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How data can transform your business travel program

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April Bridgeman

By April Bridgeman, Managing Director and Senior Vice President, Hotel Solutions

In the last few years, there’s been a huge focus on evaluating internal data to guide the development of business travel programs. That’s a great start, but there’s much more program managers can do.

With third-party data from a wide range of sources, here’s how you can level up your data and analytics strategy to transform the value you get from your travel program.

The limitations of internal data

As you prepare your travel program for the future, one feature that’s crucially important is to look beyond the usual “big three” of agency, payment, and expense data. While these remain important, there’s a lot more data out there that can help you elevate the returns on your travel program. Plus, looking at just your own data means you’re limiting the insights you can get. These days, data is plentiful and collecting it is more automated. There are also artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that can help you control costs while getting business intelligence quickly and easily.

For example:

  • Shopping data: It’s important to understand what your travelers see when they’re searching for deals in the wider market, as many do. It can tell you whether the rates you’ve negotiated with suppliers are truly competitive, which in turn can guide both your future negotiations and your ongoing program management strategy.
  • Traveler reviews: As a travel manager, understanding the impact of traveler reviews and knowing which suppliers your travelers trust is key. Reviews are important for most travelers, and when you pay attention to that data, you’ll know more about their likely experience.
  • Service factors: Want to know what it’s really like when travelers fly with a particular airline? Data from companies like RouteHappy can help you understand traveler satisfaction through metrics like on-time performance, amenities, and more.
  • Sustainability data: Today, it’s crucial to understand the sustainability impact of your business travel program. If you’re not integrating emissions data into your program strategy, you could potentially be jeopardizing organization-wide sustainability goals and not meeting your traveler’s expectations and their growing demand for sustainable travel options.

How additional data sources help improve your program

Integrating market data and shopping data can help you pick the suppliers that will drive more savings for your program. Here’s a simple example of how wider data integration could benefit you in an airline RFP process, as you get back to travel in the coming months.

Typically, you’ll look at spend and service for different origin and destination locations, and the discount the supplier is offering. But your decision about which supplier is best for your program will change depending on the data sources you integrate.

When comparing Carrier A and Carrier B flying from New York to London in business class, you find similar fares for both carriers, and the service levels are also comparable. However, Carrier A offers higher discounts. If this is all the data you’re working with, Carrier A seems the obvious choice as an air supplier.

But that’s not the whole story. If you integrate third-party shopping data into your calculations, you’ll discover the availability of the booking classes and be able to calculate the impact on your negotiated deals. That will tell you that the classes you’re getting discounts on from Carrier A aren’t always bookable, while those from Carrier B are. That tells you that Carrier B is actually the better choice, both for savings and for traveler satisfaction.

5 data sources you need to include

Here are five key types of data you can use to enhance your travel program:

  1. Supplier sustainability data: What do the sustainability initiatives of your suppliers looks like? Do they support your organization’s goals? Do you fully understand the emissions impact of your business travel program?
  2. Traveler wellness data: How do different travel behaviors affect employee wellness, and how does that impact their satisfaction with your travel program and their productivity while one the road?
  3. Travel demand estimates: Understand when, how and why your travelers are traveling, and what the impact of this travel is on the business.
  4. Shopping data: Use multiple sources. For example, integrating shopping data – like market rate availability – on hotels could completely change your hotel solicitation list when sourcing.
  5. Consumer market data: What do travelers see when searching for accommodation on sites like booking.com? Integrate the reviews and ratings from these sources and you’ll get a list of suppliers that travelers will actually want to use.

The bottom line is that integrating more data sources into your travel program will help generate more value for your internal stakeholders; drive important insights, improve your program’s sustainability, and exponentially increase performance levels.

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