You Heard It Here Again: Trip Manufacturing, Trip Templates And Travel Management

As you know, I am still trying to redesign corporate travel management. I respect those views expressed by Tom Wilkinson and Mike Platt but I maintain that what corporate travel management is doing in typical situations is turning over trip manufacturing to a middle entity, whether using an online agency or more personal services of a TMC-type agency. However, those trips are typically being made from scratch repetitively, wasting time of both travelers and agents. [more]

If you will indulge me by accepting “trip manufacturing” as a reasonable metaphor for what actually takes place, one can see that in most cases travel management is negotiating with suppliers independent of each other and omitting some critical variables like ground transportation between airport and destination hotel. Then a traveler, online or otherwise, cobbles together a trip using those suppliers, in many cases depriving travelers of their productivity, lost as a result--for instance--of using airline connecting schedules in order to save money, and using contract hotels when they are a taxi fare away from places of business used in that destination.

If a corporate travel manager takes destinations that comprise a heavy percentage of their traffic and either asks a TMC or company travelers to design a standard door-to-door trip for each destination that combines efficiency, fosters productivity and represents overall best value, then almost any trip to that destination could be “ordered,” much as one orders a finished product like a bathtub or computer. Almost everyone with whom I ever discuss this concept complains that it is too much work and involves too many changes, etc.


Many years ago I suggested to GE’s corporate travel manager that most of their travel would be covered by their top 50 destinations; he disputed my contention but agreed to give me a chance to prove it. I reviewed all their city-pairs for a six-month period and discovered that those top 50 destinations accounted for 84 percent of their total O&D (origin and destination) traffic. He persisted that those destinations would be accessed from hundreds of different cities, but I then was able to show him that a very large number of popular origins and destinations involved those same 50 cities. For example, both Philadelphia and Chicago were among the top 50 and much of GE’s traffic was between those two cities.

Once you have detailed trips to your top 50 destinations and from your top origins, you will have templated most of your traffic, allowing it to be ordered by either an online transaction, an IVR (interactive voice response system like AcuFlight) or by email or a phone call to an agent. Overall travel costs will decline because a travel manager can then negotiate with vendors using a sample template in hand; that will likely ensure a high share of traffic between points.

Some people will argue that travelers want free choice to make their own arrangements. I challenge anyone to demonstrate that preference. Other contentions: “our high mucky-mucks and lawyers won’t accept cookie-cutter itineraries” or “we can’t sell it internally,” or “our needs change too frequently.” Each of these dodges is a mudscreen that tries to discredit something that eminently makes sense. Give high mucky-mucks and lawyers their own templates. Selling it internally may be easy if you start measuring how long it takes a traveler to find a hotel online for a destination that’s new for the traveler. Trip manufacturing never stops because it should be part of corporate expansion and redirection. If more than 80 percent of your travel is accounted for by 50 or fewer destinations, travel management can and should be an informed part of that planning process.