BBC news anchor Huw Edwards chaired a session with industry experts looking at the future of business travel, during the ITM conference at the Celtic Manor resort in Wales.
The newsreader quizzed panellists on how they would adapt to future challenges and changes in the sector.
British Airways sales boss Richard Tams said: “The future of air distribution is not about who but how - we don’t have a problem with who we distribute through, but the ‘how’ is causing anguish.”
Tams said commoditisation is a "financial killer," and NDC (new distribution capability) will offer the choice and transparency that’s not available on the GDSs.
He also said there will be a demand from Gen Y for more transparency in the money flow within the business travel supply chain.
Guy Snelgar, UK head of sales and consulting at Amadeus, said the greatest trend and challenge for the industry was the need for new talent in the travel sector. “New competencies are needed, outside of the traditional fields, so that the next generation of travel professionals can find solutions to these challenges," he said.
He added that in travel management, the “carrot and stick approach will fade away”, and will be replaced by greater understanding of behavioral economics.
BCD sales director Tony McGetrick said TMCs had to “adapt to survive” but there were opportunities for them to offer “greater scope for creativity.” He said TMCs can use traveller profiles and community management to drive successful policies for their clients, as effective performance will be more about traveller behaviour than supplier deals.
“There will be huge opportunities for TMCs to show their value in the fields of communications and emergency support when political, economic or environmental crises cause severe disruption," McGetrick said.
IATA consultant Stephanne Pinguard said future distribution would be increasingly driven by product segment specialists, citing the rise of Airbnb and getyourguide.com
He said businesses wanting to aggregate and distribute multiple travel products will have to partner with these specialists.
UBS senior travel buyer Mark Cuschieri said business travellers are increasingly able to see real-time information faster than their travel managers. He said future travel programmes will need to be more “traveller-centric”, with an increased emphasis on well-being.
Cuschieri agreed distribution needs to change, as it is currently too fragmented, and said buyers were concerned about airline consolidation leading to “monopolist routes” and higher prices. He said the role of the TMC will have to change, to help buyers especially around technology, adding: “I urge the supply chain to be more collaborative – we have to work together to counter future challenges.”
The BBC’s Edwards announced that the 2015 ITM conference will be held in St Andrews, Scotland, on April 20-22 at the Fairmont hotel.