Time to talk travel tech

17th November 2021Paul Mayo

Travel Management Companies have long presided over striking a balance between a “technology vs human” offering within the corporate business travel industry.

In a world where there continues to be an ever-growing demand for the latest technological advancements to seemingly ‘enhance’ our experience, we caught up with Clarity CEO Pat McDonagh to gauge his thoughts on what the future holds for the industry and what the implications might be if solely focussed on tech... 

Let’s get straight into it, Pat. What do you see as being the future of TMCs?

PM: I think the role of the TMC is ever evolving to meet the demands of the marketplace.  That will be achieved in a number of ways such as the delivery of great technologies, amazing service and consultancy services which enable a fantastic traveller experience, easy booking processes and a strategic relationship that ensures travel spend is optimised, at the same time as keeping travellers informed and safe when they’re on the road.

How much of a part will technology play?

PM: A massive part.  In recent times the focus has been to ensure a full and competitive range of content is made available to the end user in an easy-to-use manner, and I think that will continue to be a focus for many years to come.  

There are some exciting opportunities to deliver great information in the booking process such as travel restrictions and visa requirements, richer comparison shopping and nudges to ensure best practice booking behaviours, which save organisations money and result in a better experience for the traveller.  

Beyond that, we’ll continue to make investments in best in-class analytics tools. These will help businesses understand how changes to policy and behaviours can drive better value for money and work towards goals like nett zero CO2 emissions.

There are some TMCs who place a particularly strong emphasis on their tech, so would you say it’s a fine balance? 

PM: It absolutely is.  Great technology will only get you so far, so you must have brilliant people backing that up and doing the really complicated stuff when needed.  We place a huge emphasis on service, we monitor our performance constantly both in terms of service levels but also customer feedback.  

Allied to that is our account management service, delivering advice and insights from years of experience in the sector.

So your workforce won’t all be replaced by AI bots yet then?

PM: Absolutely not.  If there’s one thing we are not, it’s robotic.  Service with personality is so important to us and we work hard every day to deliver that experience.  Our brand essence is ‘Brighter’, and we want you to feel that way when you deal with us.

What are the biggest challenges next year for travel?

PM: I think we have 3 main challenges or priorities in 2022…. 

1. How we can make travel easier in a world in which there is increasing challenge or friction.  Those particular challenges will be travelling with COVID and understanding the testing & certification requirements on an international basis.  

The more local challenge is Brexit and understanding the new rules regarding travelling on business and the accompanying visa requirements.  We’re here to help businesses navigate that using expert partners and trusted sources of data.  

2. How we can work with businesses to ensure maximum ROI for their travel budget.  We must remember that at times during the pandemic, many businesses were spending little or no money on travel. 

There may be a reluctance to go back to the old spend levels when there are opportunities to save money through wider use of video conferencing etc.  Our role will be to support that and identify and eliminate wastage as well as providing the data to better measure that ROI.  

3. How we can collectively accelerate our drive towards nett zero CO2 and other CSR goals.  This will be about people making informed choices, taking personal responsibility and reporting on the impact of those choices.  As a TMC we can enable better choices, for example by choice of carrier or even mode of transport, we can help report and challenge within businesses and we can also help offset where that is appropriate.

So with ‘sustainability’ forming a big part of the journey for the industry in the coming years & decades, technology will actually help facilitate its growth? 

PM: Without a doubt.  We’re investing in the technology to present more sustainable options to travellers and bookers, inform them on the choices they’re making, facilitate the accurate reporting of emissions so clients can work towards targets, and enable the offsetting process where it’s needed.  It’s either at the top or towards the top of most of our clients’ priority lists right now but we’re also passionate about it and we’re working towards doing our bit better here too. 

You can read what Pat had to say about our latest episode of the Absolute Clarity podcast, ‘What will the next tech innovation be’ (available on all major podcast platforms) by clicking here!

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