Q&A: It’s all about the Data

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Travelport is one of the world’s leading providers of travel content aggregation, search and booking services for the global travel industry, and earlier this year saw it conclude an agreement with South African Airways to acquire Galileo Southern Africa, the GDS distribution arm which the airline has been operating in the region for the past 20 years. President and CEO, Gordon Wilson joined Business Traveller Africa for a chat about the significance of the deal and other Travelport-related issues.

Firstly, what was the significance of the Galileo acquisition, in terms of African business travel?
What’s important is that before we were talking about the traditional GDSs having 90,000 hotel properties, which sounds a lot, but that’s on a global basis. Traditionally, the GDSs have been good in dealing with the Southern Suns, the Proteas, the Hiltons, the Starwoods etc. But business travellers, as well as leisure travellers, also stay in independent hotels, because they often need to be near to their office or plant. So, with our Rooms and More technology, we’ve augmented these 90,000 properties to 275,000 properties, and all of that can be piped up to the business traveller, the corporate booking tool, and the travel agency desktop. So, that just increases the choice for the business traveller, within the travel policy, and takes out a load of extra administrative costs.

That’s obviously particularly important at a time when people are so sensitive to cost, isn’t it? Every head of procurement or CFO I speak to has two big drivers. Firstly, they want to know where their people are, so if something happens to them, they can deal with it. So, that’s where geocoding comes in. Secondly, they are desperate for data with regards to their travel spend – how do I aggregate all the data of our travel spend from multiple countries into one place on a consistent basis, so that I can see exactly what I’m spending, so I can harness my buying power to drive my cost down with the suppliers, hotels, airlines, car rental etc?

Is it more difficult to source credible and accurate data in a more unsophisticated market like Africa?
At the expense level and book data level, maybe. But otherwise, no. The airline data is pretty good. With the hotel data, the benefit we’ve got with using our technology for Rooms and More, is that we’ve managed to improve the quality of the data, which wasn’t there. But, to answer your question, maybe on the expense side of things, because in some countries it’s a bit more manual and there’s proportionally less credit card usage. Maybe there’s a little bit more of a challenge there, which is why we have invested in eNett, which is a virtual credit card company. I think it’s going to be very transformative in markets where individual credit card usage or ownership is less.

What are the other business travel themes for you, going forward?
Businesses are much more value conscious then they ever were, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to pay for services. They just they want to be clear about what they paying for and what they not paying for. Airlines and hotels are on to this, which is why they have been deconstructing and reconstructing their products. With airlines, your price used to depend on when you booked. Now you book a particular seat, you pay extra; you want to take a bag, you pay extra etc. Airlines are going to continue to unbundle, but then re-bundle the service offering, so that the airline concept will be a specific package that you pay for, tailored to your needs.

A bit more transparency, in terms of what you’re actually paying for?
It’s informed choice and it gives you options. But, we as a distributor of their products, have to be able to deal with that, in terms of putting it into the market, be it business or leisure, and transact it and report it. The other thing is that every airline and hotelier wants much more of a one-to-one relationship with the end traveller, which presents issues in business travel, because some businesses don’t want that relationship.

What else would you like to see improved, with regards to either airlines or hotels, when it comes to the consumer experience?
I can’t understand why, when you make a hotel reservation, you get the confirmation, and then you arrive at the hotel, only to have to stand in a queue for 15 minutes while they check you in. I’m a business traveller and all I want is a shower. Why haven’t you got the key ready for me, particularly if I’m a frequent stayer?

 

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