Phocuswire - Imagine

13 Oct 2020 09:18

Imagine there’s no COVID-19 slamming the travel industry 
- it isn’t hard to do

Thanks to Phocuswire for publishing our opinon on what TMCs should be thinking about.

How will your travel business not just survive COVID-19 but emerge from it as a company ready to meet the opportunities of the next normal, the challenges that come your way and then thrive?

TMCs who ramp up their game now will be more ready when travel is back in business than those who do not.

There are four key areas to focus on as we navigate our way through this period: revenue, organization, operations and technology.

As the crisis subsides it will not be enough for TMCs to recover revenues gradually. They will need to rethink their revenue profile, position themselves for the long term and to get ahead of the competition. TMCs will need to rethink their operating model based on how their people work best.

According to a recent survey by McKinsey, businesses operating across a variety of industries said that their new remote sales models were proving as much or more effective than traditional channels.

Agents should move now before the recovery fully starts, launching targeted campaigns to win back loyal customers; focus on increased health and safety; adjust pricing, reskilling the sales force to support remote selling; and use technology to streamline and automate processes that free up sales representatives to sell more.

Agents should understand what clients will consider a priority and what businesses value most, post-COVID-19, then develop services based on those insights. Health and safety will be a key driver and influence where businesses travel to and when they travel.

Connected trips with up-to-date personalised information will play a big part in the recovery. TMCs are already installing the latest permission-based applications such as Travel Radar that enable them to configure and manage their client’s policies and ensure that the travel consultant can access the correct information and booking capability. These new applications close the entire loop of sufficient information and immediate decision making and will drive the next duty of care level for TMCs when the “return to travel” policies and processes are in place. 

Businesses will be adopting new processes and rules and changes to travel procedures. The changes will be frequent and rapid. Travel companies will need to act fast, maintaining that sense of possibility and changes to processes will need to be implemented quickly to give you the edge.

Businesses will be ready and eager to get back to travelling and you may need to respond quickly to recover that client base ahead of the competition. So, develop an operating model that’s agile and urgent.

Rebuild operations

TMCs are creating new levels of visibility and end-customer connectivity, with many prioritizing their tech needs. Agents are looking to improve the services they supply and the way they manage their business budgets. Businesses will want to track staff expenses more efficiently. According to the Aberdeen Group who collect and analyse data on buyer behaviour, up to 70% of companies want to find new ways to manage their travel-related corporate expenses.

These operational changes are crucial, but they need to be sustainable. Agents will need to protect against a wide range of potential shocks and act quickly, including increased use of external suppliers and partners. Creating a new level of business resilience has always been expensive, both in time and resources, however there is a wave of new digital and analytics tools available now which significantly reduce the cost of flexibility.

Concur Compleat automates and manages everyday processes - searching low fares, securing seats, and ticketing - to streamline work processes. Unlocked Data, a relative new player, recently launched a COVID forecaster which looks at spend and risk to predict future spend and Travel Operations has developed solutions to support travel agents in their daily tasks.

Tools like these have been designed to increase productivity and create flexibility to give clients an edge.

Many TMCs were already digitizing their operations before the coronavirus hit. By accelerating these efforts now, they will likely see significant benefits in productivity, flexibility and quality of service. Before you go ahead however, it is worth talking to agencies like ours who understand your operations and can recommend the right solutions for your business. 

There is an increased demand to manage the commercials, suppliers, back-office, while corporates are able to configure the travel policies, approvals, and reporting. TMCs are now searching new systems that provide New Distribution Capability (NDC) with direct airline connects and hotel consolidators and aggregators.

These platforms provide an option to generate bookings outside of many global distribution system processes and related fees and compress months of effort into weeks or days. As we look beyond COVID-19, to survive this pandemic and then thrive TMCs can build their next-normal operations around a revamped approach to spending. These new technology-enabled methodologies are accelerating cost transparency.

The new way of working, with more automation and technology, has been coming for a long time. This pandemic has just picked up the pace. Employees have learned how to complete tasks remotely using new tools and changes will go further with a decline in manual, repetitive tasks. Most of it delivered using digital tools.

Successful companies will reinvent the role of operations in their business, creating new value through a far greater responsiveness to their end customers.

The new culture of doing things

As we come through the crisis, TMCs will have to answer important questions about growth and scalability. This will depend mostly on the ability to embed data and analytics in decision making, learning to support clients and a culture that fosters value with other partners. Every business is a technology business and what matters is a deep understanding of the customer. This is enabled by technology.

In the last 6 months, there has been a transformation in the way we interact with each other, make purchases and do business. These changes have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies at an extraordinary speed and that goes across every sector.  Businesses will need to set an ambitious digital agenda—but one that they can deliver quickly

Technology is playing a critical role in the recovery of the travel industry and we are seeing new deals being struck and partnerships happening.

Recently, Flight Centre Travel Group acquired tech company WhereTo for its AI platform that recommends hotels, flights and transportation to employees. Sabre integrated Mindsay technology to enable automated customer service for TMCs and airlines. 

Businesses will need to set an ambitious digital agenda—but one that they can deliver quickly. In the post pandemic world business as usual will not be enough because too many things have changed. In a recent article in CAPA Johnny Thorsen, American Express GBT's vice president for strategy and innovation, said of TMCs and travel suppliers: “If you don’t upgrade now you will almost certainly go out of business when your competitors have upgraded as your cost base will be too high and your ability to deliver services in the new world will be inferior compared to those who did upgrade.”

If you focus now on recovery, operations and changes to the organisation, then use technology deliver new services and improve the way of doing things, you’ll set the foundations for success beyond COVID.
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