Travel buyers’ index: the rise of analytics

Analytics is outpacing new technology to cut costs in 2019, while technology and data will deliver savings.

Business travel buyers see technology benefits on the horizon, as well as ongoing issues through the fallout of Brexit, recent travel show surveys find.

Cutting costs while maintaining quality has been the top concern for business travel buyers since 2016, until Brexit knocked it off the top in 2018. These results are based on a Business Travel Show survey, with 74% of respondents based in the UK, 14% elsewhere in Europe, and 12% in the rest of the world. Three years on, Brexit is predicted to remain the biggest concern, with rising costs coming in at second place.

Airline pricing is a concern both now (number 4) and in 2022 (number 3), with the advent of the New Distribution Capability (NDC), a global platform and standard to enhance communications between airlines and travel agents using real-time. Certification is planned for 2019, yet 59% of buyers still feel uninformed about NDC, the survey found.

Next generation technology is not a major concern for many travel buyers yet, with only a fifth of respondents expecting AI, blockchain, bots and alternative realities (including virtual reality and augmented reality) to significantly improve booking, saving time and money by 2022. More than half say it will have little or no impact.

Travel buying challenges

Savings through data analytics
The introduction of deeper analysis of data, however, is already providing savings, according to Click Travel, a travel management company (TMC) that moved to a new platform, where it could use detailed analysis of travel and spend and suggest ways to control costs and influence booker and traveller behaviour. By studying the system’s user experiences, it was able to identify trends and behaviours, and highlight more options for potential savings within the company’s travel policy, such as recommending the best days of the week for travel to save money. More accessible travel policy controls have also allowed account managers and customers to make more tweaks at more regular intervals. The graphs, left, show the increase in both potential savings available and a greater take-up by customers in using these savings. 

The lead time in making a booking is one of the key metrics that should be monitored to achieve a higher level of potential savings, says Chris Vince, director of operations at Click Travel. For flights, the optimal lead time is currently 18+ days, according to Click Travel stats.

When comparing rates it is important to use suitable alternative options, adds Vince: “If a traveller has asked for a train at 9.30am there is no point in offering trains departing in the afternoon, but it is perfectly acceptable to include trains departing within an hour either side if the traveller can see 30% and may make a conscious decision to change their plans slightly.”

Analysis can also highlight if policy compliance is too high, and savings could be achieved by reviewing or reducing it. And benchmarking data for other organisations with similar booking volumes or patterns can help to craft future decisions. “Seeing other like-minded organisations achieve better average rates can be a catalyst for change,” says Vince.

Be realistic
But make it real, advises Vince: “In all honesty, many individual travellers don’t care about saving £20 on their business travel. But convert that £20 into what that means for their organisation and it can revolutionise the mindset of travellers. If they know that an outlet in their organisation needs to sell an extra 50 items to offset that hotel choice then they’ll be sure to think twice in the future.”

Data analysis

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