[Mature companies no longer view travel as a cost center where the main program objective is year-over-year cost avoidance.]
This is a gross generalization.
[Attracting and retaining the best employees and keeping them productive, happy and healthy has a legitimate return on investment.]
Certainly true in particular industries, but again let’s remember that doesn’t cover the gamut. More background:
Travel Friction And The Diminishing Returns Of Cost Savings
What’s A Business Traveler’s Time Worth?
Steve Reynolds On The Myth Of The Traveler Satisfaction Silver Bullet
Teleconference 17: Personalization In Corporate Travel Management
[suppliers have forged close relationships with travelers via loyalty program profiles and can personalize content accordingly]
Yes, lots can be accomplished in a booking environment that dispenses with comparison shopping and the application of corporate travel policy.
[International Air Transport Association’s New Distribution Capability certification]
Many would argue GDSs are popular among TMCs because they deliver aggregated content, not in spite of that.
[Financial dependencies on GDS incentives leave TMCs either incapable or unwilling to explore new content and service models with clients.]
Many would dispute that TMCs are incapable or unwilling to explore new models. While no one in the TMC community would say the GDS incentives do not play a role, these incentives are not the only barrier to disrupting current systems. More here:
Adopting NDC Requires TMC Tech Overhaul, But Airlines Aren’t Offering Much Time
Teleconference 15: The TMC Tech Stack
Our report on this topic didn’t indicate exactly what is written here, but anyway, for context:
TMCs Seek Rejiggered Hotel Revenue, Drawing ‘Shell Game’ Accusation
Is it automatically a conflict if a travel agency seeks a commissionable rate? That seems oversimplified.
[global employee experience lead]
That’s Julia. Hi Julia.
Interesting stuff here on profiles, echoed by other thinkers.
I think this is not accurate. AA has said it is willing to make this offer to users of AA-approved NDC channels. That could be the GDSs.
[Concur adopted last year]
Adopted might not be the right term. Not sure they have launched anything. Let’s agree to call it “endorsed.”
[at least theoretically]
Those are the key words. My understanding is that blockchain has a ways to go before it’s fast enough for something like this.
Good stuff here.
Also really interesting stuff here.
Google is all over this. See:
Google Uses Payment For Booking Compliance
Background on blockchain and smart contracts:
HRS Tests Blockchain For Corporate Hotel Negotiations, Check-In Procedures
Explainer: ‘Smart Contracts’ On The Blockchain
Blockchain Startups Differ On Paths To Disruption
Teleconference 11: Introducing Blockchain
Let’s not dismiss the close relationships suppliers try to forge with travelers within managed travel programs, too. Corporate recognition programs, and all the perks that can come with them, are meant to engender traveler loyalty, which in turn could and should strengthen the bonds between preferred suppliers and their corporate accounts.
Amadeus, Lufthansa ‘Personalizing’ Benefits For Corporate Accounts
Big Air Automating Waivers
It seems doubtful that Tripbam’s corporate customers can’t insist that reshopping also includes non-commissionable rates.
We’re not sure these are examples of a supplier directly “answering these demands,” but they do show how big corporates are reworking supplier relationships:
Lufthansa Enables Direct Booking Connections With Siemens, Volkswagen
Some might debate the assertions here. For example, Travelport CEO Gordon Wilson last fall during an industry event claimed the only thing a traveler can’t transact through Travelport today when booking with British Airways is pre-ordering the inflight meal. “All the other stuff BA wants to do — rich content and branding, fare families, ancillaries — we can do today, on a standardized normalized basis,” Wilson said.
More context on Concur’s approach:
Concur Adds Delta, Lufthansa Branded Fares, Favors GDS Connectivity
There is some truth to consumer being ahead, but it’s no panacea. Streamlined tools and content tailored to individual? I think more like: e-commerce optimized for transactions at highest price. It is true inertia holds business travel back, but responsibility is both in the buyer and the supplier camp. For example, most buyers don’t want reviews on an OBT because it “confuses” travelers or otherwise incentivizes them against the program. And who wants an in-program hotel to appear with poor reviews?
I wish this first sentence were true. But fair enough that it’s more prominent than in the past.
Loyalty programs mean personalized content? That’s news to me. Loyalty = perks and points. I think we’re overstating the “possible” in the leisure space. Corporate travelers know they’re not getting a) Full content at lowest public rate and b) An easy booking experience. Those are basic things made impossible by the very nature of a corporate program having to apply control. Can tools be better? Sure. But again, no panacea there either other than your ability to shop around and buy where you want. We shouldn’t confuse lack of freedom for lack of quality experience.
Nice sentiment but overstated. You know what serves as a recruitment and retention tool? Flying business class and staying at decent hotels. Maybe some nice perks or supplier choice also. It’s about freedom and budgets. The rest is gravy.
It’s a two sided marketplace and savvy buyers know that suppliers subsidize their TMC service for a win-win. There are opportunities to make this more transparent and build more trust, this is clear.
Wait, who wants AI solutions? Corporates? TMCs? Or Travelers? Travelers want immediate re-accommodation and go on with life. Not sure they care how that is achieved. And this has most definitely not thrived outside managed travel and arguably not in many other retail markets either. Bots are the tool of the efficiency machine, generally leading to crappy service. The original bots are telephone prompts leading nearly every person to at some point yell into their phone “REPRESENTATIVE”. Reproducing that at scale in corporate travel is surely to drive poor performance. Let’s take our time and do this right not rush to implement a buzz word to get a lede in The Company Dime.
This dismisses the TMC as a procurement engine. Are TMCs adding value by negotiating special content? Or just commodity telephone shops for buying corporate negotiated rates? If the former, this whole thesis is wrong. If the latter, fine. But I’d argue TMCs are getting better at procuring differentiated content and even large buyers are starting to notice. Corporates also need to differentiate between “innovative “ suppliers and those just trying to a) Lower distribution costs at the corporates expense or b) Prevent travelers from shopping effectively. The line is thin.
Fantastic point and great to show that the world view has to be broader.
This is tricky. Profiles need to connect with many different sources and uses of data. To do that takes significant investment in technology. Only players incentived to do that are OBTs, TMCs, T&E players, etc. A 3rd party profile company would need significant fees to make it worthwhile and it’s hard to imagine the utopia of traveler-owned information being transferrable. We live in the information economy and profile is priority #1. Look at Facebook — that “universal profile” was being used. When you don’t know what the product is, you’re the product.
Ultimately, open systems win. We just have to figure out the rules. That’s the hard part.
This is a fantastic ending paragraph. The thought excercise goes like this: In the world of having to rebuild the ecosystem from scratch, some things would turn out the be very similar as today. Others would be radically different. If you can build out that map, you have a view into the future. May the best teams win, good luck.
Amen to that. Leisure travelers are more satisfied because they have an unlimited choice of tools. They pick the one they like best. When corporate travelers are handed one toolset they feel locked in. The minute they’re told “no, you can’t book through your favorite channel” their satisfaction level plummets.
The underlying issue is that travel agencies are entitled to commissions based upon being agents of the suppliers. Today’s TMCs (a term that suggests the emphasis is on managing versus selling travel) want the financial benefits of acting as sales agents of suppliers while simultaneously charging fees to corporates for working on behalf the client.
Until such time as a TMC takes the bold step of no longer being an agent of suppliers (and eschews all commissions, rebates, or whatever they call them) and works exclusively on behalf of the client we cannot expect true transparency or shed the appearance of a conflict of interest.
This would be in direct violation of most Customer/TMC contracts. Any TMC biasing agents or reshopping tools toward their suppliers should not be in business. Does anyone have evidence of this happening?
Very worthy insight. Of course it opens up the age-old question of how to balance the pressure of elevating the traveler experience against the continual pressure of finance to do so without cost escalation.
I agree with Greg’s comments and find this to be a generalized comment based not necessarily on fact. Is this a general feeling that the TMC is “hiding” something if the overall business model is not revealed to the customer? Or is there some evidence to confirm this statement?
I would challenge that travelers are looking for tools that offer more choice. 900 choices for SFO-LAX is not choice, it is noise. Business travel needs to have the right choices and only those that work for your schedule. If I have a meeting at noon, don’t show me flights that land at 1230. One of the joys of leisure travel is the search and think of where and how you want to go so it will inherently be more flexible.
Suppliers subsidizing TMC services is adding additional cost to the flights and hotels. The only benefit is a shift of where the budget comes from. Transaction fee from travel manager, flight cost from traveler cost center. I think it would be interesting to see the real cost of travel fulfilment.
Here is another viewpoint
Two major factors in reducing cost
Time is money- Lost productivity of travel is 30-50% of the cost of T&E
People tend to take the least path of resistance, more information and better services will get them away from solo car rides and room service.
I’m disappointed that the premise of this effort is based on an echo chamber statement about old technology. Microsoft themselves have invested in technology that improves processes and integrates business tools in some exciting ways.
While we have not seen TMCs configure Tripbam in this way, we have seen them configure Concur and other OBTs in such a way that it gives priority to suppliers that maximize TMC revenue, rather than suppliers that are part of a corporate program.
To suggest that TMCs might be unethical in their service to customers is not only slanderous, but erodes the Microsoft name by using the podium of a large, well-respected organization to fire off a generalization that impugns the principled standards of an entire industry.
Quite frankly, I am astounded by Microsoft’s blatant disregard for their audience and their denigration of TMCs, hoteliers and suppliers.
This is my personal and professional view and does not reflect the views of my employer.
Whilst productivity is almost certainly a major cost I don’t believe its particularly high on the agenda of most corporates to address simply because its not well measured. Just look at both the booking or expense management processes for most major corporates which usually end up in hours of lost staff productivity — especially for infrequent travelers. Unfortunately because these costs are not well measured, travel managers struggle to defend changes that complicate this process when imposed upon them by the finance or business governance departments.
In this day of “lean” program management, we can’t physically visit all preferred hotels. Isn’t it better to have feedback and work with, or remove, the hotel than to be naïve to the fact?
I think it is becoming obvious that the current profile is insufficient. It shows nothing of history, real preference, current status or any number of new offerings the industry is starting/hoping to offer. The monetization may be non-traditional or may be based on advertising. We have offers that companies are wanting to deliver and also consumers that are looking for new offerings.
I completely agree with Kathleen, traveller feedback begins to help inform the program and strengthens relationships with existing suppliers, enabling continual improvement. Better experience for the traveller, better value for the company, stronger relationships.
Leisure tools pride themselves on “infinite choice” and discovery is part of the experience. Business travel is more standardised, travellers typically going to the same office or same customers. If I’ve got a meeting at 8.30am on 5th July at Bryant park, the last thing I want to see is infinite choice.
I want to be clear that this document is not owned or even written by Microsoft. We did bring the people together and helped to facilitate the conversation but it is an open document.
I think the point of the comment is there are many incentives in the industry for agents, agencies and even corporates that haven an effect on choice. Business models are changing and evolving and deserve a conversation.
Thanks Eric. In that case, who wrote it?
Sadly, this premise is true. While many challengers to the status quo have made inroads, by and large the industry still relies on outdated technology and is incredibly slow to move.
For years, the better technology and better software was available at the corporate office. However, in the preceding decade, consumer has significantly outpaced corporate to the point where we have better tech and software at home than at the office (for the most part). This is driven by consumers willingness to try things they know aren’t 100%. They’re willing to use solutions knowing they don’t meet all their needs. That’s a tough sell in corporations where duty of care, security, policy, and consistency are driving factors.
According to multiple surveys (from the likes of CWT, GBT, Phocuswright, etc) the top three priorities for travel buyers is, and has been, Cost Savings, Traveler Experience, and Security. While the order may vary, these top three haven’t changed for several years. To state that cost is not a factor may be true at Microsoft, but not at the significant majority of companies.
We’re missing the fact that travel is to drive top-line revenue, improve strategic relationships, sell and market the company. To boil it down to 1) “sophisticated” travel tools, and 2) employee recruitment and retention is too shallow an assessment.
Wow, where to start here…Clearly the manifesto is anti-GDS. Keep in mind the GDSs were built by the airlines as a selling platform and seen as very valuable partners to reach travelers more efficiently. With the advent of the internet in the early/mid 90s, the carriers then saw these GDSs as purely cost providers believing they could distribute more effectively themselves. This positioning has virtually plateaued with the mix of GDS to supplier direct remaining consistent for many years. So clearly the GDSs bring some value. I will agree the GDSs have a stronghold on corporate travel content, driven by the fact that what they do is incredibly hard to replicate. The comment that they have limited content is a bit of a stretch…with the exception of Booking Holdings content.
I need to clarify something: Yapta does NOT “like Tripbam…reshop only the hotel cohorts that are commissionable…” As a competitor in the space, and potentially assumed by the wording here that Yapta also does that, I want it known that we always and only provide savings to our corporate clients, whether that’s via negotiated, public, or other rates. We never simply reshop or rebook into commissionable rates.
Good comment that highlights one of the complexities of the industry.
ok, this is a VERY cool approach to understanding your corporate policy and how it can better meet the needs of the traveler and the objectives of the business. Nice!
Are there any concerns around PII and getting “too much” info on your employees?
Love this approach! If I can have a traveler profile that is robust, that I own, that’s transferable and feeds AI for a better experience…I’m in!
The questions here is, who pays? The thing the GDSs – and other players in the current ecosystem – have is, they cover off all the bases. They support shopping, booking, policy, fares, schedules, inventory, rates, expenses, settlement, etc. That’s why new entrants have failed in the past, because what the GDS and other players provide is very complex…especially when you consider the long tail of content.
To the point made in the paragraph, this will only be as good as the content provided by the travelers. That could prove difficult as it’s very hard to find time to complete ratings and/or share destination experiences, on the ground intel, etc. But with the proper incentives, either carrot or stick, corporates could find this very valuable for not just traveler experience but supplier negotiations as well.
Alternative payment methods are intriguing, but again, the players have to get paid. It may look low cost and promising today, but remember that credit card providers started out with MUCH lower merchant fees that have risen over the years. I would hazard a guess that once blockchain gets traction, there will be fees that will then drive the need to look at “new alternatives.”
Really appreciate the time and effort this document took. It’s a concise, interesting and thought-provoking piece. As a challenger to the status quo, my team and I embrace the opportunity to innovate and hope the rest of the industry will as well.
Excellent observation James. Not only did airlines start to see GDS distribution as a cost (when they had sold them!) but they started to see all of distribution as a cost rather than a revenue opportunity. That was when the rot set in; anti-GDS and anti-agent dogma began and harebrained schemes to “disintermediate” began to proliferate. NDC is the latest of these. Hell will freeze over before airlines come even close to being able to match the processing and distribution power of GDSs, much less do so profitably. Cost-effective retailing for network, traditional carriers is a pipedream. Retailing to corporate travellers is a contradiction in terms. But one thing is certain. Airlines will burn through a helluva lot of shareholder money as they try to do the impossible. It all reminds me of Don Quixote and his windmills!!!
We had notes taken to document the day with some additional external feedback. These were then compiled with comments and feedback sought from participants. We picked the participants and hosted the summit but our goal was to get views from different players in the space as to where we think the industry could go. My hope is we can continue these conversations with the broader industry with the goal of improving the traveler experience while keeping a healthy and profitable marketplace that fosters innovation and capitalizes on new and emerging opportunities.
Agree James. We call it Cost, Consumer, Care and every corporation will have a differing order of priority (even if they tell you all 3 are equal, there is always a 1,2,3)
Microsoft definitely leading the way here. 11 data sources to understand traveller need = awesome.
The interesting piece here for me is the traveller owning their profile and taking it with them wherever they chose to shop (or work) like open banking
The document is an interesting read. It offers some great calls to action in areas like using artificial intelligence to improve disruption services, delivering better destination information that travelers need in specific locales, and the evolution of traveler profiles. Its weak points lie in rehashed, tired points. The document over-represents the goals and interests of large companies in growing industries where talent is at a premium. The rest of the economy still emphasizes cost savings in travel management, and it’s hard to imagine that changing much.
[But the TMC said no; they don’t even want to be paid for it]
The big TMCs are creating fee structures around this sort of thing. Here’s the latest…
BCD Travel Joins In With New Fees For Non-Standard Bookings
May 31, 2018 at 11:29 am
See in context
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