The competitive landscape for travel management looks very different to what it did five years ago. Traditional travel management companies are now competing with fare aggregators and clever technology that promises to do the same job as a TMC for free.
So can an online aggregator compete with a TMC? Responsible spending and bottom line protection is important. If you’re also looking for stability, consistency in service, traveller safety and industry expertise then the return on your investment in a managed travel programme is hard to refute.
There is an astounding level of information now available online, the access to which has been made easier by fare aggregator sites. It is this ease of access that has driven the misconception that cheap means the same as value. This misconception has presented a challenge to TMCs; it’s an issue of trust. In an age of personalisation and in a bid to deliver a tailored service to travellers in line with their preferences, TMCs are in danger of omitting the cheapest fares because they believe the restrictions make them unsuitable. Transparency is key.
So can a Travel Management Company deliver greater value than an online aggregator? Yes, and here’s how:
Total Trip Cost Transparency
It is the job of the TMC to provide a view of the suitable options available so that the traveller can make an informed decision. We all know the old adage about things that seem too good to be true and we know the frustration when you think you’ve found an excellent fare that suits your needs, only to get to the end of the booking and discover the cost has jumped by 50%. A good TMC will use the tools at their disposal to provide a fast and sensibly filtered set of options. Included within this should always be the cheapest options available but the agent must make clear to the traveller the restrictions and potential pitfalls attached to limit surprises at a later date.
Service Across The Value Chain
Looking beyond the hard cash cost, there’s a value chain consideration. It’s no secret that traditional TMCs build strong relationships with airlines and hotels and as a result the service experience for the traveller is considerably better. From securing your preferred seat on the aircraft to getting the room that you want, with the flexibility that you need at a price you can afford; there’s value to be found here and you don’t have to compromise overall experience, safety or productivity to secure it.
Protection in Volatile Markets
International premium cabin air fares are on the up. After an unsettled year at a macro level, from Brexit to political changes and numerous attacks on seemingly safe places we saw a drop in air fares. A simple case of supply and demand, uncertainty meant less people were travelling, airlines were finding it harder to fill capacity and so the fares came down. Macro trends and the impact on pricing is often cyclical and it’s when the tables turn that you need a TMC in your corner.
Travel is often an indicator of economic confidence and Heathrow recorded the busiest ever month with over 7.5million passengers passing through in July. This is a good message for the economy but less so for the cost conscious business traveller. The trick is to secure availability in the lower fare classes and you can do so in one of two ways, the first being good old fashioned diary management; book in advance and you will reap the rewards. The second is working with a TMC that negotiates hard with airlines and hotels to secure deeper and guaranteed discounts. That is discounts on the lower fare classes and room categories without compromising the necessary value adds and flexibility to make them appropriate for a business traveller.
With an increasingly traveller centric market at play, it seems that each week sees a new app arrives that promises to provide the cheapest flights and hotel rates for travellers. A TMC should operate as a strategic partner to its clients, actively exploring the pros and cons of industry disruptors, working to reduce cost, create efficiency, manage safety and improve experience across all client stakeholders. Despite there being some appetite for open booking in the market, the overwhelming consensus is still that the benefits of a managed travel programme make a good TMC worth its weight in gold.
Tom leads Reed & Mackay’s Consultancy division. This specialist team takes complex business challenges, simplifies them and converts them into real business value. You can find out more here.