Many corporate travel buyers are clamouring for changes to travel management company service models and sourcing processes, according to a new report from travel consultancy Festive Road.
Based on an April survey of 1,400 global travel buyers along with in-depth interviews with 18 buyers and TMC sales leaders, the study showed what the consultancy described as "demand for a new TMC proposition and a failure of existing sourcing methods to match buyers with their ideal partner".
As part of the survey, buyers were asked about their interest in 27 different TMC-provided capabilities. Among the most commonly cited service demands were real-time servicing in-trip, which was an area of high interest for 92 per cent of respondents, along with sustainability services (89 per cent) and post-booking re-shopping (85 per cent).
Festive Road managing partner Paul Tilstone said he wasn't surprised by the particularly high demand for more sustainability-related services, given that many corporates rapidly have prioritised sustainability initiatives of late, leaving TMCs playing catch-up.
"[T]o date, most TMCs haven't really got fully rounded sustainability services to offer; they're still developing them. And yet all the buyers are experiencing increased pressures from their boards," Tilstone said. A high percentage of the responses came from buyers at "big global brands" that have sustainability high on their agenda, he added.
TMCs were a bit further along in delivering the in-trip support piece, according to Tilstone, who noted that some providers "have already started to scale in this area with in-app support, chat functionality or push … notifications at key stages of the trip."
Buyers canvassed also expressed demand for enhanced content from their TMCs via API integration into booking flows, including 91 per cent who wanted more air content via API, 88 percent who sought integrated accommodation content and 79 per cent looking for the inclusion of ground transport.
Beyond enhanced services and richer content, some buyers also are seeking changes to the TMC sourcing process itself, with 69 per cent of respondents indicating that the traditional longform request-for-proposals model no longer was a good fit for their needs.
In general, most buyers were seeking a more holistic approach to finding the right TMC partner, according to the study.
For instance, 88 per cent of respondents expressed a desire to hear more from specialists within the TMC, beyond the sales team, during the sourcing process. Meanwhile, 82 per cent wanted to better understand the TMC's long-term strategy and value proposition, and 74 per cent said they'd like to know more about the TMC's culture and values.
And getting TMC sourcing right won't just help buyers; TMCs themselves also would benefit from ensuring a client is a good match—a point borne out by the study's interviews with TMC sales professionals, noted Festive Road consultant Louise Kilgannon, who led the research project.
"When it came to the qualitative TMC interviews, the overriding sentiment was that TMCs are getting tougher in their bid/no-bid decisions," Kilgannon said. "So, as well as TMCs getting their proposition right, buyers need to get their sourcing approach right to ensure they're going to get their perfect post-pandemic partner."
Some buyers and suppliers alike expect TMC sourcing activity to be high over the coming months as corporate travel begins to ramp up again after its Covid-induced shutdown, with buyers turning their attention to decisions that had been put on the back burner and many re-evaluating their needs in the wake of the pandemic.
"All those sourcing events put on hold during 2020 are now in catch-up," Tilstone said. "[And] where there's lots of change, it prompts buyers to think about their new needs and what's available to solution for it."