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Feature: Travel Management Companies

➔ While most TMCs strenuously deny this on the face of it, Tom Stone, founder of travel management consultancy Sirius says, “Yes, I have seen this rather a lot. For some TMCs the consultancy wing provides an attractive revenue stream because if the contract with the corporate has been keenly negotiated there’s a finite amount of money they can earn. So they tempt the corporate with enhanced management information services which makes a perfect extra revenue stream.” He continues: “Whereas I think some TMCs would regard MI gathering as being key to the offering of the account manager, other organisations see the role of the account manager as a facilitator now. These days you’ll find fewer account managers and more business managers. “Of course, this enhanced

MI will have all the bells and whistles on and it’s up to the corporate to decide if the increased cost matches the increased value of the information,” he concludes. BCD’s director of sales and marketing for the UK and Ireland, Tony McGetrick, believes one of the biggest changes that TMCs have made, concerning corporate giants and SMEs alike, is to their technology offering. He says, “I think what’s altered the most is our ability to provide online tools that meet local demands. SME customers are very savvy on the internet and are comfortable in searching around for the best deals. It’s our job to provide them with online booking facilities that can take them to one place to get the best deals. We have seen a much stronger focus from SMEs on the importance of online solutions.” BCD is also currently looking at social media

to find innovative ways of communicating with travellers, giving them as much information as possible while still maintaining control within the travel policy. “Right now we are using Salesforce Chatter.

“Traveller use of mobile phones for information will be key over the next few years but it also threatens to derail company travel policies”

This allows communication within the organi- sation in a social Facebook-type way, but only people within the organisation can see it. So if a traveller is unhappy with his or her treatment at a hotel, say, then they can report this back to colleagues. That information is shared centrally and is also used when talking to that hotel, to get a better deal or upgrades,” says McGetrick. Hillgate Travel has also been pushing the technology boundaries. In October last year it launched its online portal, Gateway, a bespoke product which provides clients with a single source for its travel information. This avoids the client having to access disparate pods of information stored in a raft of different places, and the TMC claims it is a unique offering. And, of course, everyone’s talking about mobile technology right now. Carlson Wagonlit is in

the process of rolling out its CWT To Go app across Android, Blackberry and iPhone platforms. The company knows traveller use of mobile phones for information will be key over the next few years but that it also threatens to derail company travel policies if TMCs don’t jump on the bandwagon. Explains senior director of business develop-

ment EMEA, Alison Smith: “The use of travel apps is becoming part of travel policies, and some organisations restrict availability of unauthorised apps that can put compliance

and security at risk. There are a number of organisations who have set up routine checks to ensure that all unauthorised apps are deleted from company equipment.” HRG is also busy in this area – this year its

been piloting its HRG Mobile Online offering for Blackberries, with an iPhone roll out in January and Android close behind. The TMC has spent the last 12 months really pushing its online self-service tool Simply HRG and says the repeat business it has received shows its popularity. HRG global dales director, James Stevenson,

says, “The repeat business from the under £1million accounts is always a good barometer of what we are doing and if it's what people want, and we have really seen a lot of repeat business since we have been focusing on our Simply HRG tool.” It’s been reported that the UK government’s decision to award its travel contract to just two TMCs was a cost cutting exercise. Never was it more apparent that as long as clients are chasing savings, TMCs will continue to constantly review their performance and business model. As Ajaya Sodha, incoming chair of the GTMC

and chairman of Key Travel concludes, TMCs will keep on changing their offering never mind the ash clouds, terrorist attacks or natural disasters that occur. He says: “The role of TMCs has continued to evolve over time and will continue to do so in the future. Disasters, economic factors or even legislation will accelerate change but they in themselves are not the drivers of change. “TMCs are constantly aware that they need to deliver value in the supply chain and therefore will evolve their proposition in the ever- changing travel industry.”

• Read on for a guide to 50 of the industry's best-known travel management companies.


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