Travel 31st March 2021 - 5 min read

5 new rules for travel data intelligence

By Joni Lindes

This time around a year ago we were experiencing the first, shocking impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic. A year later, we are still coming to grips with its effects on both our world, our business functions and our data. Travel managers had to overhaul their entire programmes and introduce new policies to ensure traveller safety and reduce risk in a post-pandemic world. With this comes the need to reassess their travel data intelligence

data intelligence

Travel data intelligence has followed the same process for years. In essence, you report on total spend and how it changes over time. This can be drilled down and calculated per category, per supplier and per business unit and even, depending on your data strategy, per employee. You also measure behavioural aspects related to policy like online adoption and advanced booking. This data intelligence can help you control spend and reduce it.

The drop in demand and, subsequently, travel spend in 2020, threw the old reporting rulebook out the window. Instead, travel managers need a new rule book. Without the need to control spend, what are the new metrics we need to be looking at? What do company stakeholders care about when it comes to travel? And how can we improve the travel experience? We came up with 5 new rules to consider when you are drawing up your data strategy.

1. It’s all about location, location, location

Locating traveller whereabouts on-demand was always important, yet recent events have led to a massive cultural shift in the way employees think about risk when they book their travel. Travel policies have tightened up with heavy pre-trip approval processes to eliminate most noncompliant or risky bookings.

We still need to set up the visibility to ensure that, should disaster strike again or if a risky booking slips through the pre-approval process, the travel department has line of sight to the traveller and the ability to take action. This involves setting up pre-trip data intelligence, so the company gets data on the flight booking fed directly from the GDS into their reporting. Not only do we set up the data, but we can go one step further. Use AI, alerts and automation technology so, should a risky booking be made, it is instantly flagged and an automated workflow alerts the relevant people.

PredictX provides pre-trip data intelligence for a handful of clients on top of our standard Travel and Expense reporting suite. We also provide PX Alerts so non-compliant behaviour can easily be flagged and relevant managers can be alerted.

2. Use scenario modelling to forecast your budget

Our own, internal study averaged across a total of £1.8 billion in travel spend consisting of 9 large-spend travel programmes confirms that travel volume dropped by 78% in 2020.

According to a study carried out by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), it will be 2025 before travel surpasses its $1.4 trillion peak in 2019.

With these numbers it is challenging to forecast how much the company can expect to spend on travel.

Instead of using historical spend figures, ask each company function or department on what travel they expect to do within the next year.

After that, apply scenario modelling to predict outcomes. Scenario modelling is a process of examining and evaluating possible events or scenarios that could take place in the future and predicting the various feasible results or possible outcomes.

PredictX has a scenario builder included in our analytics suite to empower travel managers to take charge of the forecasting and future budgeting process.

3. Keep track of unused tickets

After the initial wave of flight cancellations and the extensions and changes to airline policies regarding ticket cancellation, some buyers have reported to Business Travel News (BTN) that they have around $1 million sitting in unused flight tickets. At PredictX, we know clients who have even more.

Due to the complexity of different airline refund and exchange policies, the manual way air ticket cancellations and changes are usually processed, the sheer amount of pandemic cancellation tickets requested as well as TMC staffing levels severely reduced by the pandemic – a gaping data gap has emerged when it comes to unused tickets. Companies are not sure what tickets they have refunded, what tickets have a voucher or credit value and when the voucher or credit value expires. Even if they know the expiry date, they need a process set up to keep track of how many tickets are close to expiry on an ongoing basis.

Read more about the data gap in our blog.

In 2021, a key component of your data strategy should be based on how to manage unused tickets so that refunds for flights are recorded and that outstanding vouchers or credits are monitored for expiry dates – many of which have been extended due to the now more lenient airline policies.

PredictX offers an Air Ticket Status Analytics module to provide the visibility you need to track and manage unused tickets in one dashboard.

4. Monitor changes to supplier contracts and rates

According to Forbes, the Covid-19 pandemic has cost the global travel and tourism Industry $935 billion. This will impact what routes airlines take and which hotel properties stay open as well as the pricing structures of all travel programme partners. According to a BTN article, there is high volatility in booking rates – ranging from the very expensive to the very cheap.

Air travel promises fewer seats per aircraft at a higher cost. Hotel properties are closing and reopening as they figure out how much occupancy they need to turn profit. Ground transport is relatively stable and has seen some benefit from travellers seeking alternative, safer, more socially distanced options to flying.

Monitor your data via supplier scorecards to ensure that the deals you negotiated pre-2020 are still providing optimal discounts. Also, ensure the travel programme is fit-for-purpose by monitoring routes, properties and providers as the supplier landscape continues to see change and fallout. Monitor suppliers’ safety standards and protocols to ensure traveller safety and satisfaction.

Use PredictX Navigator for Air as well as our Supplier scorecards for other categories to manage the reporting of supplier performance.

5. Report on sustainability and carbon emissions

2020 was not just about the pandemic. It was also the moment many nations and corporates announced their plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions. Business travel activity is classed as a scope 3 carbon emission that needs to be reported on and reduced in order for corporates to achieve their sustainability goals.

Due to the wide array of standards and governing bodies, sustainability can be challenging to navigate from a data perspective.

Read our Sustainability in Managed Travel Report for a comprehensive guide on how to report and reduce carbon emissions for each category.

A data strategy is essential

Data and reporting should always reflect travel programme objectives. If your programme objectives change, so should your data. If you need help creating a data strategy or with any of these reporting elements, book a demo with us to learn more.

Joni Lindes
By Joni Lindes
5 min read

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