Q&A: Club Travel Corporate – Powering ahead

Corporate travel clients demand control and visibility of their travel spend and Club Travel Corporate is catering for this by developing and delivering solutions that have a positive impact on the productivity and profitability of its clients’ businesses. CEO Kananelo Makhetha says that this approach follows a broader trend in SA’s corporate TMC trade, where participants are increasingly prioritising technology to enhance their end-to-end offerings as well as to support staff to do their jobs better.

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Q: What’s your view on the state of corporate travel in South Africa?

A: The economic stagnation that South Africa is currently experiencing has led to corporates assessing their entire operational spend to see where they can cut costs, including business travel. At Club Travel Corporate we are driving solutions that bring sustainable discounts and simplicity to corporate travel buyers. Essentially, we want to be the leading provider of travel management solutions that help corporates maximise their return-on-investment and enable business travellers to hit the ground running.

Q: What are you, as a corporate travel TMC, doing to remain relevant and prosperous in this environment?

A: We are listening to our customers and developing systems and technology that super-charge their experience and add measurable value to all our stakeholders. We place importance on the training and development of our teams while automating processes that previously got in the way of an optimal customer experience. We recognise that consumer and corporate travel markets increasingly favour technology-driven solutions and we will continue to respond to these preferences with a blend of machine-assisted human expertise.

Q: What’s the biggest talking point for TMCs in South Africa, currently?

A: In the current economic climate, the conversation is largely around cost cutting and what can be done to accelerate operational efficiencies while not abandoning the connection we have established with customers over more than 12 years serving the corporate sector. TMCs are focused on making sure the traveller experience is aligned with the expectations of a constantly evolving tech society. Areas of focus include creating a more convenient traveller experience and improved duty of care.

Q: Where does technology fit into the conversation?

A: The industry is embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution and is still learning how to extract maximum value from data and new technologies such as A.I. In the not too distant future, I expect there will be wholesale disruption in our industry made possible by technology-driven solutions. Currently, technology facilitates the use of self-service, cloud-based booking tools that can be integrated with clients’ HR and ERP systems. Already we are seeing how this has helped automate cost, profile and expense management. Clients and travel managers now have access to information, itineraries and reports on their desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Different systems and applications are being combined and are able to communicate with each other in order to offer clients a lot more value. GDS’ continue to innovate way beyond traditional content aggregation in order to provide more benefits to clients. Client-facing staff are enabled and freed by technology so that they can focus on quality consulting and relationships with people. We see technology as an ally of our people, not to automate them out of a job.

Q: Are you managing to work sharing economy services such as Uber and Airbnb into the corporate travel programmes of your clients?

A: Yes, and we have gone a step further to integrate additional content providers such as SafariNow and Nightsbridge on our Travellinck Corporate online booking tool.

Q: Does Club Travel Corporate have plans to grow its footprint outside of SA?

A: Yes, but not through traditional bricks and mortar. Our online booking tools can be used outside SA and we intend to promote them further afield. In addition, we recently joined forces with the Travelstart Group and will be leveraging its tech expertise to deliver digital product innovation and remain competitive in the market.

Q: How would you compare the SA corporate travel market with that of the rest of Africa?

A: In SA, access to and penetration of technology is growing faster than in most African countries. South Africa has adopted lodge card payments and now virtual cards which has seen lesser take up in other parts of the continent. Self-service booking tools also enjoy a high rate of adoption in SA.

Q: Have you noted any interesting international TMC trends that you feel are relevant to the SA market?

A: Consolidation and M&A activity at global TMC level will continue to have an impact on the local industry. International TMCs are also driving the local implementation of globally-tested technological solutions.

Q: Where would you like to see Club Travel in 10 years’ time?

A: As a market-leading technology-focused solutions provider to travel and related industries.