Technology, Policy

Think Global, Act Local … Advice That Still Makes Sense for a Managed Travel Program

Recent business trips took me to Singapore, Berlin, Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro (and before you make any assumptions, yes, I did spend time on both Copacabana and Ipanema Beach engaging with the locals, but I also had multiple business meetings as well).  Observing the business travel landscape in each of those markets has me quoting noted philosopher Yogi Berra who said, “It was like déjá vu all over again.” Allow me to explain.

Many years ago when I was in the online booking tool business, taking a travel program global was all the rage. Companies were expanding into new markets and procurement executives were eager to aggregate spend into deeper discounts and streamline processes to create efficiencies. In theory it made sense, but at the time, I advised clients and prospective customers that they should not be so fast to deploy any solution on a global basis.

My thought at the time was that while taking a global approach to the process of managing travel made sense, trying to find solutions that worked across all regions would result in some very bad outcomes. Having one global sourcing strategy, one customer service and support strategy, a well-defined data management process, and then applying those “principles” on a local basis was the way to go.

All these years later, despite breathtaking advances in technology and information management, I still don’t think much has changed with respect to a managed travel program.      Take the basics … the big infrastructure requirements (TMC, payment solution), and the supply side (air, hotel, rental car) … does anyone successfully do this on a global basis? The mega TMCs and credit card companies tout their global capabilities, and they do have very formidable solutions, but they also still have gaps that cause pain for the traveler, local manager or both.

Despite a contraction in supply (think airline mergers and bankruptcies), better aggregation of content (think independent hotel solutions), and advances in e-commerce, I’d argue that life is more complicated and not less. How do you deal with emerging technology and new business models fueled by a more independent consumer?

The answer is that you think global and act local.

Does anybody agree? Disagree? Too busy trying to weave together a global supplier program to share your opinion?  Please weigh in and in the meantime, I have some photos from my visit to Rio that I need to curate.