Corporate travel bids versus other sectors?Question by: Will Hasler, Board Director, Institute for Travel Management
Hi Emma, it’s great to see corporate travel being discussed by the bid & proposal sector.
Business travel and associated expenses are often the second or third largest controllable expense for many companies (behind salaries and IT expenditure), so I know competition for corporate accounts can be fierce. How does bidding for corporate travel management compare to other industry sectors?
Many thanks for your question Will, a great one to start with and you’re right about the market – business travel spending worldwide reached approximately US$1.3 trillion in 2016 (source: Statista).
I’m sure there are similarities across many other categories of spend – travel management essentially includes a combination of products and services outsourced to travel management companies (TMCs). Specifically it often covers manned contact service centres; cost management; account management; project management; data, analytics & reporting; travel supplier sourcing & negotiations; and a raft of specialist client and agency travel technologies ranging from embedded enterprise systems to cloud services and mobile apps.
Let’s start with where corporate travel management and contracting sits within an organisation. Depending on the client culture, responsibility for travel might sit in Finance, Procurement, Human Resources, or a Shared Services department. Decision-makers might even come from across all these and other business functions. That means there is a balance to be understood around cost, quality, and scope of service for every client. Each prospect might have a unique set of requirements and purchasing drivers (“hot buttons” in bid parlay), so every RFP is different in both its construction and how we might respond – not just with differing solutions and personnel, but also by the language (tone/style) and format (text/visual) we might use.
The evaluation and decision-making is where travel probably diverges most from other services. At cost centre level, travel is transactional in nature and (relatively) low value – a hotel booking, a flight. At this level, travellers and travel bookers are keenly aware of costs, but also need/want to arrive at their destinations safely and in a fit state to conduct business, as well as expecting 24/7 and immediate help anywhere in the world if they need it. This makes the travel category a very emotive subject within organisations, with many voices demanding both lowest costs/highest levels of service. Being able to demonstrate ability to engage with end users is just as important as satisfying procurement and management cost saving/quality/scope criteria.
Travel management can be a highly complex contract and, just like any other sector, the route to winning is to find the right messaging and level of information that connects with the buyer(s) and navigates complexity and detail to help them make a decision.