Introducing Managed Travel 2.0, a revolution in corporate travel that will affect everyone
Collaboration is always better than conflict. Such were the words of wisdom from former US President Bill Clinton at the closing session of GBTA’s 2012 Convention.
While his message was backed up by anecdotes from Rwanda to bipartisan initiatives in the US, this mantra resonated with the rumored 6,000+ attendees as perhaps sage advice in the business travel community as well, and a fitting parting bookend to GBTA 2012.
An opening bookend to GBTA was an education presentation by fellow consultant Scott Gillespie and myself entitled “Managed Travel 2.0”.
In that session, we shared our vision for the future of managed travel, one developed through industry observation, conversations with buyers and suppliers, and looking at studies, including GBTA’s recent traveler survey (see article on it here).
Collectively, we see a trend towards a more open, collaborative approach to business travel that puts the traveler first.
Two macro forces are driving this:
The consumerization and democratization of travel, driven primarily by technology that allows much faster development of consumer tools.
This has created a gap in traveler-facing offerings between consumer and corporate travel – forcing a real debate about the value of a managed program. GBTA data confirms this: unmanaged travelers spend less.
Gen Y, a generation of business travelers who grew up with the internet.
They are now becoming a major part of the workforce and expectations of not only technology availability, but also freedom, choice, and independence in travel planning is putting pressure on managed programs.
So what happens now?
These forces will manifest themselves in different ways at different companies, depending on culture and budgets.
Whereas some programs, such as Google or US Foodservice, are aggressively pursuing their own pioneering paths, others are still trying to figure out how to evolve beyond blackberrys and telephone servicing.
The huge spread in program size and type shows just how slow the evolution of our industry has been, and will be.
In full form, Managed Travel 2.0 is a program where travelers shop and book travel anywhere on any safe suppliers, provided that they are within budget and the data on their transaction and travel is collected in real-time by their company.
This provides for all duty of care and fiscal oversight, while still freeing the traveler to travel as he/she choses.
Fundamentally, it’s about where the transaction lives, and how companies can provide all the necessary benefits of the managed program without the primary negative: An extremely constrained transaction and support channel.
It changes the buyer/supplier relationship from that of a contract based on discounts, to a partnership to drive traveler satisfaction.
We envision negotiating for a “value package” of traveler benefits that will incentivize “organic loyalty” – meaning travelers choose suppliers because they want to, not because they have to.
And for everyone else?
This brave new world of Managed Travel has implications for everyone, and while the big TMCs, GDS, and technology suppliers are innovating, it’s mostly been at the product and feature level, rather than having an impact on the business model and industry at large.
There are some potential exceptions now emerging, such as Concur’s new tools that collect data from outside the TMC environment.
Eventually, these forces will overwhelm even the industries best gatekeepers
In the meantime, we opened GBTA with a shot across the bow of the current managed travel norm, a warning of emerging trends, and a message of hope for how programs might adapt.
We closed GBTA with a reminder that in our industry, as in the world at large, working together for change is the only path forward and universally better than warring over principles and the status quo.
NB: Business traveller mobile image via Shutterstock.
Evan Konwiser is a contributing Node to Tnooz and currently the VP digital traveler at American Express Global Business Travel.
He was previously the co-founder of Lark Travel Group, Farely, and FlightCaster. He has spent the last six years working with travel start-ups and consulting on new technology and trends in the travel industry.
He started FlightCaster in 2009 to provide better tools for travelers using advanced technology.
After FlightCaster was acquired in 2010 by Next Jump, Evan managed Next Jump's travel distribution business, which includes employee discount programs for Fortune 500 companies.
Prior to FlightCaster, Evan was a consultant at Bain & Company and he also spent time at Kayak. He's an industry blogger and speaker on both consumer and corporate travel topics, a recipient of PhoCusWright's first ever Young Leadership Award and a two-time member of the critics circle for the Travel Innovation Summit.