April 18, 2024

Fit for purpose

Selecting the right TMC will be even more crucial in the post-Covid era, says Paul Tilstone, Managing Partner of Festive Road

For a long while we have been advocates of using the 3 Cs to source your most important travel management partnerships. Culture, Capabilities and Commercials are great lenses to find the right servicing provider. Never have these three areas been more in focus than now when reflecting on the TMC/buyer relationship in a Covid-era, especially for those going through an RFP exercise. A cultural fit where the provider and client are aligned on how to handle crisis situations, the enhancement of capabilities to cater for new needs, and the pressure placed on commercials all play their part in the new alignment of TMC with their client needs.

But the emphasis on the importance of these three areas isn’t going to dissipate in the next phase of our industry, what we call ‘An Era of Purposeful Travel’, where defining the true value of travel is going to be key for corporations and the impact that this has on their travel programme needs. In fact, one could argue that the importance of culture, capabilities and commercials increases even further.

“Defining the true value of travel is going to be key for corporations and the impact that this has on their travel programme needs”

What an era of purposeful travel brings is a demand-led mentality, where the corporation starts with the ‘why’ of travel and only reverts to the ‘how’ once they’ve determined what type of travel brings their company the most value. The results of this analysis will be different for different types of companies and sectors. Their own culture will play a huge role in defining where the real value in face to face, and therefore business travel, lies. This heightens the importance of culture in the selection of their TMC partner.

To date, the TMC provider has been primarily involved in delivering the ‘what and how’ of travel programmes – delivering policy, booking travel, collating data etc. But in an era of purposeful travel, there are all sorts of opportunities to develop some of the more valued capabilities we have seen evolve over the last decade.  Foremost is the opportunity for a TMC to be more involved in supporting the “why”, helping the client define where the true value in travel lies. Designing policies and processes which will support the implementation of a purposeful travel programme is another opportunity for value, as is analysing new data to continuously refine the approach and develop services which meet the new need. 

And in a purposeful travel era, where travel budgets are built from the bottom up and the focus on where travel brings value, there are all sorts of implications for the commercial relationship between TMC and buyer too. If TMCs can support companies to become more strategic with their travel investments then the commercial dynamic is changed and true value can be realised both for the customer and TMC. A natural side-effect of this, of course, is that buyers will only contract a TMC for services their company values.