How to Get the Most Out of Your Travel Data
For most travel programs, regardless of volume or geographic reach, there’s arguably one core objective: maximizing the return on investment of corporate travel. And that often boils down to two levers: minimizing cost and maximizing traveller productivity. What kind of data can support decisions to achieve these?
In our industry, the volume of available travel data can seem overwhelming. So rather than starting with, “here’s a universe of data, what should I do with it?”, it helps to go back to basics and ask, what are my travel programme’s key objectives, and what data will help me make the right decisions to achieve them?
For most travel programmes, regardless of volume or geographic reach, there’s arguably one core objective: maximising the return on investment of corporate travel. And that often boils down to two levers: minimising cost and maximising traveller productivity. So, what kind of data can support decisions to achieve these?
Minimising cost: There are the obvious places to look – booking data from your TMC, and expense data from your expense provider. If you have a clear travel policy in place which your TMC has implemented, it’s generally easier to analyse trends and opportunities for savings. And if you have negotiated supplier deals, you’ll want to track in detail how you’re meeting your commitments, and how the supplier is meeting theirs. But there are some less obvious places to look for savings. Use your TMC data to identify properties and carriers your travellers are using that aren’t in your preferred programme. Check out hotel leakage, e.g. the traveller booked an overnight flight through the TMC but not a hotel – check out the expense data for these, and look for a pattern. Are these properties all with the same chain (loyalty programme)? Are they closer to office sites than your preferreds? The value you can extract from your data is in identifying traveller behavior patterns which can allow you to find savings opportunities.
Maximising traveller productivity: Your business sends employees on travel to improve your bottom line. To get the most out of the investment, each trip experience needs to minimise any impact on their ability to get work done. That means you need an efficient booking process that doesn’t waste their time. Booking statistics, booking tool audits, and traveller surveys can all be used together to identify opportunities to improve the process. It also means you need suppliers with which your traveller can live if not love – a poor hotel experience can lead to a lousy client meeting the next day. While traveller surveys can help, identifying booking pattern trends can also pinpoint any less desirable preferred suppliers. And last but otherwise first, traveller safety is paramount. There are many factors you can’t control in keeping your travellers safe, but making sure your TMC and travel risk management partner maximise the capture and use of pre-trip data will go a long way towards knowing where your people are, to be able to help them in a crisis.
To find these patterns in your data, the data needs to be consistent and complete. If you’re comparing apples to oranges – in one currency here, including tax or not there – patterns become incoherent. Work with your TMC to ensure there are consistent standards and definitions applied in all of your markets. And whether you are searching for savings or safety, having a complete picture is critical: is your TMC collecting data for every market regardless of the distribution channel? It’s great if that local agent is looking for the best deal and gets your traveller a low-cost carrier and boutique hotel that aren’t in the GDS, but does your TMC ensure those transactions are fully captured and consolidated?
Senior Director, Global Account Management & Agency Network, Radius Travel
Raf’s career spans over 20 years in the corporate travel industry. Leading both Global Account Management & Agency Network functions, he has a deep understanding of customer corporate priorities and what it takes to tailor each travel program to best meet their requirements, as well as how to leverage the right travel data to drive travel program success.