Business travel is constantly evolving - but the winds of change blowing through the industry right now seem to be particularly unsettling because of two hot topics: IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) and Brexit.
‘Making Sense of Changing Times’ was therefore an apt theme for FCM UK’s Perspective event, on Thursday 14th March - where we brought together travel buyers and procurement managers from current and prospective clients for a lively, informative and engaging afternoon discussing both subjects.
Sessions included an overview of airline distribution and the rationale behind IATA’s decision to create an NDC standard. Marcus Eklund, FCM’s Global Managing Director, also explained how we’re working with technology providers Amadeus and Sabre to pilot integration and booking of NDC content efficiently, so that it is beneficial to clients.
Marcus drew an analogy between NDC and moving into a new house, saying: “The ultimate vision for NDC is the perfect ‘smart home’ - where everything works and you have Alexa in every room. However, the airlines are pushing us to move into a half-built house. There is still a lot of work to be done.
“That’s why we are piloting solutions with our technology partners to make sure that when we do move into that house, we can give our customers an even better business travel experience. The last thing we want to create for ourselves - and our customers - is more inefficiencies when booking flights and managing data.”
A key element of the event was a unique session entitled ‘NDC: The Strategy Game’, where delegates were led through a series of round-table activities and asked to debate and prioritise statements linked to the impact of NDC on their travel programmes under the categories: Customer, Control, Care, Cost.
Delegates were almost unanimous in placing Duty of Care & traveller safety as their top priorities for 2019, followed by traveller experience and cost savings. Garnering insights in this way gives us a stronger idea of what our key clients feel on the topic of NDC, which in turn can be fed into the FCM UK overall distribution strategy.
FCM Perspective’s keynote speaker was the BBC’s political correspondent Chris Mason, who gave a candid analysis of the Brexit “chaos” at Westminster and his role reporting on it. His take on the government’s handling of Brexit was made even more pertinent, as MPs were simultaneously in the House of Commons preparing to vote at 5pm on whether to extend Article 50 and delay our departure from the EU.
“Last November I confessed in a BBC Breakfast News bulletin that I hadn’t got the foggiest idea what would be the outcome of Brexit,” said Chris. “Even now the fog has only cleared a smidgeon; we still don’t know what’s going to happen and my stock answer to any question on Brexit is ‘quite possibly’!
“Brexit commands an opinion – other political topics wash over people, but Brexit has turbocharged our interest in politics because it has divided politicians, families and the country,” he said. “Back in 1973, when the country was asked to vote on whether to join, we were divided then - 69% voted ‘Yes’, but the argument has never gone away. What we are seeing today is a mirror image of 1973. The nature of the UK’s relationship with the EU is like an unfinished jigsaw – we’ll still be debating it in 30 years’ time.”
Feedback from clients attending the event was extremely positive, including comments that the sessions had been insightful and beneficial in terms of peer-to-peer engagement with other buyers. Delegates concluded that they had gained a better understanding of the realities of NDC and were better informed about FCM’s distribution strategy. But in terms of Brexit, despite Chris Mason’s highly entertaining and informative Q&A session, when, if and how it becomes a reality is still anybody’s guess.