What will your corporate travel program look like when the COVID-19 pandemic has ended?
From implementing trip approval to weighing the benefits of safety over savings, attempting to predict the post-crisis changes to business travel has become a full-time prognostication game. While it may take up to two to three years for the industry to fully reach its pre-pandemic highs, business travel has already bounced back from its lowest levels. Masked-up road warriors are slowly returning to key markets again, which means, ready or not, the future of business travel has arrived.
While virtually all aspects of travel are changing to adapt to this new normal, your procurement strategy and partnership with your Travel Management Company (TMC) is one of the most important areas to address. Moving forward, companies are looking to their travel procurement teams to help protect their futures and lead them into the next phase of the recovery process.
Re-Imagining the RFP Process
With traditional Request for Proposal (RFP) season looming on the not-so-distant horizon, now is the right time to evaluate your current and post-pandemic strategy. Before the pandemic, many companies were already questioning whether it was time to rethink their RFP process to be more responsive and less cumbersome. According to Lisa Shenefiel, Director of Business Development for Direct Travel, canned answers and canned replies create endless documents of sameness, which do not lead to a creative or successful outcome.
Instead, Shenefiel recommends adapting your traditional RFP to feature more open-ended questions to allow prospective partners to talk candidly about the expertise of their service support teams and illustrate who they are as a company. This will allow you to quickly see whether their values and business philosophies align with your ideal partnership goals. Along with such a request, there should also be a handful of standard questions to round out requirements like security, support, and technology. Keep in mind this re-imagined RFP approach doesn't bypass the need for buyers to provide a list of service requirements, a description of the current service configuration, and future program goals.
Depending on how their TMC fared during the pandemic, some businesses may not feel the need to issue an RFP if the strength of the services they received exceeded their expectations. Conversely, if a business feels their strategic partners dropped the ball in their handling of the crisis, they may look to reposition their managed travel program with another TMC.
Setting Clear Parameters
The negotiation process can be streamlined for both travel buyers and TMC suppliers when clear parameters are established. This is even more important now to limit the existing disruptions caused by COVID-19. Shenefiel says success in the process is dependent on knowing who can approve or block a final decision as well as who in the organization shapes the decision-making process.
In order to understand where these boundaries fall, Tom Kinnaird, formerly Chief Procurement Officer at WPP, and Hal Movius, President of Movius Consulting, recommend thinking of those involved in terms of “DNA”:
- D – Decision owners: These are the individuals who will determine the final outcome, such as a CFO.
- N – Negotiators: The team members leading the negotiation process, often times procurement.
- A – Advocates: Advisors with a stake in the outcome who might shape the decision criteria or process, such as a travel manager.
If these DNA roles are not clearly defined for your organization, it may lead to an unnecessarily lengthy and unsatisfying bid process. To avoid this, your TMC can help you by conducting an evaluation of your current strategy.
The Value of a TMC
Successful leaders are able to strengthen their marketplace acumen through such evaluations and determine which service teams align with their corporate goals and company culture to deliver on mutually beneficial partnership goals. This is especially the case with your Travel Management Company (TMC) and extends well beyond procurement.
In a recent interview with Business Travel News, managing partner of GoldSpring Consulting, Will Tate, said buyers will need TMCs after the pandemic is over more than ever. "Travelers will be back on the road. There will be more rules, more booking tool configuration. You [will] have lots of policy changes implemented, unused tickets, lots of pre-trip approval. I believe client companies will be willing to pay for these services in a more complex environment.”
At Direct Travel, we’ve invested in creating a diverse strategic sourcing team of industry experts to take the burden off your shoulders—from hotel consulting and technology solutions to supplier negotiations and procurement services. Contact our team to learn more about evolving your strategy to meet the future demands of business travel.