Suppliers both new and old have identified group travel as a growing spend-visibility area
Group travel appears to be the next area of business travel to go through a period of digitalisation and, by natural consequence, simplification.
Similarly to other parts of travel management buyers have been telling suppliers they find it difficult to pull data and inventory together for group travel, which often involves meetings and events, and as such it’s not always easy to arrange purely online.
“Organisers sometimes get confused with corporate rates and group rates; they are completely different. Corporate clients are often travelling individually and have very different requirements as they require full flexibility, which is more expensive than what you might be able to secure as a group rate, where the terms and conditions are more restrictive,” explains Tahir Bhimani, director of GTC Travel Group.
There’s also a requirement for buyers to consider the best options not just based on price. “The question is not what is the cheapest location; it is rather which locations are budget-friendly, easy to reach, within travel policy, with no or few visas required, which hosts an office and/or with ideally a low carbon footprint?,” says Dennis Vilovic, founder of TroopTravel, which won the Business Travel Show Disrupt Award for innovation in 2018. Since February the start-up has been “overwhelmed” by support, running tests with 22 large companies and signing up 10 companies for a commercial pre-launch, indicating a desire for technology that not only consolidates spend but brings a touch of inspiration.
For buyers with larger programmes it’s the norm to have group travel as part of a consolidated travel and meetings set-up, according to Paul Stoddart, managing director UK, Ireland and Benelux of CWT Meetings & Events, as they can leverage scale, ticket locally which reduces costs and get a global consistent service.
Although buyers want to allow access to the traditional online booking tool through delegate websites, they also want to offer travellers an individual experience. “Access to the traditional OBT via delegate site means more data and knowledge of spend of passengers, and equally knowing where they are,” Stoddart explains. “Buyers still want to give travellers the flexibility but have group ticketing…so there’s a need for individual services too.”
It is early days but will the group travel angle, coupled with new technology and integrations, make managing meetings and events less daunting for those that are yet to take the plunge?