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The top challenges facing travel managers

Times, they are a changing, and quickly. In this world of ever evolving technology, information, trends, economic uncertainty and increased competition, how can travel managers stay on top of their game?

The role of a travel manager has become increasingly complex. The influx of online travel agencies has meant increasingly consumers are opting to be their own travel manager. The availability of services online means travellers can carry tourism services in their pocket, literally, and stay abreast of technology developments and trends.


Increasingly, the role of the travel manager is becoming more challenging


Demands of the corporate traveller are becoming more challenging too. Budgets are shrinking yet the travel needs of businesses have largely remained the same. In fact, many travel managers believe the cost of travel is actually increasing.


Add to that the uncertainty of global security, and we’re not just referring to terrorism here. Big data and all the advantages it brings in better targeting products to clients’ preferences and needs, can also make confidential company information vulnerable. Again, it’s the role of the travel manager to ensure clients’ personal information is kept secure.


Recently, AirPlus International released its 2016 Travel Management Survey, which studied 847 travel managers and 1,158 business travellers worldwide. Its findings clearly highlight the top challenges facing travel managers today.


AN infographic outlining the primary findings of AirPlus International's 2016 business management survey


Here, David Newington, Country Manager Australia, AirPlus International, breaks them down.


1. Lack of knowledge on current and future trends


According to the 11th annual AirPlus International Travel Management Study (ITMS) of 847 travel managers and 1,158 business travellers worldwide, travel managers are struggling to stay on top of current and future trends. In fact they are behind business travellers when it comes to their level of knowledge. Bridging this gap is a key challenge for travel managers.


2. Globalisation and competition


The traditional model of travel management is being shaken up with supplier competition increasingly prevalent and the share economy growing thanks to the effects of globalisation. What this means for travel managers is that the empowered business traveller can easily dodge company plans and look directly to the market to use tools that they believe suit them best but may cost more in the long run. With this approach, business travellers may struggle to find lower costs and efficiencies in a holistic manner, a growing concern for travel managers concerned with total trip savings.


3. Higher travel costs against lower budgets


According to the 2016 ITMS, 41 per cent of travel managers globally expect travel costs to rise in 2016. This exceeds the 40 per cent of travel managers expecting costs to remain the same, and 18 per cent which expect costs to fall. Finding efficiencies is a constant challenge for travel managers, and even more so when costs are high and budgets are low.


The challenge for travel managers is to find savings on total trip costs to meet budget expectations. By looking at the costs of travel holistically, travel managers can gain greater transparency on costs and maximise savings. However, without travel management tools or centralised payment solutions, accessing this data can be extremely difficult.


4. Big data & data security concerns


Travel suppliers are using large pools of data to understand their travellers’ preferences and behaviour and target them accordingly for sales purposes. The challenge for travel managers regarding big data lies with the development of necessary tools to process and use data to understand their own travellers’ behaviours and therefore formulate decisions based upon costs and efficiencies as well as negotiate with travel suppliers.  


A complement to big data challenges is the growing concern for travel managers around data security. With the increasing need to protect employee data, travel managers must also be mindful of the security of confidential company information when their employees are travelling. Interestingly, this is such a prevalent concern that a new $14,000 smartphone has been developed which utilises advanced privacy technology and is designed for business people who need access to sensitive information on the go.


The good news is that with access to the right information and technology, the many challenges facing travel managers can be managed effectively and even leveraged to their advantage.


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Written by: Jessica Zoiti

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