TravelMole speaks to Jackie Lacey, managing director of Chelsea Travel Management, about some of the key issues for travel management companies.
Q. What would you say is the most significant change to TMC business in the last five years?
A. The key change in the last five years has clearly been the migration of corporate business to online and the increased use of self-booking tools. From our own experience our operation and business model today is very different to the one operated five years ago. Our client online booking adoption levels now run at over 50% and the figure is set to rise this year with the introduction of new travel Apps. In addition, we have seen a significant shift in travel trends within the UK and Europe with travellers opting for rail over air. Decisions are largely driven by the ability to work on the train, the cost of air travel and environmental choices.
Q. Has CSR become a big influence on the way you conduct business?
A. The introduction of changes to the Corporate Manslaughter Act in April 2008 together with the ongoing security risks travellers face has fundamentally changed the way which we communicate with our clients. The introduction of new policy and procedures, together with sophisticated reporting, is now commonplace between organisations. Without travel tracker reporting capabilities a TMC would struggle to compete. Companies are becoming increasingly aware of their CRS responsibilities and often involve their HR managers to ensure the reporting tools and procedures are in place with their travel supplier to assist them in their duties as an employer.
Q. In these austere times how do you reconcile online v service?
A. We don"t try and reconcile we give our clients the choice. Our role is to guide travellers through what has become a very complex and competitive market. We provide the benefit of booking online where time management and cost is paramount to the client. They can use our systems with the knowledge and reassurance that our pricing is competitive our systems are unbiased and secure. There is no comparison when looking at the service offered by a travel management company verses booking online direct. The travel booking process is just a small part of the work undertaken by the TMC. Our view is to let the client decide how they want to book their travel; they have the benefit of both worlds either online with the controls and security our systems provide or through our specialist branch teams. Either way they have the support and guidance of a TMC.
Q. Which TMCs will survive and thrive in the future?
A. In my opinion the TMCs that will survive will be the businesses that embrace change and have a vision for the future that goes beyond the systems and practices used today. There is a big role for agents to play in driving change working in partnership with companies to improve the customer experience addressing the needs of the future business traveller.
Monday, February 27, 2012