The first four blogs in this series, The Problem with Corporate Credit Card Data, The Problem with Expense Data, The Problem with TMC Data, and The Problem with Supplier Data, all discuss the shortfalls of each in terms of capturing all available corporate travel booking data in order to optimize a company’s travel expenditures. It is important to point out that none of these solutions were developed to solve the overarching problem being discussed; rather, each was developed for its own specific function. Yet, the core competency inherent in each of these discrete functions are widely used to help companies broaden their understanding of where and how all of their corporate travel spend occurs whether through the TMC, an aggregator website, supplier direct, or through non-conventional travel sources such as Airbnb and Uber.
Utilizing these resources to cultivate elusive corporate travel data is not new. Enhanced corporate card data which can include more robust data elements can be purchased by the client in some cases, automated expense systems tied directly into corporate travel booking tools are positioned as a magic bullet for corporate travel programs, and even TMC’s have implemented third party solutions to bring in non-GDS content in order to ensure better compliance and a clearer picture of all travel spend no matter how the trip is booked. In the early 2000’s, the large TMC’s tried unsuccessfully to develop systems that would enable Super PNR capabilities – essentially functionality that would allow a traveler to book through any source, capture the data, and merge it into a single record for that traveler.
Notwithstanding these efforts, when a traveler books outside of the approved TMC the likelihood of capturing data booked outside of the TMC and assembling it into something useful to help optimize a corporate travel program is very low indeed.
The Problem with Capturing All Booking Data
The CapTrav idea is not novel. The description above tries to illustrate that each of these compelling solutions recognizes that the single biggest problem in corporate travel is leakage and perceives a financial and strategic opportunity to fill the void. Leakage is the single biggest problem in corporate travel. All other problems in the corporate travel industry stem from this central issue including supplier optimization, duty of care, expense management, et cetera. Centralized purchasing or the ability to aggregate all purchasing data is the solution. Fix leakage and all other problems are solved. But, we face two major hurdles to accomplish this goal. One, 30-50% of managed travel is not managed – travelers book where they want despite corporate travel policy to the contrary and all evidence points to this issue becoming more acute due to the user behavior traits of Millennials, abundance of robust content sources, and content fragmentation in our traditional inventory systems. Two, the vast majority of corporate travel is booked without the use of a TMC at all so capturing data for a company that doesn’t even possess a baseline of data from a TMC is next to impossible.
The problem with capturing all booking data no matter the booking source is really less of a problem and more of a challenge. Put simply, the technology behind this is extremely complicated. In my past blog, A Modern Solution to an Old Problem, we describe the difficulty of capturing, normalizing, and reporting on travel booking content from every possible source. The critical accomplishment for CapTrav is that we have succeeded technologically where many have failed.
Our idea is not novel but our idea works.
In the past 18 months the corporate travel industry:
- Was devastated by COVID-19 and forced to consider new ways to come together for business purposes
- Saw unprecedented investment in new travel technologies, primarily developed to disrupt the status quo and address the underserved small to mid-market
- Has seen significant consolidation, restructuring and financial rebuilding, with only more expected
- Heard from our largest traveling population, the Millennial, who consume products and services differently than their predecessors. They are ready for fundamental change
- Witnessed content fragmentation and GDS disintermediation at a faster pace, in a more structured manner, and more impactful than any efforts made in the past (NDC, Google, et cetera)
- Has coalesced around the importance of duty of care and real time data no matter the booking source including non-traditional sources such as Airbnb
Corporate clients want the assurance from their TMC partners that their corporate travel purchases are being tracked, reported, and optimized. Industry data clearly shows that the vast majority of organizations that utilize a TMC do not book 100% of their travel through that provider. CapTrav has provided TMC’s part of the answer they’ve been seeking in terms of being able to deliver a Super PNR, provide a more holistic duty of care experience, optimize supplier spend, and mitigate their own risk due to GDS disintermediation and other industry threats to their business model. TMC’s can utilize and monetize off-channel data captured by CapTrav in much the same way they receive data from Concur’s TripLink, direct connections to various suppliers which flow into their systems as passive segments, or NDC connections. TMC’s can hand-off real time pre-trip data to third party risk management companies so that they can provide their client’s duty of care reporting no matter how or where the traveler booked.
Travel suppliers want their customers to book through the most efficient channel possible. In some cases, the TMC is the right path. Suppliers enjoy the customer support, enhanced reporting, and client management provided by the TMC. In the case where TMC type support is not required, suppliers would prefer travelers book directly on their websites. Distribution costs go down and they get a better picture of client demand because they have data they wouldn’t otherwise possess.
Travelers are demanding more flexibility. Consumer choice is expanding and the user behavior profile of the consumer has changed. CapTrav requires no change or flexibility in user behavior. We report on what our customer books.
Through the Looking Glass
Having worked through procure to pay business models across scores of companies over 25 years, it became clear that things in the corporate travel business are not always as they should be. As a consultant, I have the sometimes enviable position of pointing out to the client that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing without being reprimanded, or worse. Ultimately, corporate travel is its own unique supply chain that lives and breathes on its own within organizations. Corporate travel follows its own rules and has a canny ability to bend even unbreakable policy mandates. It demands clarity, reason, and is emotional. It is a personal choice in a corporate environment. The solutions we provide have to understand these motivations or they won’t survive.
This is corporate travel and I kind of like it.
In case you missed them, check out the other articles in this series: Part One: The Problem with Corporate Credit Card Data, Part Two: The Problem with Expense Data, Part Three: The Problem with Travel Management Company (TMC) Data and Part Four: The Problem with Supplier Data.