You Don't Get 'Owt For Nowt' In Travel Distribution

For those that do not speak Yorkshire English that means anything for nothing and never has that been truer than in corporate travel. The only trouble is that this is exactly what many stakeholders are trying to achieve with alarming and inharmonious results.

 [more]Now, people sometimes call this the pain of change, or evolution, but I think it is much more basic than that. I believe very little is changing other than people trying to offload cost to others as they rightly (or wrongly) believe that it no longer belongs with them. This has only recently started because now they cannot increase their charges to absorb this expense as the end customer wont stand for it. Lead price now seems to be everything so everything has to be stripped to the bone. This type of commoditisation is fine if you are prepared to do without something but not if you still demand your content, your credit, your data and all.

So everybody tries to find cheaper and more self serving alternatives. Some even see it as an opportunity to make more money by separating out a product and charging more for it than it costs. For example those suppliers who are now charging extra for GDS booking options and credit card usage. Is the price they are currently paying more or less than what they are going to charge the rest of the supply chain who want these services? Just look at TMCs and you will see how many turned a potentially disastrous commission cut into a more profitable business model.

I think we all have to go back to basics again and ask ourselves what we want and essentially, what we really do not need. Having done this we should look at all these component parts and ascertain who is currently paying for them and whether we could do it cheaper and more efficiently if we took control and accountability ourselves. I definitely think TMCs could play a broader role in managing these costs for corporations than they do at present. They are after all supposed to be an outsourced consultancy arm of their clients.

The travel distribution model is in a mess and stuck in a previous era. Low cost airlines and commoditisation completely shook up the market but the original infrastructure still remains despite attempts to shift it. Cartels like IATA still hold sway and bodies such as ACTE/NBTA/ITM have not really yet driven constructive dialogue to broker a badly needed repositioning. To my mind these groups need to get together and call a proper summit on these issues which would surely be more constructive than the same old glad handing bi annual conferences.

Everyone is in defence mode. Some people's idea of defence is by attacking first. Others try the old head in the sand technique favoured by ostriches. Most have tunnel vision. We need some clear thinking before we all end up as aggressive poor sighted flightless birds!

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