The corporate customer who pays for business travel activities will ultimately decide how travel distribution evolves in the marketplace, according to Jean Covelli, President of The Travel Team, Inc. and Corporate Travel Administrator for Rich Products Corporation.
Travel managers must push airline, GDS and other partners to move forward with thoughtful change, Covelli says.
Covelli says corporate travel managers have consistently moved to new managed-travel models and supporting technologies when there was demonstrable value. Net airfares, fee-based travel agency pricing, electronic ticketing and online booking tools represent just a few examples, Covelli says in an analysis, "The Customer Will Decide What Changes To Managed Travel To Embrace."
"As hundreds of millions of tech-savvy Gen Y adults enter the global workforce (70 million in U.S. alone), they will no doubt influence a transformation of how business travel and meetings products are purchased and consumed. The decades-old evolution from centralized mainframe computing to ultra powerful, distributed computing in the palm of one’s hand, fueled by social media, is generating increasing pressure on traditional managed travel practices," Covelli says
Travel management companies (TMCs), as well as all distribution system participants, must and will no doubt continue to address this potential sea change in travel procurement, she argues. "Without question, global distribution systems (GDSs) will innovate to support these emerging needs and remain central to the efficiencies and value-add of the managed travel community."
"For its part The Travel Team, some time ago, began working with technology partners to explore options in anticipation of requirements by clients to offer so-called “open booking” capabilities; i.e., in support of travelers wanting to purchase travel services outside the established corporate procurement channel. We needed to vet the integrity of the technologies and services offered to ensure that we could meet the larger-picture needs of managing business travel and its costs."
"We recognized that with so many innovative, consumer-friendly travel tools and websites available to these tech-savvy business travelers, practices are bound to change. As such, we had the choice to either wait and see what happens, or lead. At the core, we are service providers. Since our customers look to us to provide excellent service and meet their unique needs, we are choosing to prepare for new models of managed travel and to embrace innovative technologies."
To be clear, open booking technology alone is not enough, Covelli says. "That would only increase fragmentation without a way to consolidate data and manage an effective corporate travel program. TMCs need tools to manage, and not just facilitate, “rogue” travel."
Along with a handful of other industry participants, Covelli notes that The Travel Team has partnered with travel technology provider GDSX to analyze existing open booking pain points from traveler, corporate and TMC perspectives. (See TravelAgentCentral, June 25)
"GDSX identified that a solution, defined as a Centralized Trip Repository (CTR), was needed that would not simply store trip data, but allow us as a TMC to leverage investments already made in automation and other technologies needed to deliver on service, policy and data requirements that are unique to each of our clients," Covelli says.
"We have some really smart technology providers in our industry that are reading the writing on the wall and providing us exactly what we need to evolve, meet changing customer needs and continue to be profitable. As TMCs, we need to push our airline, GDS and other partners to move forward with thoughtful change, and always with the customer at the center of our strategies, "Covelli says.
Corporate managed travel needs to be refreshed for a new era wherein TMCs are equipped with the modern tools necessary to help customers manage business travel costs and processes," Covelli says. In turn, travelers are empowered with greater flexibility in how they shop for and purchase travel services.
The Travel Team, Inc. was founded in 1989 by the Robert E. Rich family, owners of Rich Products Corporation, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company. The company is a representative office of American Express.