Is it possible to predict with any confidence what managed travel will look like in ten years? I think so. Here's what I see:
Traveler profiles will be owned and managed by the individual traveler. Travelers use these to update their work and leisure profiles, trip personas and ancillary preferences. Travel suppliers check these profiles before quoting a price/package. Travelers claim, "It's all about me," with some confidence.
Most business travelers will book directly on Brand.com sites. These travelers will get modest corporate discounts and well-tailored packages of ancillary benefits. Their employers will get their booking data instantly, as well as edit rights to those bookings. A fundamentally fair win-win.
Corporations will continue to contract with TMCs to provide traveler bookings, primarily for complicated itineraries, and for infrequent and VIP travelers. TMCs will provide itinerary support for all the company's travelers, as the corporation's TMC will be given edit access to the bookings made by the company's travelers on most Brand.com sites. TMCs remain relevant by focusing on service and safety.
Travel risk management becomes Job Number One in travel management. TMCs adapt by closely partnering with TRM firms, pitching annual safety and service premiums per traveler. New business models emerge along with greater breadth of travel-related services.
Corporate booking tools will prosper in a few key segments: Companies with procurement-trumps-traveler-satisfaction cultures, and those with high volumes of premium or complex travel. Adapting means tight integration with expense reporting and budget management tools.
GDSs will work to make OTA sites and TMCs more attractive than Supplier.com sites in the hopes of capturing the open-booking traveler. GDS fees for complex itineraries go way up, as does pressure to diversify products and customers.
Travelers will pay for most of their trips with single-use credit card numbers funded with intelligent trip budgets. Travel budgets will be monitored closely and easily. Managing these travel budgets, including the approved expenses, will take priority over measuring travel program savings.
Travel managers will shift their focus from preaching policy compliance to teaching effective trip planning and budgeting. They will be an important but no longer primary channel of communication between travelers and suppliers.
Travel suppliers will use sophisticated market data to control corporate pricing. Discounts will be dynamically adjusted with minimal negotiation; contracts will focus on non-price elements and access to preferred communications with travelers.
Travel procurement buyers will spend less time evaluating price and more time evaluating quality. They will provide travelers with insightful advice about the differences between suppliers, in effect de-commoditizing those travel suppliers. How ironic.
Scott Gillespie is the author of Gillespie's Guide to Travel + Procurement.