hundreds of providers even in a particular city, how do program managers know which to select? There are many considerations.