A wealth of microservice providers and plug and play connectivity mean curating your own travel tech programme is more achievable than ever

In a session tackling the future of TMCs at the recent GBTA Europe conference in Brussels, Caroline Strachan, managing partner at consultancy Festive Road, said corporates looking at the “unbundling” of TMCs is “the biggest trend we’re seeing right now”. 

“What the TMC used to do… unbundle all that and set it up as a series of microservices, maybe with the TMC as the foundation stone or maybe tech is your foundation stone. It’s a bit like a Lego house – [break it down] then build it back up again and go out to market with the TMC as one of those microservices,” Strachan explained. 

“You may go through that exercise and it actually might reaffirm to you that the agency [set-up] was right all along for you. Everything’s in one place, there’s a low total cost of ownership, and you don’t have so much to manage.” 
Caroline Strachan, Managing Partner, Festive Road

She continued: “Then there are others who say, with the API world as it is, I’m more empowered as a buyer and I’m going to build my own programme. That is an emerging trend that we’re seeing a lot of.” 

“There’s no reason why you can’t do it today other than your resource and the management of it all,” said Jo-Anne Lloyd, head of global account management and consulting at FCM, in the same breakout session. 

The benefits of curating your own tech solutions are as diverse as the array of microservices on the market: they can be deployed to help improve efficiency, enhance the traveller experience, save money, capture leakage, deliver better data… the list goes on. 

A curated programme could include the likes of tools for pre-trip approvals, traveller tracking, flight disruption monitoring and support, rate reshopping, chatbots or messaging channels, or compliance prompts. 

Jack Dow, founder and CEO of Grapevine, which helps TMCs improve attachment rates and provides ancillary opportunities, describes microservices as a collection of standalone tools that can “work both independently and together synchronously”. They are important, he says, as they allow companies to access best-in-breed technology that they would never have the time to build themselves. 

“As opposed to a monolith, where everything needs to work together all at once – and if one thing is broken, everything might be broken – a microservice architecture allows independent tools to be added or removed, maintained and optimised on their own, without impacting the rest of the business.” 
Jack Dow, Founder and CEO of Grapevine

A microservice may be agnostic to who it works with – the TMC and/or the corporate – it just depends on who has the tech or holds the data, says Dow. “For Grapevine, we typically get the trip data from the TMC as the corporate wouldn’t necessarily have it available. That said, some of the big ones do, so in theory, you can work directly with them.” 

Spotnana is perhaps the best-known proponent of open platforms as it pursues a mission to ‘unbundle travel’. “We’ve built Spotnana on API-friendly microservices and are making our tech stack available to other travel companies for them to use and build on,” says the company’s founder and CEO, Sarosh Waghmar. 

The company works directly with corporates, TMCs, suppliers and tech providers. “I see us as building ‘longer tables’ designed to foster collaboration across our customer base, not ‘higher walls’ that make it harder for everyone to come together and serve travellers in the best way possible.”  

Another travel management platform, TravelPerk, offers a comprehensive marketplace of third party tools organised under categories such as duty of care, expense management, health and wellness, meetings, security, sustainability and mobility. 

Jack Ramsey, CEO of TripStax says tech savvy companies and larger corporates that are resource rich benefit from cherry picking their travel tech as it’s easier to manage a large numbers of travellers with bespoke solutions. 

“Corporates operating in niche business sectors – like mining or energy – are also more likely to take a selective approach to their travel tech because they have very different requirements to corporates in, for example, financial services, so they are looking for bespoke tech solutions. The TMC community may be limited in terms of being able to provide the specialist solutions required by some in those niche sectors.” 

For those choosing to curate their own travel tech portfolios, knitting it all together is perhaps the biggest challenge, warns Ramsey. “The more vendors you bring into your programme, the more complexity others in your supply chain will have to encompass. The corporate won’t necessarily experience that complexity, but they do need to be aware that those tech providers and your TMC, and the GDS behind your TMC, will be managing those complexities,” he says.

“There needs to be a central pivot point that collects and normalises that inbound and outbound data, otherwise corporates will definitely be adding more complexity.”