Business travel consultants today face an expanding role, according to independent consulting company Areka Consulting.

At the Business Travel Show last week, it published its own findings following six months of research into the demand for various types of global consulting engagements. 

From Areka’s own experience, it said that during 2017 and 2018, the number of its strategy engagements that had no sourcing elements had doubled.

Areka, which specialises in global travel management programmes, said there was now a trend towards corporations seeking the help of external resources for their business travel strategy – rather than on savings around online booking tools, air and hotel sourcing.

It’s an area of focus for Louise Miller, managing partner, Americas, who joined in summer 2018. She was brought in to help expand Areka’s clients grow capabilities in technology, distribution and hotel strategies. She previously spent 23 years at BCD Travel.

Miller told BBT her priority was to “listen”. “What do customers want? What weren’t they getting from consultants? What we are hearing is that corporates want more strategy work, before they decide to source.

“We typically find improvements to the corporate programme through leveraging current suppliers, resulting in significant cost savings and efficiencies. Many organisations choose to source fewer categories or extend agreements with key suppliers to form stronger partnerships,” Miller added.

“We see corporates paying as much as a 20 per cent premium over the market price in some categories. But before purely working on a cost-cutting exercise, it’s important to understand what value means to the client, since a decision should not always be made purely on price. Better data, process improvements and traveller welfare are just some of the other factors that play a part in evaluating the true cost of travel.”

The research found travel buyers were also seeking more advice on NDC, and that smaller TMCs were being threatened by the new wave of online booking platforms that are now “taking pieces of their business away, and chipping away”. However, larger TMCs with global reach were unconcerned due to the high barriers to entry.

Miller said that she wanted to also help corporates “modernise” their travel policies, in particular large organsiations that were “mature in one way, but not in others”.

Areka was founded in 2010 and claims its global organisations and public institution clients represent US$5B billion of travel spend annually. 

Miller talked to BBT about this trend at the Business Travel Show:

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