Finding balance in the evolution of travel program tech

Travel managers across the world have shared their views on travel technology with GBTA and FCM. Among all the data that’s come from the research, it’s clear that travel technology has evolved and its role in travel programs has changed. But there is still some way to go, and priorities to be set. Let’s dissect some of the key findings.

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OBTs are embedded into travel programs

Travel managers are clearly aware of the importance of technology in their program; 59% of respondents said technology was one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing a TMC. Buyers are interested in exploring new trends, but many are still struggling with how to achieve the right balance with their current stack.

Several statistics in the research suggest many believe it is still all about the online booking tool (OBT). With so many features and products out there, what about all the other possibilities, and is the OBT actually more than a booking tool? For example, FCM Platform is one central travel ecosystem for booking, reporting, approvals, communication and more.

When it comes to traveller facing tech, it’s understandable that many travel programs start with sourcing booking technology. But it is just part of a wider travel technology strategy with your TMC; it’s important that buyers consider a more holistic approach based on their goals and objectives

- Jo Lloyd, Head of Global Account Management & Consulting at FCM

In the research, a third of buyers said they want to use technology to better communicate with travellers. Using that example as a potential travel program goal; buyers can assess whether a TMC’s tech stack and/or tech providers not only have that capability, but if it fits their workflows and processes, with the customisation they require.

There’s a big challenge: time

76% of travel managers in the research told us they spend less than a quarter of their time managing, overseeing or using technology. With so many facets to their roles, travel buyers will lean on their TMC Account Manager to make recommendations when it comes to tech customisation and strategy, and then work with tech teams to implement those changes.  

“Partner with a TMC or travel tech provider that has creativity and innovation as its core. You are then essentially outsourcing the agility of your technology to a specialist, while getting the support you need to make core decisions on what to look at next,” says Jo Lloyd, Head of Global Account Management & Consulting at FCM. 

An innovation that buyers will be looking for is artificial intelligence, with seven out of 10 buyers telling us they’re interested in exploring AI technology. But do travel managers confidently know where AI fits into their travel programs and have they spent time to research? Michel Rouse, Chief Product Officer, FCM believes this is part of that wider strategy and partner selection, stressing that “buyers should carefully consider the choices made when it comes to fitting technology to their travel program. Are they thinking about what future technology is on the horizon and how adaptable the TMC can be when change comes around?”.

There are ways to ease the pain

With time constraints and lots of options out there to investigate, it’s no wonder that 42% of buyers named technology as the biggest pain point in the research.

Flexibility is key. “Buyers need to achieve flexibility within a framework so they are future-proofing their technology stack and harnessing features and products that make sense. But also, so they aren’t left managing all aspects of the technology themselves,” says Jo.

The travel industry has made waves in its ability to digitalise and adapt to travel program needs, from easier booking flows and preferred, varied content, to AI-powered reporting and chat-enabled support. While the appetite is there from buyers, a shift is needed to prioritise how and when to use these technologies, for the benefit of their program and their travellers.   

It’s all in the numbers

Reporting and analytics were another thread throughout the report. 37% of respondents told us that reporting was an important part of choosing a TMC, while 35% name it as a pain point. Travel managers may separate their reporting time from the time they spend on technology, but the two are increasingly merging. Especially when you factor in AI, which has transformed data analytics.

With 37% of buyers saying that reporting is their TMC’s strongest technology offering (behind 55% saying OBT), it’s clearly been a priority for TMCs. Data is already behind many of the decisions made in travel buying purchases; with more integrations and slicker dashboards, those decisions will have more proof behind them than ever.

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TMCs have more in their tech stacks then they ever have done, and can integrate with multiple tech providers. There are also perks to an “all-in-one” way of buying. For example, buyers using FCM Secure have an easier time when it comes to data, as they aren’t having to provide travel data to a third party provider. The redesigned FCM Platform was built off the back of our customers’ pain points and an agile approach to development, resulting in solutions such as reporting powered by PowerBI so you can the answers you need, when you need it.  

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