Business travel trends are changing. Cost reduction is being achieved by reducing the number of travellers per trip and number of bed nights. However, corporates are still willing to pay to sit in the front of the plane and are making use of B&Bs and Uber Bronwyn Philipps, Managing Director at HRG Rennies Travel, offers insight into the state of business travel and TMCs.
Q: How would you describe the current state of the South African corporate travel industry?
A: The health of corporate travel in South Africa is largely dependent on the performance of the local and global economy and the risks and constraints imposed on travellers through terrorism, disease and country regulations. As a result the corporate travel industry in South Africa is under pressure: corporates in general are concerned with expenses and where possible are looking for ways to reduce their travel budget.
Q: In these tough economic times, what is HRG Rennies Travel doing to show its clients value and remain relevant?
A: We have always embraced innovation and technology with the specific purpose of streamlining business processes and enhancing service delivery. We realise that our clients are feeling and we have explored new technologies and platforms which will ensure that our clients receive the best value for their travel budget. Access to the right content at the right price is essential and offering solutions that can reduce cost through the right mix of robotics and personalised service is a must.
Q: How do you respond to a client who wants more from their TMC for less spend?
A: By customising a travel solution that reduces cost through the introduction of technology and suitable robotics which eliminate the need for human intervention on simple transactions, allowing the client to pay a higher fee for consultants who can add expertise and personalised service for complex requirements.
Q: How has the TMC-client relationship changed in the last 10 years?
A: The last 10 years have seen consumers become more empowered and informed about travel and the protocols and processes regarding the procurement of travel. This has in turn required a more consultative and creative approach from TMCs. Gone are the days where the one-size-fits-all approach is the norm. TMCs have taken a more advisory role, reviewing travel programmes holistically and making recommendations
Q: Are technological advancements a threat to the future of the TMC, or do you see them as a new tool to use?
A: Embracing innovation and technology is a core value which runs deep within the HRG Rennies Travel organisation. We have over 14 years’ experience in the online space and see technology as an essential component in the future of travel management.
Q: What is the future of the self-booking tool?
A: There will always be a requirement in corporate travel to have workflows that protect corporates against abuse of company funds; triggers mechanisms to enable duty of care; automation that reduces labour costs internally and for the TMC and for data that provides information on spend, trends, behaviour and opportunities. So, in my opinion the self- booking tools are here to stay and offer incredible value in the supply chain.
Q: How is HRG Rennies integrating mobile technology into its offering?
A: Responsive sites and mobile apps are essential tools for the TMC today. We play an advisory role and therefore offer our clients all technology tools regardless of brand. Our only requirement is that they need to add value to our clients.
Q: What are your thoughts on the sharing economy and the role it is playing in the corporate travel space, particularly with the likes of Uber and Airbnb?
A: We are firmly entrenched in the digital era and this is reflected in the rise of user focussed applications and websites such as Uber and Airbnb. Our response has been to embrace it. Our Renniestravel.com platform has been developed as a direct result of this new movement as this is the future of travel management.
Q: Looking at the rest of Africa, what are your partners/franchises telling you about the state of corporate travel on the African continent?
A: Travel still continues in a fiercely competitive manner across the continent. Although travel is not necessarily decreasing, it is certainly not increasing at a substantial rate. This is driving the competition between travel services providers. We are seeing more hotel accommodation property launches and announcements of new property developments. We are also seeing more intra African routes launched, which indicates that travel within the continent is increasing.
Q: Where would you like to see HRG Rennies Travel in 10 years’ time?
A: We firmly believe that the digital freight train we are currently on has no intention of slowing down in the near future. Therefore we envision ourselves as an established OTA in the next 10 years, having expanded this newly established platform to one which will easily compete globally.