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There is more to managed travel than corporate responsibility and optimisation of spend, and technology is the driving force. That’s the view of our Amadeus Southern Africa GM Andy Hedley, who was talking at a recent African Business Travel Association event in Johannesburg.

Outlining the evolution of travel policy, Andy says that Managed travel is undergoing a massive change. Business travellers are experienced travellers, they have the technology at their fingertips to make them more empowered and they are expecting more.

“Technology has enabled this change and while it has made the world a much more transparent place, in the world of managed travel it has also made it more complex, and as a result, we all want more,” says Andy.

The past 25 years, especially has seen a huge evolution in managed travel.

Andy explains, managing business travel used to be about high fares, good commissions with simple yet efficient servicing, all primarily handled via a human being. This was managed travel 1.0.

There were no low-cost carriers, travel was searched and booked via GDS, corporations were  serviced offline and travellers received a Passenger Name Record with details of their trip.

However, the good times were coming to an end giving rise to managed travel 2.0.

With managed travel 2.0 the world became a little more competitive, content started to get a lot more complex, and there was the introduction of new content players that had limited attraction but some relevance for the business traveller. Corporations led by the internet experience, they understood that they could reduce costs and at the same time give travellers limited control. This was the age of the corporate self-booking tools, approval flows and the corporate portal. Corporations themselves started to develop and implement travel IT systems and portals, integrated with their own IT systems.

Travel agencies started to see that their revenue model, of commissions and service fees were under challenge. No longer was travel agencies the one stop shop for corporations and they understood that they had a role to play by extending their services to consulting, providing reports. There was money to be made in savings.

And, as business travel played catch-up, we arrived at the 3.0 challenge.

The corporate traveller has now become very experienced – his own leisure experience is now leagues ahead of his business travel experience.  “We are no longer sitting firmly in the age of the experienced, empowered – yet expectant business traveller,” adds Andy.

The 3.0 challenge sees a tsunami of content available to travellers. Content which the travellers themselves have created, which people trust and rely on to choose their travel services – introducing bleisure which is having an influencing effect on the managed travel industry.

Managed travel agencies now need to adapt the way they service their clients, taking a much more ‘corporate individual centric’ approach, offering a personalised service to the always-connected traveller, while fulfilling the duty of care and corporate social responsibilities of the corporations.

The traditional players have some choices to make, yet there is a lot of opportunity ahead, some will feel the pressure more than others, and will need to evolve their strategy in order to continue growing and to make the right decisions for their business. There are four directions that can potentially co-exist, says Andy:  Opting for the online model, the technology route, specialising in niche segments, and adapting through strategic partnerships.

The key differentiators that TMCs should focus on are:

  1. Servicing a Connected traveller. TMCs need to have reliable and real-time access to content. Instant confirmation and feedback on schedule changes can be a differentiator. Content must be accessible and integrated into the booking process for seamless quoting and booking while constantly keeping customer informed.
  1. Consider the total experience . TMCs need to have an understanding of the marketplace’s previous customer experiences. Consider interviewing your travellers within day of their return. The Internet makes iterations all the time.
  1. Be ever searching. Train and re-train. Know you customer and know them well. Then decide on a strategy and work it.

However, what is key is that no matter how good the service is, no matter how demanding the travellers can be, someone has to connect the dots and the choice of the right technology partner is vital.

As a leading industry player, Amadeus operates at the intersection between technology and travel. Amadeus technology brings together key players in the travel industry enabling them to connect and come and do business together wherever they are in the world.