Questioning the travel industry status quo, one blog post at a time

Posts Tagged ‘TMC’

ZeusLast week’s PhoCusWright Conference in Hollywood, Florida, with its record-breaking attendance, had the theme “Cult of Context.” When prepping for the event I thought to myself, hey, it’s been quite some time since I have joined a cult and most of the scares and horrible nightmares have gone away from my last cult-joining experience, so what the heck, join the “Cult of Context.” How bad can it be? So I joined!

Session after session, innovator after innovator, offered up profound, or at least novel, examples of travel product personalization, content-relevancy generating algorithms, and example after example of delivering the right product to the right person at the right time. I’ll bet I heard that last expression 50 times throughout the Conference. By the way, as an aside, I thought the Conference was one of the better PCW Conferences I have attended. It was also Tony D’s coming out event as PCW’s new ring leader. Well done, circus-master TD, as you and the PCW team once again demonstrated how a thought-leader conference can be super-professionally run, inclusive of opinion and perspective, and even have a few streaks of fun. I suspect Mr. D will bring in a bit more of the latter, in his next PCW appearance.

Back to the “Cult of Context.” I had the wonderful opportunity of participating on a panel titled, “Flights of Fancy” with Kurt Ekert, COO of Travelport, and Bob Kupbens, VP Marketing and Digital Commerce at Delta. Tony D did his usual yeoman’s job of navigating us through thought-provoking questions about airline distribution, personalization, customer engagement, etc. We had a somewhat spirited discussion about the differences between Direct and Indirect airline distribution channels ending with what I thought to be a fairly profound general consensus that the lines need to blur and the gap needs to close between the two channels – even to the point of a suggesting that we (the industry we) lose altogether both the terminology and the notion that there is any difference between the two, at least from an airline’s customer engagement, brand differentiation, and product(s) delivery point of view. With the notable exception that travel agents or corporate booking tools may play a “proxy” role in product display and transaction delivery on behalf of the airline, thus adding their own value in the process but not impacting the actual airline offer for that particular customer or corporation. Read the rest of this entry »

I had the privilege of presenting to the fine folks of the FBTA last week. This is not my first time with the group, and knowing they can be a little feisty at times, I came prepared to bare all. There is no holding back with this group. They remind me a lot of the group from LABTA.

My presentation was all about airline ancillary services and the impact these might have on corporate travel managers and their travelers. Whether it’s a new bundled airline product freshly negotiated by savvy travel managers or a set of company-authorized a-la-carte optional services based on trip type or duration, a whole new world has opened up for today’s corporate travel managers… if they want it that is. I bet most will, but I suspect some will run for the hills because navigating in this new world where the corporate travel managers are negotiating the travel experience is new territory. The days of simply negotiating a discount in return for volume are long gone.  And simply getting your travelers an entry-level frequent flyer status just won’t cut it.

As is typical with this group, presenters only get through their first three slides before the “Hands of Challenge” arise. No different this day, but I expected and prepared for it. In reality, this is really what I love about this group—dialogue! Ok, maybe more like pointed questions, but I love it anyway. At first they seemed very school-like by raising their hands and politely waiting their turn to ask, but that only lasted a few minutes. We talked about how airlines are working hard to create an “experience” for their travelers rather than just a trip, and how travel managers now have the ability to influence their travelers experience by engaging airlines to customize product bundles based on type of travel—say a training venue versus a sales trip halfway around the world for the top salespeople in the organization.  Read the rest of this entry »

© ysk_hrsw_i - Fotolia.com

© ysk_hrsw_i – Fotolia.com

Well here we are in a new year and still no outrage! We reported over a month ago that, according to transcripts from the AA v. Sabre case, Sabre, through boycotts and biasing, might have seriously impacted those all along the travel supply chain.

According to the documents, airline partners of AA were allegedly subject to biasing. Consumers were allegedly denied transparent and unbiased flight information. Corporations with contractual obligations to American had, it appears in some cases, AA flights withheld completely from corporate travelers seeking to book. And let’s not forget that the transcripts suggest travel agencies unknowingly had their point-of-sale displays tampered with.

Are we the only ones who find it odd that such serious GDS actions—actions that apparently impacted parties across the entire supply chain—are not being met with outrage and demand for serious investigation by industry advocacy groups such as BTC, ITSA, GBTA and ACTE?

Or is our industry outrage really that selective…?

Somebody should Ask The Question.

 

Hey there, industry advocacy groups, corporate travel managers, and defenders of consumer rights, it’s been over a month since the AA-Sabre case settled. You’ve had plenty of time to read at least some of those trial transcripts. We certainly have, and we are among those in the industry wondering… where’s the outrage? Where’s the transparency battle cry? As we pointed out in a recent blog, there are plenty of things to be upset about and far heavier issues than false debate about “hidden” ancillary fees that still fly around in the press. The complete lack of attention to the meat of this case by those very groups charged with protecting consumers and corporations would almost make one question whether some of those advocates are really interested in protecting the consumer.

Back to the facts of the case: sworn testimony by Sabre employees suggests that Sabre was well aware that the alleged boycott and display biasing activities was having, or could have, an impact on far more people than its target, American Airlines. The list of those impacted include:

–      Airline partners (American interline airlines, American codeshare airlines, and oneworld alliance airlines) impacted and subject to biasing.

–      Consumers that were denied transparent and unbiased access to flight information.

–      Corporations with contractual obligations for preferred carriers such as AA, impacted at the corporate booking tool and agency level (in some cases AA flights didn’t even show up!).

–      Travel agencies that, in some cases, were unaware that their own selling displays and corresponding carrier sales volumes were being tampered with.

But don’t take our word for it. Read for yourself: Read the rest of this entry »

I always love going to the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) conference. This year it was held in beautiful Boston. What I really enjoy about GBTA is how low key it has become, including a line up of lesser known guest speakers (one named Bush and the other named Clinton), a smattering of attendees (including the top brass from every TMC you could name), airline execs from around the world, heavy hitters from technology, hotel, and car rental companies, some network news faces, and, of course, the stars of the show—corporate travel managers from some of the largest most innovative companies in the world. All gather to address one thing–The Management of Corporate Travel.

So once again the folks from GBTA pulled off a winner.

But that winner is not the subject of this blog. The winner I am referring to is a new and innovative Open Booking concept that started to pick up some momentum a few months before GBTA with the likes of Shorts Travel, Concur, The Manifesto, GDSx, ProcureApp, US Foods, and KDS. In Boston, the concept wafted throughout the conference, almost to the point of creating a buzz. In the days following the event, it has received even more endorsement from a number of vendors and brought on new adopters like Google and Salesforce.com Read the rest of this entry »

Air & Business Travel News posted a “News Story” this week that cites a large TMCs annual Travel Management Priorities report. According to the report, “Comparing travel costs between suppliers will be ‘more difficult’ for buyers this year because of extra charges and airlines’ attempts to move to ‘direct connect’ distribution.

Unfortunately, this large TMC’s report just hit the tip of the iceberg. We did some research and took some surveys* about what else will be ‘more difficult’ because of Direct Connect. I hope you’re sitting down. The results might just shock you!

© Glenda Powers - Fotolia.com

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Did you see Friday’s Beat commentary by Joe Da Rosa from Balboa Travel, in which Joe voiced his strong opposition to the commoditization of travel agency services?

Now I’ve known Joe for ages—all the way back to my System One and Amadeus days. Anyone who meets Joe instantly knows he is a professional, a gentleman, and a leader… and from what I know of Joe, it takes quite a bit for him to “get his dander up.” So, knowing Joe, his agitation must be justified, and, in this case, I think he’s absolutely right.

Travel agencies invest in people and resources. They work very hard to compete for their business, and the last thing they need is for anyone to view their products and services as commodities. It is absurd, preposterous, outrageous… and if the holidays weren’t upon us, I would really go off here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Even though there is a lot of jabber about the GDSs outlining plans to charge travel agencies for their selling systems, I am not aware of anyone actually doing it— Wait, wait! Whoa! Stop the presses! Travelport seems to have thrown down the gauntlet. And I, for one, am not surprised. As I see it, it was only a matter of time.

© Yanik Chauvin - Fotolia.com

The GDSs are facing a very challenging situation when it comes to modern day selling of travel products and services. Their agent point-of-sale systems are obsolete, and they know it. GDS companies are staring into a pretty significant investment hole if they decide to attack the problem head on and not attempt an incremental facelift.

Sure, many travel agents will publicly say they like the current green screen systems, but a reality check says they like them because the agency ownership gets paid to use them, and the GDS green screen selling system is virtually the only game in town. And let’s be honest, using the GDS green screen product is complex, so there is also an element of job security for the agents currently using it. I get it. We all understand the economics and realities of the current situation. But that doesn’t mean we should simply sit back and accept it. Especially if you really think about it from an agent’s point-of-view.

Read the rest of this entry »

For someone who travels as much as I do, sleep is at a premium. Besides being a time for me to regain my strength, it’s also a time to escape the trials and tribulations of daily life. I mean, I love those dreams where I’m Indiana Jones. You know, chasing the bad guys, winning gunfights, and of course, recovering the gold. Or the ones where I’m a Pro Bowl quarterback throwing the game-winning touchdown, giving the postgame interview, then giving some kid my game ball as I tussle his hair on the way to my helicopter.

Now those are fun dreams. An escape. And let me tell you, there is nothing worse than dreaming about work. I’m awake worrying about work 16 hours a day. The last thing I want is for it to start permeating my dreams. But sure enough, the other night I had a dream about what the conversation must be like these days between a Corporate Travel Manager and a Travel Management Company. Yeah, I know, not nearly as exciting.

Luckily for us, I was able to film one of my dreams. Don’t you imagine the conversation between Ms. Corporate Travel Manager and Mr. TMC would go something like this:

A Bobblehead’s Corporate Travel Manager Dream

We all know that direct connects have many benefits: reduced distribution costs, pricing transparency, a more personalized shopping experience. But again, you already know all about those, so I want to talk to you today about a benefit many seem to be overlooking: EMD & Reporting.

Lately, I’ve been hearing an awful lot about the need for an accessible standard metric when it comes to the purchasing of ancillary services. It’s a corporate travel manager’s headache… having access to detailed purchase data. For years the travel industry has looked for the credit card industry to solve the problem. Stop looking, I say… if it hasn’t happened by now, it’s probably not going to happen.

So back to the corporate travel manager. How does she know if Business Traveler Smith is charging a checked bag or an in-flight cocktail? Wi-Fi to do work or another bottle of Pinot? Business Traveler Smith has a bit of a reputation for over-serving himself at the Christmas party. How does the travel manager know that he’s not doing the same thing on the company dime every time he gets sent to Detroit? Okay, a bit of tongue and check here but in real corporate traveler manager life, corporations want the best ROI on their travel spending and that includes wanting to pay for necessities and agreed traveler convenience items and not, in this case, Business Traveler Smith’s love of white wine. Airline ancillaries are quickly becoming a way of life in corporate travel management, which is all well and good, but it’s no help if the corporations can’t track them. Read the rest of this entry »