The top of the business travel agenda will be dominated by distribution, data and duty of care, according to FCM Travel Solutions.

Changes in airline distribution driven by the continued development of New Distribution Capability (NDC) couple with the trend of hotel suppliers encouraging direct booking channels has the possibility to fragment travel content, which poses a challenge for travel managers and their TMCs.

Leading on from this, duty of care will also remain high on corporates’ agenda thanks to the ongoing risk of terrorism, natural disasters and geopolitical volatility, claims FCM. As such, traveller data will become even more critical, creating the need for TMCs to evolve as aggregators of management information (MI) from multiple booking sources to support clients with traveller safety.

Jo Greenfield, UK general manager at FCM Travel Solutions, commented: “It will no longer be sufficient for TMCs to say that they can only track travellers if all bookings have been made via their reservations systems. We need to be able to pull in data and bookings from other channels, even if the client has booked externally, so that we can truly support corporates with their duty of care obligations and traveller safety.

“Customers will also expect greater visibility around reporting and analytics as other data management solutions come into the market, which will potentially reduce the role of a TMC as MI providers. As a TMC, we need to adapt and continue to evolve and address this challenge and ensure we are proactively aggregating comprehensive business intelligence.

“2019 is also the year when we will see a major focus on distribution as NDC becomes more of a reality and travel content is more fragmented. That is why FCM is investing heavily in its travel content and NDC strategy in 2019 and we will be announcing significant developments in the first quarter. Our clients need to turn to us as the experts on NDC, to guide and advise them, and ensure that NDC has a positive impact on their business travel programme.”

Here in the UK, FCM forecasts that travel managers will continue to focus on cost and return on investment in their travel programme throughout 2019, but not necessarily because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Greenfield explained: “There is definitely a focus on cost and clients cutting spend on internal travel, but it is hard to know if that is Brexit related. On the whole, we saw clients up-trading in 2018 – in fact 17 of our top 20 UK clients up-traded by anything from 5 per cent to 1,319 per cent – and we expect that trend to continue as corporates are focusing on travel that will grow their business. We also foresee an increase in travel to and within Europe as companies look to outsource business functions and set up shared services in markets like Poland for example.”

Greenfield concluded: “2018 was a hugely successful year for FCM, as our global turnover grew by 20 per cent and FCM won almost AUD$1 billion in new business worldwide. Around 25 per cent of new multinational business was driven out of the UK and we particularly saw growth in the FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] sector. Plus, we have had a record number of major UK clients extend contracts or reappoint us following a retender process with a total spend of £54.5 million.”

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