Solving the Blah-Blah Travel Data Problem

Good-Bad Street SignTravel managers routinely rank travel data as one of their most important issues. Yet AirPlus recently reported that 56% of North American travel managers surveyed said they would not be willing to pay for better travel data.

OK, so let’s assume those buyers are reasonable folks.  How do we explain, then solve this conundrum?

Those buyers must not see much value – provable, hard dollar value – in “better” travel data.  I get that.  This industry has put up with mediocre travel data for so long that we’re used to ordinary, low-value, blah-blah data and data reporting.

So travel managers don’t know, or at least haven’t described, what they really want. Understandably, anybody who grows up on a daily diet of Big Macs wouldn’t know to ask for a cobb salad or seared scallops.  Sure, everybody wants clean data served quickly, but beyond that, the requests for data improvements gets very fuzzy.

So first we have to find clearly valuable improvements to blah-blah travel data. We need a few ways to get travel buyers to say “Wow – THAT is what I want to do with my data!”

Let’s go back to why we use travel data.  I’ve cited three fundamental uses: Projecting, Controlling and Reporting. Let’s now think about the fundamental questions, the high-value questions, that travel buyers should always be prepared to answer.  Consider these:

  • Where are my travelers?
  • How good are my negotiated prices?
  • Why has our travel spend gone up?
  • What’s the best travel policy for our firm?
  • Which travelers are not complying with our travel policies?
  • Where can… no, where should we save money in our travel program?
  • Is our firm traveling too much, or too little?

You may have a different set of core questions, of course, but you get the point…travel data has to answer these kinds of questions.  The quicker you can get a high-quality answer, the more valuable the data reporting tool.

Now let’s tackle the question of who should pay for the upgrades to today’s blah-blah travel data.

Without doubt, it must be the travel buyer. Otherwise, suppliers have zero incentive to invest in these upgrades, and new entrants have no reason to risk offering new solutions.

But this doesn’t mean that travel buyers have to take on thousands of dollars or euros in new travel data costs – although that is the most direct way to recognize the value buyers get from better data and data analysis.

The alternative is to make data/data reporting/data analysis a key selection criteria in TMC and corporate card RFPs.  By key, I mean important enough to switch TMCs and cards in large part on the strength of their data quality.

Suppliers have to make a careful choice here.  They can price their better/cleaner/smarter data reporting as a value-add, and hope buyers agree to pay the premium, or they can decide to not charge extra for it, and trust that buyers will reward them with more market share.

Either way, buyers simply cannot expect suppliers to deliver better data, better service, better anything – unless buyers recognize the value of doing so – or not doing so –  with commercial consequences.

Buyers, you must vote with either your wallet and pay for better data, or with your feet by moving your business.

Otherwise, our industry is doomed to many more years of blah-blah travel data.

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One Response to Solving the Blah-Blah Travel Data Problem

  1. Hi Scott,

    There are some great points in the above article. In my opinion, the more important question is: Why should buyers pay for better data?

    The travel industry does have a data problem. No dispute there. Our entire industry would agree data can always be better. I believe the bigger and more urgent need today is in data presentation and the development of useful analytics for anyone wishing to project, control, or report on travel spend.

    Where’s the “real” innovation in today’s travel reporting and analytics?

    Most reporting tools available via a TMC or third-party provider still utilize decades-old technology to provide lengthy meaningless reports. Interfaces are stale, cumbersome, and quite frankly not very helpful to buyers in answering the questions mentioned. Multiple reports need to be run and an excessive amount of time is necessary to compile relevant data points. Predictive and prescriptive analytics are largely missing from these tools.

    This lack of innovation in the reporting space is astounding! Some providers tout innovations which most buyers can see are just recycled ideas from a decade ago. Others are moving in the right direction due to their newer technology including our team at Prime Numbers with Prime Analytics.

    Reporting providers can’t expect buyers to just open their wallets if the data is still delivered via a cumbersome and outdated interface. Better data is still worthless if the buyer is unable to efficiently utilize it to project, control, or report. Buyers are also too smart to buy a recycled idea as a new “innovation”.

    Buyers are more willing to pay if the data is presented in a clear, concise, and simpler way especially if the presentation can quickly answer the questions mentioned. At least, that’s been the experience at Prime with our direct buyer relationships and through the feedback from our TMC clients after winning new or retaining existing business.

    Best Regards,
    Sean

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