What do business travelers – the backbone of corporations – really need from their TMCs? What if the cost is almost down to nothing? Where does trend end – when we have to bring our own seat along with our own headset? What about innovation?
It seems like TMCs have been judged whether they own processes such as booking or fulfillment capabilities, people, facilities, global operations, etc. With new technology however everything mentioned before – even people – is exchangeable. Using modern technology, language savvy call center agents are not limited by their own performance or GDS skills, they are rather limited by the POS application they use and whether it can provide additional services such as destination information, geo data, property data, value information, points of interest – you name it.
Own travel technology as a competitive advantage
So in future the question becomes if a TMC (no matter whether online/offline) fully owns its technology as competitive advantage and how flexible this technology will be. That is why you can clearly see the threat GDS (the owner of iTMC or OTMC) pose towards the global TMCs such as AMEX, CWT, BCD, HRG and others. GDS own their technology plus they provide (sometimes even dictate) the technology used by a TMC. If you want to know where this will lead, take a look on the leisure side. However a further elaboration on this topic would be a story of its own.
I can see ownership of competitive technology, together with interfaces to anything (including social media, user generated content, sites such as seatguru, airport maps, TripIt, etc.) which can make a business trip more relaxing, to become a major decision point for a corporation to choose their future TMC. The technology also needs to be able to manage these massive amounts of contents in an effective way – which means, already today, you need to incorporate into your architecture the possibility for rules that can handle and manage content which you don’t even know it will exist in a few years!
Who cares about who does the fulfillment as long as it is carried out correctly? Who cares about whether or not a TMC is fully owned as long as the entity that takes care of your trips has integrated all your processes across your area of operation correctly? I would even say: Who cares if I speak to a call center agent in India as long I do not sit in a waiting loop for minutes, this person is friendly, I can clearly communicate with this person and he or she can help me with my problem on hand in a minimum amount of time.
Smart travelling and mobile trip organization
However what I do care about as a corporation or business traveler is to focus on “smart trips”. One example would be that my trip is supported by e.g. smart phones such as iPhone or Blackberry which tells me in accordance to my current location that considering the traffic on highway xyz I won’t make it to catch my flight at 4 pm. Thus the me for the 6pm flight and it would recommend leaving in ¾ hrs. If this is okay, it would complete the exchange through one click at your fingertips.
In addition it could provide the route planning to get me to the airport, suggest to take my own car since parking fees are cheaper than the cab ride, automatically check me in once I come close to the airport, pay additional charges such as baggage fees and other merchandizing items which I usually prefer, guide me to the baggage drop off area, the to the fastest security line, the lounge and finally the gate while at the same time my rental car reservation is changed, my dinner reservation modified, my meeting partner informed about the slight delay and the hotel confirmed for a late night arrival.
The whole travel industry needs to focus on making travel enjoyable (and easier) again. Don’t forget – The cheapest way to travel is: Do not travel for business. We all feel the general decline in travel today.
Image by Gwoeii