Inventory availability puts spoke in savings wheel

INVENTORY availability is a primary issue in corporate travel programmes at the moment. Corporate deals may look great on paper but the best pricing is offered in restricted inventories, which means travellers often struggle to get access to those pricings unless booking well in advance.

This is the experience of Matthew Patterson, vice president of corporate travel management consultancy, Advito. Advito is working with clients to optimise air spend by using predictive modelling that indicates the best number of days prior to flight date that a traveller should book the trip, at the market level. 

“We also integrate aggressive marketing and communication campaigns as well as booking tool merchandising strategies to influence the traveller to make the most optimal buying decision.”

He says, while air spend still constitutes one of the bigger spends of the average client’s travel programme, as data aggregation becomes more relevant, true hotel expenditure is growing in terms of the percentage of total corporate spend. Clients with aggressive data consolidation and reporting strategies are also finding that ancillary spend on airlines is growing as a percentage of true airline spend, he adds.

Recent research by Travelport published in the e-book ‘The ultimate guide to managing your TMC’s travel content’ found that TMCs lost US$468 billion (R7,16trn) in air travel revenue to leakage in 2016. Statistics show that 68% of business travellers book more than half their trips using non-approved channels, 47% are looking for better direct rates elsewhere and 38% are trying to get lower online travel agency prices.

Travelport’s research also indicates that 54% of travel agents spend more than 30 minutes of their day on airline websites and 26% spend over an hour. Agents (27%) are asked by clients to recommend hotels as well as flights, but lack the ability to facilitate these requests effectively. Of agents, 76% book airline ancillaries through airline websites or over the phone.

Travelport therefore recommends that TMCs respond through various strategies, including the use of a travel commerce platform with access to the widest breadth and depth of multi-source content. They need to consolidate fragmented data in one platform with full rule validation and real-time pricing, optimising content across all booking channels.

Patterson agrees that clients integrating TMC, corporate credit card, expense and even supplier data are finding savings and optimisation opportunities, ranging from tighter policy control to negotiating discounts in previously non-discounted markets.