November 30, 2023

Six tasks for a buyer’s to-do list

Nick Brockbank, Global Account Manager for ATPI, outlines six priorities for travel buyers as they prepare for a travel restart

1 Policy re-think

Travel won’t come back in a flood – probably more like a trickle – and travellers are bound to have more concerns about going back on the road and in the air and need greater care and attention during the booking process. When it comes to hotels, that means health and safety, location and ratings all take on extra importance. Of course, the knock-on effect is that travel policies will probably need a tweak to acknowledge these ‘new-world’ conditions. There is probably no need for extensive rewrites, but building in flexibility with regards to availability, pricing and particularly the whole approvals process is a must. Also consider that online booking tools with no engagement from a travel booking consultant may not be appropriate. Explore the functionality of more support rather than self-service.

2 Refresh procurement

One positive of the pandemic could be that it ends the painful hotel RFP process. With less time and fewer resources at hand – for both hoteliers and travel managers – buyers have the opportunity to examine where their organisation’s top travel destinations will be in 2021 and beyond, and then stay focused on a selection of hotels that best meet their requirements. For trips elsewhere, the best option is to tap into rates offered by your TMC or the chain-wide deals of preferred suppliers. For a more bespoke and flexible answer, maybe consider moving away from the fixed rates of RFPs and opt for dynamic rates instead – these will likely be cheaper anyway while the Covid-19 uncertainty continues.

3 Switch track

Rail and road travel will be the likely winners both on domestic routes and for longer European journeys when short-haul corporate travel returns. For some travel managers these will be new sectors to engage with, and ones where there are plenty of opportunities to meet duty of care requirements for social distancing. Have you got the product access you need and do you make it easy for travellers to book? Likewise, some execs may want the Covid security of driving themselves, so that means tightening up deals with car rental suppliers.

4 Reappraise travel approvals

It is essential to take a step back and look at how travel has been historically planned and approved in the first place. There is a need to shift to place greater attention on the permission to travel. The travel approval system needs to evolve to become the process that gives permission – or not – as to whether any booking can be put forward for sign off. Look at adding factors other than cost to a permission process, and ensure multiple authorisation points are included to ensure that all aspects of an enhanced duty of care policy are met. It is also a time to truly address compliance in this area. It is essential that no one is even planning travel outside of policy, let alone booking it.

5 Constant learning

Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken its toll on jobs, so it’s likely your team could have shrunk over the last 12 months. As a result, you and your colleagues may be taking on unfamiliar tasks or dealing with people internally and externally who are new to you. This puts fresh emphasis on training and development. Use any downtime to ensure you are up to speed with company processes, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to suppliers and network (virtually, or in person when conditions allow, of course). A good starting point is the BTA, which oversees the industry’s Diploma in Business Travel and hosts a raft of webinars and podcasts. Oh, and keep reading TBTM, to stay up-to-date with the major industry news and trends.

6 Integration game

With a bit more time on your hands, is there an opportunity to finally get around to those ‘big picture’ projects? Organisations are increasingly talking about integrating their whole trip management into one workflow, so people no longer need to switch between different tools, technology and processes to plan and manage travel. Cost savings and compliance benefits beckon if you can merge research and booking tools into corporate card spend and expenses management. It’s a big job and you need buy-in from finance and procurement departments before you start so don’t underestimate the time and resource needed to do this well. A good TMC partner and access to full data is essential here.