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For Business, Corporate Travel & Meeting Buyers & Arrangers

Ask the experts: how to manage data

With overwhelming volumes of data now available, buyers must stay focused on what matters for their business

Data collation and analysis has changed the face of travel and meetings management over recent years. The abundance of information available from TMCs, corporate card providers and GDSs brings huge opportunities to make cost savings, create process efficiencies and negotiate better corporate deals. But, as many have realised, the task of deciphering what’s important can be daunting.

In this age of technology almost everything leaves a data trail that can be monitored and turned into business intelligence. Indeed, there is now a large number of companies set up to focus solely on data crunching. The TMCs and GDSs have all established data and business intelligence divisions, and unveiled tools to help buyers separate the wheat from the chaff.

Here our experts talk about data sources, and how prudent use of information can bring short- and long-term gains.

The Buyer:

Mark Cuschieri, executive director, travel management, UBS

The degree of reporting requirements depends wholly on the maturity of an organisation’s travel programme. It might be an old cliché, but if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Management information (MI), and pre- and post-trip data, not only highlight travel trends and activity but also bring to light areas of potential exploitation for future cost reductions, duty-of-care and efficiency increases.

However, the needs of one company may significantly differ to another’s. Data is key to driving business behaviour, and the implications of data on the sourcing and management of business travel and meetings is critical. It’s all well and good implementing a travel policy or negotiating what may appear to be favourable negotiated fares and rates, but it is the access to data that enables you to truly identify how successful they’ve been.

Meaningful, clear and concise MI can support you and your organisation in gaining greater visibility, and is fundamental to reducing costs and identifying inefficiencies.

The Data Specialists:

Keesup Choe, chief executive, PI Benchmarking

Data comes from multiple sources, such as TMCs, corporate cards, accounts payable and social networks. Forward-thinking travel departments are beginning to integrate valuable internal data from other departments: HR data to measure correlation between employee turnover and travel; or sales data to measure the effectiveness of travel to the sales process.

This integration is an exciting development that moves travel buyers and managers into increasingly strategic positions within an organisation. Business travel managers need new ways of increasing productivity by leveraging data. They must improve the traveller experience, while at the same time increase compliance and decrease costs through the use of new and better tools.

Travel vendors have invested in such tools to handle this increasingly data-rich environment. In fact, the capability to capture and analyse data has tilted the commercial playing field in favour of vendors at the expense of the buyers.

Ian Flint, managing director, Inform Logistics

The options for collecting, delivering and consolidating data can prove extensive. It’s important not to lose sight of the reason for wanting data in the first place. It is important to identify, isolate, and mine multiple data sources to support your decision making and travel data utilisation across a variety of functions. The right data management gives buyers access to a comprehensive range of standard and customised reports and dashboards, with the ability to drill down by category and country.

The data empowers travel managers. It gives them the ability to make informed decisions that impact the travel programme and policy. They can produce reports on travel activities, and create these reports for senior management. Having that spend visibility helps consolidate, integrate and manage travel and associated expenses. It helps streamline processes and leverage spend volumes more effectively. 

The intermediary:

Adam Knights, group sales director, ATPI

Let’s start at a basic level. You might have an economy class-only policy, and there are many reasons why it may get abused. Without pre- and post-trip data you can’t investigate how often or why. Alternatively, a company may have a restricted economy tickets-only policy in Europe. These accrue less frequent flyer points for the traveller. Those who are not good corporate citizens may be drawn towards buying out-of-policy, fully-flexible fares.

Smart use of data will tell you the original price and why it wasn’t purchased. It will also highlight those who are booking at the last minute and only being offered the highest price. By using data correctly, the buyer should achieve a number of goals. A simple assessment of negotiated rates will confirm whether or not they are more cost-effective than buying spot fares. With this knowledge, the buyer can either improve existing deals or switch to spot-buying on certain routes.

Data is also being used to analyse hotel expenditure. Many buyers are mapping city hotel spend into clusters and asking travellers why they are staying at different hotels in a similar geographical area. More detailed analysis and qualitative questioning enables the buyer to consolidate spend and maximise savings. Increasingly, the programme can be made more effective by finding the right mix of hotels rather than the right bottom-line price. To that end, good data, including the constituent elements of the room (for example, VAT, breakfast or wifi) is crucial.

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