Global Travel Programmes ... Delivering?

It has been quite a few years now since globalisation, or should I say attempted globalisation, became the trend. Travel management companies amalgamated, acquired and re-launched just so they could offer a solution that crossed all geographical boundaries.
Maybe now is the time to asses whether the global travel programme strategy delivered what it should have and if all the stakeholders got what they wanted or perhaps, in some cases, feared. It is a huge subject which won't be fully covered by my few paragraphs but I really do think it worth some scrutiny and debate as many companies are still considering taking this route.

Was it worth telling so many overseas offices to leave their existing suppliers and TMCs for the much expected global good of the company? Did those companies really gain global benefits and what price did it cost in terms of disruption, relationships and country budgets? Frankly, was it worth the hassle and, if so, can that worth be truly quantified to everyone's satisfaction? Is there a case for scrapping the concept or is the dream of global control, buying power and service worth continuing with? Here are my initial observations both for and against.

I would argue that from a straightforward procurement perspective the case for globalisation is very weak. This is simply because, like many corporations almost all airline suppliers do not operate the same way and are almost quaintly traditional in their thinking. If you squeeze airlines they will admit that each country has their own cost centre and even head offices have to "sell" a global deal to them. In almost all cases individual global locations can veto deals on the basis that it will create low fare precedents for insufficient regional benefits. Why should my country give a silly deal that will hurt my pricing strategy and bottom line even if it does benefit offices in another continent? This will only be solved by cross subsidisation or immoveable directives.

Interestingly enough TMCs have responded to the challenge much better and have found differing internal ways to solve the problem. They too have a different range of challenges particularly in the areas of common fees, fares, services and product ranges. Different markets have varying capabilities of GDS, M.I, market sophistication and standards and to expect the same services to be available in London as in Laos is simply unlikely and possibly unwelcome.

From a corporate perspective I think there is the same age-old issue between buying a commodity and a diverse service. This one really has to get cracked and I can count those that have succeeded on one hand, with a finger or two to spare. Everyone needs to agree the expected benefits, communicate them and benchmark results. Easier said than done as corporate head offices spending most time looking at what should be the compelling concept rather than the nitty gritty deliverability and cost both financial and practical.

In summary, if it is all about negotiating power I have severe doubts. If it is about measurement of what everyone is doing then O.K. but it may not be popular. If it is about provision of global support at times of crisis like war or volcanic ash then it is worth its weight in gold. Finally, if it is positioning for a future time when suppliers buy into the programme and global subsidiaries do what they are told (for whatever reason) then go for it now.

p.s I define a global programme as one which covers a corporation in all their operating countries. This is entirely different to a Strategic programme which only covers two/three of an organisation’s main or driver markets. If you look at most companies you will find 80% plus of their travel comes from these two or three areas. I wonder sometimes why some find a need to spend time on the hugely fragmented 20%.

Strategic deals work well, especially between UISA/Europe and I have seen sizeable gains made by savvy organisations. Most airlines can cope with giving deals where there are good new business prospects at both ends of a route.

This post was republished with permission from the blog of former managing director of HRG UK Mike Platt.