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For Business, Corporate Travel & Meeting Buyers & Arrangers

Buyer's Guide: Get fit for purpose

How to conduct a review that enhances and modernises your global travel programme

Mark Cuschieri is executive director, global travel lead for UBS. He is responsible for the strategic management of the global travel programme within UBS.

“We were coming to the end of a five-year plan and had accomplished more or less everything we had put on our road map: strengthened organisational set-up, supplier consolidation, online booking policy and more,” he says.

“With any review, you need to look at your business to understand the changes you need to make – and those have to be aligned to the organisation’s strategy and culture, and to changes in the marketplace.

“We looked at it from both internal and external perspectives, so that we could assess how we were keeping up with the rapid changes in the industry and how we could future-proof our programme.”

Cuschieri adds: “UBS has made a significant investment in technology. There’s been a group-wide initiative to deliver a fast, simple and flexible IT experience around the globe, to enable our employees to access any application, on any device, from any location, to facilitate a more mobile business workforce. Booking travel purely via telephony, TMC or OBT via desktop had to change, as people were becoming more mobile-savvy.”

  1. Our external review looked at three pillars: data, distribution and demand. A number of suppliers had far more data intelligence about our business and consumers than we did, and they were using it more effectively to deliver solutions. Distribution in the marketplace was changing: airlines no longer saw GDS as the only source channel. We use an online booking tool (OBT) and a travel agency; we have just above 70 per cent adoption for all transactions globally through the OBT and GDS. Price and user experience parity are key.
     
  2. We had some leakage and wanted to understand why. We interviewed stakeholders, travellers and budget holders. We believe our business travellers are consumers and should be treated as such. People were finding it easier to book outside the mandatory channel/s. They were booking preferred carriers and preferred hotels, but they found OBTs too inflexible. Consumer travel technology is changing fast and corporate travel technology is not keeping up.
     
  3. We used external support to give us third-party assessment and validate our conclusions. We also asked a number of our preferred partners whether there was anything we could be doing better. With a mature programme, it is easy to get complacent and we wanted to know what we needed to do to embrace the changes in the marketplace.
     
  4. Our goal is to create a one-stop shop, with content from different channels to provide the best enriched content with price and user experience parity within a managed framework, and to deliver personalisation to cater for travellers’ different needs. We also considered regional nuances and cultural differences. It took about 12 months to formulate a strategy that reflected our review and we then communicated it to all our major suppliers; if your partners don’t understand what your policy is, you cannot expect them to deliver. We are embarking on a two-year strategy, driven by the marketplace, underpinned by communication and technology and based on data, distribution and demand to ensure that we have the right content, the right information, at the right time in the hands of the right person  so they make the right decision.
     
  5. Our priority for year one has been communication and traveller engagement. We launched in EMEA an electronic traveller engagement survey, which goes to all our travellers when they return from a trip. It is a few simple questions relating to each aspect of their journey, with a ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ response. It has been a huge success and we have a return rate of 30-35 per cent – annual surveys on average rated single digits in the past. If anyone rates any part of their journey with thumbs down, their regional manager calls them to discuss the problem and we share that with our supplier partners; they love it. Our next move is to go mobile.
     
  6. Our objective is to have a fully integrated platform programme so that there is no reason for any of our travellers to go outside a managed programme: by booking through the UBS programme, you get better value, a greater experience and one where corporate recognition trumps whatever traveller loyalty status they may have, which meets the B2C challenges head on. It is an ongoing project: this is where the hard work starts.

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