The new age of relevance
Travel Management Companies (TMCs) have long held a place in the corporate world to decipher the complex travel landscape. Corporations have traditionally struggled to understand the language – the fare structures, the nuances of higher intermediate points or why they couldn’t fly business class – and they were happy to pay for a dedicated corporate consultant to oversee corporate travel.
But the times are changing and if TMCs want to remain relevant in today’s landscape, they need to understand the current landscape of travel technology.
The daytime business traveler has turned into the nighttime ‘Googler’, but they have also caught onto the ease of finalising transactions and fulfilling travel requirements. For decades, corporations have looked to TMCs for guidance on booking technology, reporting and duty of care, but anyone who has made an online booking (about two billion people) knows that the gap between the self-aware and naïve corporate traveller is closing in.
And with the rise of countless third party solutions that can report and analyse travel without human intervention, the surge of new online players is casting doubt on the relevance of many TMCs. Throw in concerns surrounding new work health and safety (WHS) laws that TMCs once owned, and reliance which was once deemed sacrosanct is now being attacked from all sides.
Corporations are now asking questions about the prospects of owning and controlling their own travel technology in much the same way they control their own procurement or finance technology. They’re also questioning the cost of transaction, service and reporting fees when travellers can now do the majority of travel bookings themselves – ultimately leaving TMCs exposed or struggling to show value.
Control is handed back to the corporation, and that lack of control is being exacerbated by many of the online players who are approaching corporations with solutions that are housed within a corporation’s own technology platform.
This perfect storm of questions surrounding relevance, cost and third party solutions is wrapped up in a growing self confidence from business travelers who are looking to reclaim control of their travel decisions. It also has TMCs re-evaluating their value proposition and looking for new revenue models.
While TMCs generally don’t have the IT skills or large amounts of money for technology development, they do have relationships. But those relationships need to evolve into more than just supplier and client transactions.
The only way to push back on technology is to accept it and become an enabler while providing trust and transparency through guidance, training, advice and support that no online technology can provide.
TMCs need to upscale their staff for interpersonal relationships beyond simply answering the phones and providing travel itineraries. If you let reliance on technology overtake the reliance on people, Google will provide the knowledge, Facebook will control your travel policy, Apple mobile will book the travel and everybody loses. Your choice.