The ACTE Column: All bundled up

Decent data consolidation can cure many an industry headache.

It's incredible just how fast technology develops: yesterday's mobile is today's iPhone, which is tomorrow's ... who knows what? Why then, is it so difficult to integrate multiple sources of travel technology?

Some of the UK's industry leaders gathered at the London ACTE Executive Forum on November 26, at Prospero House, to spend an afternoon discussing the trends which continue to challenge and vex corporate travel buyers.

The global recession necessitated serious cost cutting measures, with corporate travel spend volumes typically down by 35-40 per cent year on year. Savings have been achieved by negotiating the right deals, aggressive data analysis, demand management, and influencing traveller behavioural change. These techniques may have already been adopted by many travel managers but, with the ear of senior management, they have been able to enforce initiatives more effectively over the past 12 months.

Pricing transparency and data integrity are critical to buyers and travel managers, yet the growing unbundling trend is adding complexity to what is already a minefield of disconnected information. Fragmented content and data sources make it difficult for buyers to consolidate information, making this one of their biggest, costliest headaches.

A recent ACTE 'total trip cost' survey of nearly 350 global corporate travel buyers highlighted some interesting information, such as the fact that 28.6 per cent of corporate travel buyers suggest they are unable to track 'total trip cost' effectively, with 27.4 per cent of their travel expenditure being spent on 'unmanaged' ancillary fees. The survey was enlightening in other ways, too.

The primary challenges which contribute to the difficulty in tracking 'total trip cost':

  • 72.2 per cent found data collection an issue
  • 50.7 per cent cited limitation of systems
  • 49.8 per cent stated data accuracy
  • 37.3 per cent highlighted traveller compliance
  • 29.7 per cent suggested lack of resources
  • 23.9 per cent said non-mandated policy and/or vendor usage
  • 23.4 per cent commented on gaps in policy coverage or awareness

The key sources that corporates rely on to track data include:

  • vendor reports (74.2 per cent)
  • corporate credit card (71.8 per cent)
  • expense reporting tool (69.9 per cent)
  • general ledger (41.1 per cent)
  • third party tool (26.3 per cent)

In their quest for data accuracy corporates:

  • mandate booking channel usage (85 per cent)
  • mandate single form of payment (60.2 per cent)
  • internally reconcile data sources (35.9 per cent)
  • pre-populate expense reporting tools with a list of suppliers (20.9 per cent)
  • designate hotels that provide eFolio (20.4 per cent)
  • use third party data consolidators to reconcile booking, agency & payment data (10.7 per cent)

However, 7.2 per cent of buyers do not tabulate total trip costs for their top destinations to use as an expense approval guide, despite the need for heads of department to accurately approve expenditure.

Airline unbundling is likely to become more common whilst hotels seem to be bundling more into their offering to increase value. To budget effectively corporate buyers need to compare like-for-like, despite the disparate sources through which travel is purchased and reported. Pre- and post-trip, forecasted and actual travelled spend feeds need to be consolidated and standardised.

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