When employees need to secure sales, deliver service or attend meetings and conferences, travel managers are there to provide appropriate transport and accommodation options. But the travel manager of the future will need skills beyond these tasks.
A changing world
Geopolitical and economic changes
Markets and politics are changing around the world—rapidly and continually. There are trends that move away from the global approach of the past, with protectionism and the search for new trading partners growing on the agenda. How are shifts like this affecting business locations, trade, development and, consequently, business travel?
People are living and working longer. Our expectations of what comprises a typical life are changing dramatically.
It’s important to distinguish between the technology developments themselves and the effects. For example, AI (artificial intelligence) is the technology but its effects are visible in everything from the growth of personalisation to the introduction of electric vehicles and driverless cars.
Changes in travel management
The job of a travel manager has evolved into being much more than just booking travel or sourcing suppliers. It’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds, but the ability to respond to external changes and learn and acquire new skills is certain.
Structural change: internal and external
Travel managers must tread a fine line between being even-handed and taking account of the fact that different employees have different needs that it is their responsibility to address.
How do you measure success? The objectives of travel programmes have been expanded (security, data protection, traveller welfare) so new measures may be needed.
Travel managers have traditionally looked at internal traveller behaviour to judge future travel requirements and spend. But relying on past travel booking data is no longer sufficient. They now must have the ability to identify and analyse relevant travel data from other sources such as social media, real-time and predictive, and to use economic and market indicators to predict future business travel demand and the likely effect on fares and rates.
Technology and data have also affected internal company organisation and communication. Departments used to be autonomous silos that collected their own numbers and made their own rules about how things were done. Now the overall organisation is interested not only in results and top-line numbers but in collecting data that can inform its decision making and strategy.
The onward march of globalisation coupled with very slow growth in the world’s developed economies has meant more and more corporate expansion into areas of South American, Africa, the Middle East and Asia that were never previously on business strategists’ radars. For a traveller to visit a country where neither they nor their colleagues have any prior experience can be daunting and introduces some issues for travel managers.
Distributors: the new suppliers?
The growth in new products, the advent of new pricing tactics and the increasingly important role that technology is taking in shaping the new business travel experience have all affected the sourcing options.
Many companies who want to purchase transport or accommodation have traditionally done so through a travel agent. But the death of the travel management company has been discussed for decades. As procurement increasingly turns to distributors of all kinds for their travel needs, the rebirth may already be underway.
In the ebook, The Future of Travel Management, find out why travel managers need to anticipate and adjust to changes to future-proof the work they do.