Bom Dia, Brazil!

Travel truly is priceless.  How else can you get such a clear view of places, of people?  I’m back from the LACCTE travel conference in Sao Paulo with fresh understandings about managed travel in Latin America Brazil – and implications for us Norte Americanos.

Lesson Number One – don’t confuse Brazil and “Latin America”.  One is a country, the other a lazy way to label a diverse set of countries and cultures. This conference revolved around Brazilian delegates and issues.  We should generalize these insights to “Latin America” with some restraint.

Monday morning I spoke on a panel with Roberto Rodriguez Gonzalez, head of travel in Mexico for Walmart, and Andre Carvalhal, President of CWT’s Brazilian operation. I presented a North American perspective about global travel programs.  Andre gave his view of Brazilian-led emerging global companies, and Roberto gave the view of a LatAm travel manager working for a global US company.

When asked for the most important metric among travel buyers, Andre was clear: “It’s data.  How much are we spending on travel?  It all starts there.”  Beyond that, the goals are generally the same – get good data, and use it to negotiate better deals.  Put good policies in place and strive for good compliance. Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? How hard can it be to put a regional travel program in place?

“We may have the same goals, but different priorities”, said Roberto.

Why is that? Simple – different constraints.  Data is hard to get.  Many (most?) travelers don’t carry credit cards.  Call centers are not popular for cultural reasons. Travel policies need localization.  Relationships trump data during negotiations. I began to get the picture.

The Brazilian market for managed travel faces another key difference – the general lack of senior management focus on travel spend.  I came away with the impression that the travel category was bubbling up in importance, but that it could be several years before the category is managed with the same attention as it is in Western Europe or North America. Hey, if our economy was growing as fast as Brazil’s, maybe we’d be less focused on costs too.

One factor that is not lagging in Brazil is travel technology. I was impressed by several travel tech firms: Reserve, LemonTech, Argo IT and Web Travel Solutions.  They are offering proven platforms for corporate self-booking (including CO2 data),  meetings and events bookings, and leisure OTA functionality.

Direct connections are a way of life here.  I was told that Sabre acquired a Brazilian firm (Voxhal?) for the quality of its XML-based travel technology, and that its XML technology is now used by GetThere’s Brazilian app to access lots of formerly non-GDS content. Azul, a new low-cost airline patterned after JetBlue, pushes all of its content through its web services API. Brazil is no travel tech backwater, that’s for sure.

Hotels are another story – much less technology-driven for their distribution.  Many are not listed in the GDS, and require phone reservations.  Consolidators play a large role in corporate travel here, sitting squarely between the suppliers and the corporate TMCs.  I suspect that will change as travel procurement matures here and forces prices down across the distribution channel.

I also spoke at a suppliers-only session on alternative distribution channels.  We covered the traditional ones (e.g., supplier>TMC>Corporate traveler), and then veered into social media as a channel.  Surprisingly, none  of the suppliers said they were using Orkut (Brazil’s most popular social network), Facebook or Twitter. One person explained that she couldn’t show her boss the ROI from such an idea; others nodded in agreement. I encouraged them to experiment.

Expense reporting looks to be Concur’s game to lose in Brazil.  Many multinationals have already implemented its expense reporting system here. I didn’t see any serious local competitor on the expense front, and Concur has stated publicly it will bring its self-booking tool to Brazil in the near future.

When that happens, it will elevate the visibility of end-to-end managed travel – something that will accelerate Brazilian management’s awareness of the practical benefits of managing the travel category. Now that’s a good goal!

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15 thoughts on “Bom Dia, Brazil!

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Bom Dia, Brazil! | Gillespie's Guide to Travel+Procurement --

  2. Scott, great information from your trip, thank you! Did you have an opportunity to attend any meetings/events sessions? Thanks for sharing your knowledge, as always.

    • Hi Debi,

      I was coordinating the ID track, and although I hadn’t much time to follow all MM track presentations, I had a great time at MM1 – Incentive Travel – Trends and Best Practices, where we’ve got a roadmap to incentive travel by two excellent speakers from AMPRO. Incentive travel is also growing fast in Brazil, and buying patterns need to be significantly different from and events to accommodate all motivational related expenses and compare the uniqueness of these proposals.

      It is also relevant to mention that the two largest sporting events (FIFA World Cup and the Olympiads 2016) that we will host also boosts incentive travel demand, o a much greater scale than corporate travel and events.
      The infrastructure improvements will certainly qualify Brazil to host a larger number of mega events, increasing significantly our attractiveness on the global MICE arena in addition to our already fast growing market.

  3. No joy on the meetings front, Debi – I didn’t attend any sessions on this topic, nor do I recall seeing anything on the agenda. Let me see if I can get Andre Carvalhal from Carlson Wagonlit Brazil to weigh in here on the state of meetings management in Brazil.

    • Scott,

      Like in Corporate Travel, Brazilian M&E Business is growing very fast with a more professional approach. More and more
      clients are deciding to consolidate its M&E Business in a single provider. São Paulo is the 7th city in the world in terms of
      hosting events and within next 6 years I am sure it will evolve very fast. Do not forget that next World Cup in 2014 will be
      here in Brazil and 2016 Olympic Games will be in Rio de Janeiro.

  4. Pingback: Bom Dia, Brazil! | Gillespie's Guide to Travel+Procurement | Mídia Global

  5. Pingback: Bom Dia, Brazil! | Gillespie's Guide to Travel+Procurement | Media Brasil

  6. Scott,

    I loved your posting here, three really good “data” quotes:

    1) Relationships trump data during negotiations
    2) When asked for the most important metric among travel buyers, Andre was clear: “It’s data. How much are we spending on travel? It all starts there.” Beyond that, the goals are generally the same – get good data, and use it to negotiate better deals.
    3) Data is hard to get

    I enjoyed the post so much that I posted about my experiences on the data side of implementing service agreements which require data from service providers, the posting can be found at:

    Gist of the post is that service providers aren’t typically fully-complying to their contract deliverables when it comes to data about performance on these contracts. Note however, I’m thinking (and hoping) that sooner or later clients are going to find this lack of compliance more than just an annoyance and these requirements are going to sour the relationships.

    Love your blog and best regards…Rich Murnane

  7. Pingback: Relationships Trump Data, For Now… | The Data Roundtable

  8. Scott,
    very nice and interesting story, it seems that their issue with data gethering from several TMCs in several location is a problem that we see almost everywere from multi national corporations. The ONLY proven solution for this issue is our system that can provide the full workflow of the travel procurement ( the pre trip / booking, the post trip expense reporting and the MI reports that we can generate from numerus sources ( TMCs, suppliers ) and currencies…

    • Dear Yossi,

      Perhaps you should look more carefully into the South American markets – especially where computers and technology are still on early adoption stage. Who can you systemize content from suppliers that still don’t have computers or internet access? This is a reality for many customers with business on developing locations, which can only be solved with staff support from all the parties involved. Currently, we manage a customer that utilizes 800 small, single properties hotels that have no systems available, so all available data is manually inserted by our team into the workflow system, with a strong collaboration from the customer (specially the travelers) to track additional info and identify possible distortions.
      Some TMCs in Brazil and Latin America invest a great deal of time and money to provide data availability, while we still on our way to market maturity. In the meantime, all the great local and global travel management systems we have available will certainly not deliver the full extent of their offerings, and we will have to rely on local people expertise to overcome the management issues.

    • Yossi,
      Your post makes unverifiable claims about your company’s product. This is not the place to do that. Do not post this type of marketing material again.

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