It’s Time For a New Generation of Travel Management

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the dawn of modern travel management.

Ship's Wheel on blueIn 1994 Delta cut commissions to travel agents, turned travel departments into cost centers overnight, and ushered in the need for more sophisticated management of the travel category.

Our industry responded well.  It developed a core set of best practices.  Online booking technology and Prism’s airline contract management tool accelerated the importance of having an effective travel policy.

Consolidation of TMCs, use of procurement techniques, improved data reporting, duty of care – all these and more are now well-known hallmarks of managing a corporate travel program.

We’ve learned how to add value. The body of knowledge is solid, stable, strong.  The castles of best practices have been built.

But castles have limits.  They are neither mobile nor flexible. They aren’t suited for exploration and discovery.  After 20 years, we need explorers willing to chart new courses, to explore new frontiers.

It’s time to search beyond the diminishing returns of Managed Travel 1.0.  Not abandon it, but use it as a base for discovering the next generation of managed travel principles.

Just as kings and queens funded the great explorers of the past, so must our industry back bold efforts to find and deliver new sources of value.

We need ships, not castles.

Fortunately, it’s happening.  Concur is enabling edit rights between bookings made on sites and TMCs. KDS is pioneering door-to-door itineraries.  Carlson is analyzing traveler stress and lost productivity.  BCD is applying behavioral economics at the point of purchase.

It’s clear that the ships are being built, the compasses are being tested, the courses are being charted.

What’s most needed now are captains for those ships.  The travel buyers who will take on the challenge of searching for new lands, new wealth in the form of innovation.  Travel buyers willing to experiment, to take risk, to define the new frontiers.

After 20 years, it’s time for a new generation of travel management. A generation defined by attitude, not age.

To facilitate this movement, I’ve set up an open group on LinkedIn: Managed Travel 2.0  I hope you’ll join the discussion – and discoveries.

This post is based largely on a speech I gave to the Institute of Travel Management’s annual conference last week near London. That presentation is here:The End and Future of Managed Travel v7

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