Based upon the feedback from my keynote speech at The Beat Live
in Vegas, I'd like to make a few points regarding innovation within the corporate travel industry. While I do agree that there is innovation going on, what I'm most concerned about is the level of innovation as compared to the leisure or OTA market. [more]
I personally believe that our industry (in general) is stuck in a rut. While there are pockets of innovation that have been introduced over the past year, most of these new products have been reactionary and result from a change caused by a supplier or distributor. A few cases in point: support of ancillary fees in booking tools for price comparison, mobile applications to provide a traveler an itinerary, new GDS platforms to support future "certified" plug-ins or apps.
You can consider these new products as innovative but not nearly as impactful as the innovation going on within the leisure market where a new company is born every other month ... free end to end booking solutions for small and midsize companies, package and opaque offerings at highly discounted rates, new and improved flight searching from Google and Hipmunk, last minute hotel purchases from Hotel Tonight.com, prepaid car rentals at highly discounted rates, etc. The leisure market is more focused on "disruptive" solutions and game-changing innovation rather than incremental improvements. This is what I mean by the level of innovation. If you're still doubting my perspective, attend one of the many leisure travel conferences and compare them to the corporate events. It's night and day.
How do we get out of the rut? I don't believe that this is an issue that can be solved simply by more money (but it helps). It requires creativity and tasking a few bright people to solve these problems in creative ways. How can we put a new policy-compliant flight search on top of the GDS? How can I have one policy controlling both the agency desktop as well as the booking tool? When do I allow my travelers to book outside of policy when they find a better deal? How can we offer net rates and packages to corporate travelers? How can a $5M company obtain better hotel rates than a $500M agency with the ability to shift share? How can I apply gaming theory to improve traveler performance? How can I be sure that I'm getting 100% of my company's hotel spend? Assign a small team within your organization to solve these problems (or similar) and see what happens. And be sure to include a customer or two in the process. I'm highly confident that you'll be thrilled with the outcome and so will your customers.
If anyone reading this article is thinking, "We've already solved that problem" or "This guy is nuts," (or both), send me an email, give me a call, I'd love to be proven wrong." 214-363-9630