2011: The Year in Review
Managing increased airfares and hotel rates. Airlines have remained disciplined in their capacity, helping them to regain some of their pricing power, while higher occupancy rates have pushed up average daily hotel rates, too.
Rose Stratford, senior vice president, Global Supplier Relations
Asian event shocks
There have been numerous natural disasters, including Japan, Australia and, most recently, Thailand. We’ve also contended with crises caused by the financial woes of Indian airlines and the Qantas strike in Australia. All of these events mean that we, like our clients, have needed to remain vigilant and flexible, and constantly plan for the unknown. Flexibility has also been tested by phenomenal growth (a 30 percent increase, year-over-year, in bookings for BCD Travel in Asia-Pacific). Skill shortages, low unemployment (only 2 percent in Singapore) and rising salaries and costs are familiar challenges for all companies in the region. A great example of the APAC boom: Four of the world’s 10 most expensive cities are in China.
Greg O’Neil, president, Asia-Pacific region
The new normal
Steering travel programs successfully through the new normal of major incidents like the Arab Spring and Japanese earthquake and tsunami means being ready for more — and more frequent — interaction with potentially affected travelers.
Torsten Kriedt, vice president, Product Planning & Intelligence
Lack of technology investment
Uncertainty inhibited innovations in technology because companies are still tapping the brakes on investment, even though this is an ideal time to leapfrog competitors as they cut costs.
Miriam Moscovici, senior director, Emerging Technologies
The euro crisis is causing some companies to worry we are on the brink of economic meltdown, and we are seeing some stagnation as a result. It is making forecasting, planning and budgeting very difficult. With my ACTE president’s hat on, I also am concerned about finding, training and keeping young talent for the travel industry. The average age of employees in many travel management companies is early 40s.
Chris Crowley, senior vice president, Global Client Management and president, Association of Corporate Travel Executives
What was the biggest breakthrough or most important development?
Mobile technology has continued to expand as more and more travelers adopt smartphones or tablets. With travelers becoming more IT-savvy, companies are having to modify travel policies to address the expanding technology of apps and offerings outside their traditional booking channels.
APAC in the driver’s seat
Asia-Pacific is becoming a driver market in global bids. In 2011, BCD Travel saw a sharp jump in bids being generated from within APAC. In more developed markets, like Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, customers are asking for stronger centralization of services. Business intelligence, profile management and travel risk management are in demand across the region.
Putting travelers first
The renaissance of traveler-centric programs, but this time with a twist: aiming for better-than-policy compliance.
The modernization of the client enterprise is enabling the travel program to reveal itself in ways that are more natural to the traveler. Clients are investing in mobile strategies and sophisticated communication and collaboration tools that, when leveraged to the fullest, can take the influence of the managed travel program to a whole new level.
Understanding the value of travel
Buyers have reassessed the value of what travel brings to their company through key performance indicators such as travel spend against sales. I have also seen a genuine integration of meetings and travel management, sometimes consolidating to a single P&L or charging methodology.
2012: The Year Ahead
Name an important issue travel managers have to watch out for next year.
Airlines are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead and have already begun cutting capacity. This will continue to drive higher fares unless demand slows. U.S. buyers, especially, should keep an eye on the outcome of the disputes between American Airlines and global distribution systems, which may be determined by court rulings. Airline credit card surcharges will continue to proliferate as carriers have been successful in introducing them in Europe in 2011.
Consolidation in Asia
Distribution channels in Asia will remain fragmented, mainly because of government regulation and ownership in countries like China and Japan.. I anticipate continued focus on regional consolidation of telephone-based reservations, although this could attract considerable local resistance. On a separate note, crisis management and disaster recovery will become increasingly important responsibilities for travel managers.
More accessible data
2012 will be the year that interactive and visual spend analysis across different data sources will be adopted as a new standard in progressive program management.
Talk to your travelers
Next year is going to be all about strategic communication and traveler engagement. Influencing the traveler to make the best buying decision throughout the trip life cycle, for any reimbursable expense, is the final frontier — and now you can reach them at the right time, and wherever they may be.
Power to the people
If we can avoid an economic crash, we will see a move from rigidly established travel programs to giving budgetary control to cost-center owners, provided they live within the supplier framework. I also think there will be a huge argument about ownership of data and that the ability to control commercial situations through alliances will be tested by corporate clients.
What one thing would you really like to happen next year (even if you think it is unlikely to happen) that would improve business travel/travel management?
A healthier business environment
Economic growth and financial stability top my wish list. There is still a lot of uncertainty, particularly in Europe and the United States. In the year ahead, we need a healthy economy to build consumer and business confidence, which will stimulate more travel demand.
More alignment of the GDSs, including better transparency of content and more parity between fares in different distribution channels.
Better IT connectivity
Open APIs (application programming interfaces) to help inter-connect all systems in the travel planning, booking, payment, expense and tax process so companies and travelers can decide for themselves how and with whom to share which data, and enjoy the fruits of emerging innovations.
A rail revolution
I’d like to see rail in Europe tied up with a nice bow: shoppable, bookable, serviceable, the whole deal. The good news is that the industry is making a lot of progress on that front.
I would like to find a way for a more transparent, open dialogue between the fixed positions of distribution systems, suppliers, clients and intermediaries. It doesn’t sound to me like everyone is trying to find a solution that genuinely meets the needs of travelers. If we don’t self-regulate soon, someone is going to come in and regulate us.
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