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 traveler productivity. What kind of data can support decisions to achieve these aims?
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 program’s key objectives, and what data will help me make the right decisions to achieve them?
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 analyze 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 travelers are using that aren’t in your preferred program.
- Check out hotel leakage, e.g., the traveler 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 program)?
- Are they closer to office sites than your preferreds?
The value you can extract from your data is in identifying traveler behavior patterns which can allow you to find savings opportunities.
Maximizing traveler 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 minimize 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 traveler surveys can all be used together to identify opportunities to improve the process.
It also means you need suppliers with which your traveler can live if not love – a poor hotel experience can lead to a lousy client meeting the next day. While traveler surveys can help, identifying booking pattern trends can also pinpoint any less desirable preferred suppliers.
And last but otherwise first, traveler safety is paramount. There are many factors you can’t control in keeping your travelers safe, but making sure your TMC and travel risk management partner maximize 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 traveler 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 Partnerships, Radius Travel
Raf has over 25 years experience in the global travel sector, holding positions with varying levels of responsibility across several functions with a number of global organizations including operations, global sales and account management.