What travel industry stakeholders call ‘traditional travel management’ stands accused of failing to serve business clients’ needs in an environment where every new gadget, system and app professes to instantly solve the problems TMCs have spent years tackling.
The argument is that technology has made life easier and using a system that allows business travellers freedom within a framework is another way of doing so. Business travellers are frustrated with the red tape around managing travel spend: “The internet is cheaper.” “I can manage my own budget – I don’t need to be treated like a child.” “Tech can meet my needs better than a TMC can.”
But, traditional travel management is more than just booking travel. Effective travel management requires a TMC to serve the client’s best interests, which include savings in time and cost; ensuring travel convenience and experience; and fulfilling duty of care requirements.
To tick these boxes and build the trust needed for an effective business relationship between stakeholders, TMCs draw on their experience to advise their corporates. Experience that artificial intelligence simply can’t match.
However, if you asked a TMC how it could better serve its clients, it would tell you complimentary technology is critical and can help to automate and drive efficiencies in travel programmes that in turn save corporates and their business travellers time and money.
Concepts like ‘freedom within a framework’ which entails providing the traveller with a list of choices that comply with travel policy but extend some flexibility to the traveller in terms of their needs for personalisation, and traditional travel management is loaded with different perceptions that must be defined between the corporate and TMC. Ensuring visibility, customer experience and which process is the best, may mean different things to the corporate and the TMC.
The reality is that TMCs are using tech in several ways, and, using systems that allow business travellers more freedom when booking travel doesn’t mean practices borne out of traditional travel management must be sentenced to death. If the goal is to serve the needs of the client best – the best solution should win. There just isn’t a one-size-fits-all.