Abacus International's latest Corporate Travel Practices Survey shows how travel management companies in Asia Pacific are thinking differently from their counterparts in the US.
The travel tech company talked to more than 80 leading TMCs in the region and found that 83% of corporate travel professionals in APAC are being told to deliver deeper savings from compliance and three-quarters to cut costs with negotiated discounts.
This contrasts with a study from ZS Associates, reported here yesterday, which used an exclusively US-based sample of businesses (rather than their agents) to show that one-in-five businesses are ready for "managed travel 2.0" - the diametric opposite of compliance and negotiated discounts.
But it looks as if the managed travel 2.0 horse has already bolted in APAC, with 87% of TMCs saying that business travellers are going to B2C sites. Bringing these out-of-policy bookers back in line requires technology which can aggregate content better but also wider sourcing from the corporates.
One area where there is a global consensus is the need for airline ancillaries to be more easily booked. However, more than half of the APAC sample added that they were now being asked to define and enforce policy on ancillaries, forcing them to impose yet more restrictions on travellers.
Abacus found that the number one ancillary for travellers is preferred seating - whether this reflects the road warriors' desire to disembark quickly or not be sat in a middle seat in not specified.
Other practices identified by Abacus include the need for agents to persuade travellers to use self booking tools. Interesting to note that one-third of the TMCs said there was a resistance from clients to book their own travel using an approved automated channel. In South Asia this is because travellers like to talk to agents but in North Asia it appears that the resistance comes from the TMCs themselves.
If self-booking is struggling to make an impact, it is hardly surprising that mobile tools are also lagging behind. As Abacus points out, not having a mobile offer for business travellers is increasing the trend towards out-of-policy bookings as the leading B2C online travel agents, as well as the low-cost carriers, are way ahead of the TMCs when it comes to booking via a smartphone.
Another global concern which is also felt in APAC is the automation of expenses. It appears that many APAC travellers are putting travel costs into their general expenses, which is a reporting nightmare for the TMCs, their suppliers and the accounts department.
But only 44% of agents are talking to their client about this, meaning that more than half are not being told to by their corporates, indicating a laissez-faire attitude from APAC businesses about expenses.
The net result of this survey is that there are some corporate travel practices in APAC which are out of sync with the rest of the world, but there are some common issues. It raises the question of whether these issues are best addressed by a local TMC with specific knowledge or a global operation with a local presence.
Click here to read the survey in full.
NB Silhoutte image by Shutterstock