Why TMC survival is guaranteed by things going wrong

by Business Travel iQ | 07 June 2018

Two incidents this week shows why travel management companies that deliver excellent service will thrive

Two very different stories from the UK this week have focused attention on what happens when things go wrong.

What was billed as “the biggest timetable change in a generation” on Britain’s railway network on 20 May turned into an unmitigated disaster. The idea of the change was to introduce more and faster trains. Instead, the plans put in place by rail companies and Network Rail have failed and thousands of trains have been cancelled and delayed.

The introduction of a new timetable for the Thameslink franchise, which saw every train change its timings, has failed and forced the company to introduce a temporary timetable until things run more smoothly. Services on the Northern franchise have been equally poor since the change, with Network Rail being blamed for late upgrades to rail infrastructure.

The problems have forced Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to issue an apology in Parliament.

He told MPs, “I would like to be able to tell the House that there is an easy solution or that the Department could simply step in and make the problems passengers are facing go away. If there was a way to do so, I would do that without the hesitation of a moment. But ultimately this solution can only be delivered by the rail industry. These problems can only be fixed by Network Rail and the train operators methodically working through the timetable and replanning train paths and driver resourcing to deliver a more reliable service.”

While daily commuters have borne the brunt of the problems, those using trains for business travel have also had their plans ruined or disrupted.

Meanwhile, a huge fire has this week ripped through the Mandarin Oriental by Hyde Park in London. The hotel has only recently reopened all of its facilities after a refurbishment lasting 18 months and costing a rumoured £185 million.

Guests, including singer Robbie Williams, have been evacuated while 120 firefighters tackle the blaze. The scale of the fire means that the hotel’s operations will almost certainly be affected, at least in the short term. Finding alternative hotels in London just at the start of summer, with Wimbledon about to start, will be an enormous challenge.

These two stories show that no matter how good you are at your job as a travel manager, external influences can throw your plans into disarray. A new rail timetable can mean the train your traveller was due to catch is cancelled, meaning they miss their connecting flight; a hotel fire can mean that your chief executive suddenly has nowhere to sleep for the night.

It is at moments like these that the 24 hour services of your travel management company come to the fore – people at the end of a phone or on an app who know how to make alternative arrangements quickly.

It is no surprise that TMCs are quick to promote these services after incidents like these and others such as the Icelandic volcanic ash disruption.

It is also why the concept of service was mentioned so often in the recent announcement of Reed & Mackay’s acquisition of Hillgate Travel. Both TMCs are known for offering higher-touch service to a pool of clients in demanding sectors, such as law and the financial services.

Consolidation will continue and it will be the TMCs that can deliver service in times of need as shown this week that will thrive in a world dominated by relentless downward pressure on transaction fees.

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