The future of procurement will involve solutions that enable increased control for both travel managers and travellers.
At the Business Travel Show, Andrew Dyer and Mark Hollyhead of Egencia, Expedia’s corporate travel management platform, told SM their vision for the future.
1. Real-time data
Investing in data-heavy TMCs will pay off in the future when advanced real-time data systems enable further savings and improved efficiency. Instant, transparent access to data is leading to a future where real-time management of travel packages, traveller updates, and reports put the travel manager in full control.
Dyer, vice president of global supply – lodging at Egencia, said: “Part of being a travel manager or procurement professional in travel is understanding the travel programme, and the behaviour of your travellers that you get in real-time. That’s where this is going.”
Egencia’s analytics studio is an example of TMCs making investments into advanced data analytics and AI. Real-time reporting and an increased data pool provides an integrated information platform that can change the way companies operate and show better deals.
Dyer highlights analytics as a growing tool opening possibilities for more control over price rates for travel managers: “Playing back what the behaviour of your travellers is in real-time to you as a travel manager allows you to break out of this annual negotiated-rates cycle and and manage on a daily basis what your travellers’ experience is. That’s the angle I would take on the future: how quickly can you ingest that information, act upon it, and then manage your travel programme actively.”
2. Tools of the trade
TMCs are developing products and services that make travel buyers jobs easier and support the pillars of the travel programme. Hollyhead, chief operating officer of Egencia, said: “We’re doing more and more instant validation features on the platform because they are real differentiators of a platform.”
He added: “For procurement professionals, I think it’s looking for the solution that incorporates the very best of the consumer worker with the tools you need to do the job. You’ve got all the tools corporately to manage everything from corporate compliance, duty of care and the reporting you need in order to drive customers in the future.”
Innovative product development in TMCs will make competitors stand out from the crowd. Egencia’s Traveller Tracker and Hotel Conversations chatbot are examples of consolidated tools that increase travel managers and travellers control.
The tracker enables travel managers to locate and support travellers during unforeseen situations through working with duty of care providers, such as IGett or ISOS. The chatbot provides direct communication between travellers and hoteliers, which enables travellers to message ahead with late check-ins or other requirements.
The products were developed through test groups of corporate buyers and industry input so that Egencia could evaluate how best to accomodate the needs of clients. The most effective solutions have been shown to use the best of technology to serve a purpose.
Hollyhead said: “A core need of any travel programme is ensuring you know where your travellers are and we can facilitate supporting anybody in case of a crisis or drama. We definitely built the tools so you [travel managers] have quick reference material that puts the travel manager in control of their programme.”
3. Shared economy evolution
The disruptive market of shared economy suppliers have left TMCs and travel buyers on the fence. While sharing economy providers such as Uber and AirBnb have grown rapidly since emerging on the travel market they are still at the early stages, and the path towards progress and where they fit in is uncertain.
“There are definitely considerations around the sharing economy with duty of care, safety and security, consistency of experience,” said Dyer.
Egencia highlighted that while they have 200,000 alternative accommodation options on their site and have incorporated Uber into their app, they have a responsibility to consider risks to policy and duty of care. There is a fine line between listening to the interests of the travellers and following the travel policy. Until a better understanding of how to control the risks and prices is established, these suppliers will remain a small, cautionary area for TMCs and travel buyers.
Dyer added: “We are keeping an eye out to see what’s coming next in the sharing economy and whether there are business-friendly aspects.”
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