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Senior travel buyers told GBTA Convention delegates that data analytics were bringing a wide range of benefits to their corporate travel programmes.
Trish Earles, speaking at a panel session at the LA convention centre, is a senior global manager at energy giant Halliburton. She said pre-trip data was “imperative” for her organisation – and the best source for “actionable” information.
This is shared with Halliburton’s security providers, and its quality and veracity constantly audited. “With the company operating in some of the world’s riskier destinations, traveller safety is a primary objective, and data plays a key role in this,” she said.
Nicole Hackett, travel director at media conglomerate Graham Holdings, said “normalising” the data is essential. The panel explained this meant standardising terms – for example, when data comes from several sources, a particular hotel can be named in several different ways: unless standardised, the analytics are rendered ineffective.
Hackett said aggregating multiple sources is important: “Agency analytics are good, but what if only 50 per cent of your spend is through the agency?”
She said it then needs to be aggregated with expenses data to get a more complete picture.
Hackett is part of a panel working with the BTN Group researching future booking tools, and cited the potential of a tool that can interact with Microsoft Outlook calendars to propose itineraries.
“The information in your calendar has to be good, with all the relevant fields completed, including the priority level of appointments,” Hackett said. “The tool could then evaluate whether appointments can be moved to accommodate itineraries. It could also query previous activities in the calendar to suggest bookings based on preferences.”
In a similar vein, Egencia was demonstrating its new corporate Trip Navigator app for iPad, due to be rolled out by the end of this year. The app offers pre-populated trip booking options based on the user’s history, aiming to save the self-booker’s time. It also displays alternatives based on preferences, in a similar way that Amazon does to shoppers. Out of policy content is prominently red-flagged, but not hidden, as Egencia says this risks driving the corporate traveller away to book on another tool.
Halliburton’s Earles told delegates that “big data” enables European rail travel to be incorporated into her company’s travel reporting, as it is not on the GDSs. She also advised buyers on how to tackle the “plethora” of report requests from stakeholders. She suggests a centralised gate keeping system, and added: “Take a moment to ask them what data they want, why they want it and how they’re intending to use it.” She said this meant a better of chance of the first version of a report meeting their needs, avoiding several further requests.
Graham Holdings’ Hackett advised buyers to be “proactive” in presenting data reports to senior management, rather than waiting for their requests. The panel also said ‘big data’ could bring other elements such as off-airport parking and dining into reporting for a better picture of total trip spending.