Global business travel occupied 0.7% of the share of the international GDP in 2019, with spendings pegged at USD 1.28 trillion. And then, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the industry upside-down. The percentage growth of business travel reeled back to -61% as the industry was left in a crisis. Even as the sector slowly recovers from the aftermath of the pandemic, very few corporate travel management companies (TMCs) are equipped with the infrastructure and resources to adapt to the “new normal” of traveling.
Let us look at the existing issues and possible solutions to sustain businesses beyond COVID.
Current Challenges Faced by Corporate Travel Management Companies
Even before the turmoil in 2020, corporate TMCs have been struggling with the changing dynamics of the industry. The key problems to emerge in the last decade are summarized below:
- Changing client expectations with the growth and maturity of the industry. There existed a marked demand for increased value and enhanced experiences without the proportionate monetary remunerations.
- The shrinking of business travel budgets ebbed the flow of order volumes, which posed restrictions on the administrative expenses and called for greater productivity.
- Keeping track of travel bills, ticket validity, cancellations, refunds, and unused tickets.
- The consolidation of the corporate travel sector favored the big players as SMEs were left in a pivot or perish situation.
- Mid-sized TMCs had to make some tough decisions regarding workforce sizing, investment management, and more.
- Identifying and offering the best payment options for clients, such as, CTA cards.
- Prioritizing traveler wellness, health, and safety without overwhelming the operations and corresponding spending.
- Ensuring COVID-appropriate compliance throughout all the touchpoints within the business travel program.
Tackling Long-Term and Short-Term Obstacles in Corporate Travel Management
Corporate TMCs were left with no option but to revitalize their corporate travel offerings to adapt to the changing landscape. Some actionable ways in which they were successful in achieving these goals are:
- Incorporating new technologies through the way of smarter investments.
- Training and onboarding employees to derive maximum value from the digital solutions for enhanced productivity.
- Boosting productivity by automating and reducing the iterations during reconciliation and travel billing issues to reduce accounts receivables.
- Offering greater productivity through seamless integration into the client’s IT ecosystem of ERP HRIS.
- Accepting T&E expense data and inputs directly from the concerned individual through end-to-end integration.
- Incentivizing travel through preferred suppliers by means of better rates to maintain hands-on control over compliance.
- Implementing a centrally integrated payment system or a real-time monitoring tool to track and manage payments using corporate cards.
- Streamlining flow of travel data into client’s IT systems for improved budget management.
Looking across the possible solutions across all the business travel verticals, the common theme that stands out is technological intervention can improve business resilience. However, time is also of the essence as such solutions must be put in place immediately and without major cost implications.
In such a situation, partnering with a reputed and reliable solution provider can prove to be the growth hack to deliver on these mission-critical goals while reducing project risk and cost. Investing in the best business travel spend management partners with a proven track record and a capable booking tool that functions as the augmentation of the TMC’s existing IT assets would be the key to success.