5 international focus points every Travel Manager needs to know about

In recent articles I have written about the major emergence of technology in travel and what its role is, or at least should be. As a follow up article I looked at the disruptors in the travel industry and examined whether technology itself is a disruptor.

My own conclusion, in the case of both articles, is that it is still the travel professionals themselves that really make the difference and those companies utilising technology to enhance the customer experience are the real disruptors.

Following on with my observations of what are the critical criteria emerging within the travel industry, I came upon some interesting research carried out by Skift.

Skift, in their own words, is the “largest industry intelligence platform, providing Media, Insights & Marketing to key sectors of travel.” Suffice to say that in order to be as big as they are they need to have their finger on the pulse of international trends and the research I stumbled upon gave me a clear picture of 5 international focus points every Travel Manager needs to know about.

The research was conducted with the input and insights of many of the World’s top professional Travel Managers. Their combined input revealed these as the areas that should be top of mind for Travel Managers right now and I have added a few of my own observations regarding the differences in local travel…

1. Global uncertainty – This is surprisingly, in a world of economic turmoil, the only fairly negative focus point raised. It speaks of a new order of Travel Managers and their clients who are going through an unprecedented level of travel anxiety. The reason for this is essentially, in their words, “an increased focus on duty of care, risk management and in-policy booking.”

2. Mobile access – The mobile phone is the preferred device for business travellers to access travel information when they are on the go. The consensus of the Travel Managers however, is that there could be vast improvement in this, especially in the corporate travel space.

In South Africa most mobiles are still owned by individuals and even with those that aren’t there is a general reluctance to use your mobile data when traveling. It is still associated with exorbitant data costs. Wi-Fi may be available publicly in Europe & the US, but remains a big problem in Africa.

Despite this we still see client demand for sms notifications, approvals on corporate booking tools etc. It talks to a need in South Africa to enable travellers to have part of their cost per day covered by their employer.

3. Sharing Economy – With an ever worsening international economic scenario, saving money on business travel is uppermost on everyone’s mind. Ridesharing services have become pretty big, but there is a lack of extending that to accommodation. Leisure travel seems to be ahead of business travel with more options like Airbnb.

Obviously this only could work for corporate travellers who are paired with others and in South Africa, the Airbnb type of option may not be viable even then, due to personal safety concerns. An opportunity for local Travel Managers – is to come up with better, safer ways to introduce more shared economy options into corporate packages.

4. Emerging technologies – Certainly this is a major factor, especially the way A.I is revolutionising business travel. I’ve dealt with it at some length in previous articles and the research’s conclusion is pretty much the same as mine – the human touch is still vital and technology should be a useful partner, not a substitute for customer focussed services.

5. Traveller satisfaction – Following on from the previous paragraph, it is not surprising that despite the technological advances, the travel professionals interviewed collectively believe that traveller satisfaction enjoys more focus now than ever before. This is what they believe “drives compliance, productivity and overall employee engagement.”

These may be, as found by this excellent research, 5 international focus points every Travel Manager needs to know about, but it is clear that certain factors need always to be taken into account when dealing with one’s own market. Global trends are not necessarily all mirrored in South Africa and local Travel Managers need to always be cognisant of that.

The last point of focus on Traveller satisfaction is what really caught my attention. It validated for me my own beliefs and philosophies around what the key focus of the travel industry should always be. It is, I believe, exactly why this point of focus is growing more than any other. Ironically it is also what the travel industry was built on!

In future articles I am going to drill down and unpack this ‘Traveller satisfaction’ in more detail, as I believe, more than any technology, circumstances or trends emerging in the industry today, this has always – and always should be – the Travel Industry’s core focus!

LIDIA FOLLI

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

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