Susan Lichtenstein

Every crisis presents an opportunity to fix what was broken. Now that business travel has come to a virtual stop, why haven’t we seen the network industry titans come out with better systems? Where is the digitized end-to-end solution, or a business travel booking system that genuinely mirrors how we book our trips? The technologies and software are available today that can digitally connect everything for everyone, to all travel suppliers, without the interference and unnecessary layers we see today in the process.

However, the “innovation” we see coming out now from travel management companies and other suppliers is really about fees. Some are increasing fees for phone calls (we still do that?) and decreasing rebooking fees (that were ridiculous to begin with). We do not see the widespread change that we need and want. Think about how the Covid-19 crisis brought new ways of having everything we need in our lives delivered all through our phones. Yet, business travel is stuck, and large travel suppliers are not moving forward. Given this lack of innovation, companies are reverting back to sending their travelers through the current outdated model that is inefficient and costly. 

Instead, I see smaller, more agile companies that are sensing opportunities in business travel. They are not burdened by the legacy systems and the entrenched and mysterious ways monies flow amongst all the travel suppliers. I get jazzed up when I have discussions with these entrepreneurs who are building some amazing new products and offerings. I only wish I had the same options when I was a travel leader. 

Travel buyers are more focused on the safety, health and security of their travelers, and that is where our priorities should be. Still, we have a massive opportunity during this downtime to rebuild our travel programs. The travel business on both the buyer and supplier sides is ready for this change. We could be moving faster to digitize and simplify our processes and enable continuous improvement and innovation. I’m sure we all want our data the same day instead of 30 to 60 days post-travel.

Are you content with the way things are working today in the travel industry?

  • Do you want to continue down the same-old request-for-proposals path that never produces the results you need and takes so much time and money?
  • Do you want your travelers to continue having poor user experiences because they are forced to use outdated technologies provided by suppliers that don’t meet their evolving needs?
  • Do you want to keep overpaying for services you no longer need because your suppliers have you constrained by old ways of doing things? 
  • Do you want to continue having your suppliers tell you how to pay for services instead of you telling them how you want to pay? 
  • Do you want to be locked into a metaphorical box that stifles your program by not allowing continuous improvement?

This is quite a list of frustrating obstacles that have emerged over the last few decades, but now is an opportunity to do something about it. This is the time to build a fluid, flexible and scalable program that will save money on the cost to manage your travel program, reduce supplier spend and achieve complete control of your program, regardless of how your travelers book their trips. You can liberate yourself and your company from the never-ending RFP process that doesn’t yield the results you need and takes so much time and money. Break out of this rigid box to a world of continuous improvement. Stop overpaying in every part of your program. Achieve 100 percent visibility of every traveler all the time, regardless of the booking and spending channel they use. 

Now is the time to say, ‘Enough!’ You currently have a seat at the CEO and CFO tables. They are listening. Instead of trying to climb back into the same box that wasn’t working, let’s have the experience drive new solutions and drive innovation. Take advantage of this time and make the overdue changes today. Reach out to your stakeholders and travelers and tell them you are ready to make their travel experience better.

The year 2020 has been a hard year in so many ways, but we can make it the start of the change we want and need. Seize this time as our opportunity to break out of the box.

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