The Start of a New Decade For Travel Management

2019 was a wonderfully interesting year for travel and meetings management, albeit one which added more challenges for both buyers and suppliers. The rumblings of airline distribution changes got louder, the move to dynamic rates in the hotel sector gained momentum and a young lady from Sweden got us all focused on the environmental impact of travel again.

At FESTIVE ROAD we maintained our focus during the year on what these things mean for the future servicing value proposition, with fresh insights into the function and future of Online Booking Tools (OBT) and a further build upon our challenge to source travel differently.

But, whilst the insights from last year bring value, looking in the rear-view mirror doesn’t necessarily help you to drive the road ahead any better.

So what should we be thinking about as we head for the Twenty Twenties?

Leading with Vision

Whilst we will undoubtedly predict there will be numerous events and activities which play on the concept of “20-20 Vision”, don’t let that put you off the fact that we are indeed at a point in our industry’s evolution which means that each and every one of us should stop and ask ourselves some key questions.  It’s time for suppliers to challenge their place in the travel ecosystem and buyers to challenge their programs.

A vastly changing market and the expansive development of technology are creating increased blurred lines between the travel provider (airline, hotel etc) and the end user (the traveller). The unthinkable is becoming thinkable, the previously impossible now possible.

Taking the time to get “comfortably uncomfortable” and challenge why you exist in the travel ecosystem and what place you should hold in the future is something each and every one of us should spend time doing in 2020.  Creating these solid building blocks in this seminal year will be time well spent for all of us to drive more value in the next decade.

Differentiation Will Rule

Whether you sell car rental, distribute air products, accommodate people overnight, manage the cost metrics or service your travellers, the time for differentiation is here.  The era of cookie-cutter travel management practices is forever gone and the time for hyper-focused and differentiated delivery has arrived.

There has never been a better time for the niche provider, or the larger provider to become niche, than in a world where distribution is becoming more democratised and travellers’ demands more detailed and segmented. The more fragmented and complex the world becomes, the more your proposition needs to be simple, clear, targeted and communicated well, whether you’re a travel supplier or a buyer.

2020 is the year that those who get this right will start to pull away from the crowd of grey, bland companies, so driving differentiation in your offering and programs is crucial.

A “Triple P” Procurement Approach Will Emerge

Whilst a focus on cost should always be maintained, the definition of cost itself has changed.  Total cost should feature financial, people and the environment (or the Triple P’s – People, Profit & Planet as those in sustainability refer to it). The incremental savings still to be garnered from a traditional procurement approach don’t justify the means any more. Procurement has done a great job of creating efficiencies and driving cost out of the service model to date.  But the cost associated with the attrition of people through mental and physical wear and tear and the impact of change in consumer drivers towards companies who value their people and the environment more means that the sourcing of travel and meetings providers has to be so much more than numbers on a spreadsheet, more than what efficiencies can be driven.

Travel managers and travel suppliers who take a rounded view will need to engage deeper in their organisations or those of their clients.  Departments like HR, Risk, IT and Sustainability will start to become friends of the travel program more than ever before.

The Triple P approach will start to feature much more in strategy, sourcing and the delivery of the products to travellers, so getting your head around the hard, financial impact of wellbeing and the environment will be a key feature next year and beyond.

Whilst these features in the next decade add complexity and change to the delivery and consumption of travel management, they also offer really exciting opportunities in our industry.

There’s no better time to ensure you position yourself to take advantage of what lies ahead in the next 12 months and into the Twenty Twenties.

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to a new decade for travel management.