It seems the world of travel is set for interesting times. With technology now a key part of the big picture, the academic road warrior of today has instant information needs and is hungry for personalisation. So how can educational organisations achieve a balance between their cost goals and the needs of their travellers?
Just two years ago, travel forecasts were less than inspiring with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) dominating the headlines and dulling business and consumer sentiment. Budgets were put on hold and travel activity headed south.
Fast forward to 2011 and the outlook is vastly different. While travel continues to be tempered by fluctuations in the key economic indicators, it is definitely brighter. But more importantly, it’s taking on a whole new dimension.
On the up and up
Travel demand and activity are on the rise again, which is a welcome change for those in academia who rely on travel to move research forward and make a difference in the world.
Yet the laws of supply and demand dictate that higher booking volumes will create higher travel prices. Airlines are now managing yield by closing off lower fares faster, rather than creating more capacity. As this pushes up average ticket prices without increasing the published fare prices, it will prove harder to find low airfares, or even seats.
This could create a sizeable impact on the travel budget of any academic or learning organisation. So the key will be to work with your travel management company to identify where the cost saving opportunities lie, and to implement strategies that boost value.
As a minimum, these should include:
- reviewing your travel policy to ensure it mandates travel in line with your goals for the next 12 months, and ‘tightens up’ any areas where you feel improvement can be made
- checking your policy compliance levels to determine whether new compliance measures need to be introduced
- reassessing your suppliers and supplier agreements to determine whether they still offer the best products and value for your needs
- re-negotiating rates and fares if your booking volumes are likely to be higher over the next year.
In addition to these strategies, implementing travel technology will become one of the single most important steps you can take to not only reduce costs, but meet the needs of an increasingly traveller-centric industry.
The age of communications mobility
While the GFC held its grip on the global economy, the world continued to become more virtually mobile. The technology phenomenon that began with the Internet entered a new stratosphere with the development of uber mobile communication tools like smartphones, light-as-air notebooks, and Ipads.
The endless choice of applications has put the power of search into travellers’ fingertips, whether they need to check their itinerary, book a nearby restaurant, or know the local weather forecast. Travellers can now participate in the search function, have instant feedback, and access two-way communication through social media tools.
This communication revolution, combined with the effects of the GFC, has changed the travel landscape by altering behaviours, attitudes and expectations. ‘Online travel’ has evolved dramatically and travellers now want more for less - more information in less time.
Generation Y’ers, who are increasingly taking their place among decision makers, are looking for instant gratification while driving the shape of technology and the priorities of their business leaders. They want real-time networking and information through mobile internet and interoperability. Yet even with this massive reliance on technology, they want a personalised experience.
On the other side of the equation, universities and other educational organisations are embracing emerging technologies. Employers are appreciating that mobile travel equals increased productivity. And this is important as they strive to ensure ROI and accountability in their travel budget – ever conscious of the pre-GFC days of less measured spending. Cost control, best rates and fares, and travel policy compliance remain high priorities.
EVERYONE is now a consumer – consuming information they want to be timely and specific to their personal needs.
Why technology will dominate in 2011
Our places of work are increasingly becoming more portable and virtual, and mobility is enabling travellers to strike a good balance between work productivity, personal time, and social interaction.
Travel in 2011 therefore needs to be focused on collaboration between educational organisations, their travellers, and their travel management company. Academic travellers need to be empowered with mobile communications to make life on the road easier and more efficient. By doing this, organisations can help manage traveller behaviour and gain their support in reducing costs in an inflationary environment.
Technology is the smart solution from both perspectives.
Investing in mobile communication tools for travellers will deliver substantial cost benefits in the form of:
- productivity gains
- increased policy compliance by enabling two-way communication between travellers and travel managers
- higher satisfaction levels among staff who can fulfil their need for instant and relevant information, personalised service, and social communication with family and friends while they’re travelling.
Utilising technology in the form of Campus Travel’s online booking tool will also deliver benefits for both the traveller and the organisation.
This proprietary, industry-first software responds to growing demand for platforms that make the travel booking experience quicker and easier. It not only fulfils the need for immediate information, but features automated low-fare search functions that provide genuine cost savings on airfares, hotel rates and car hire.
Our e3 tool provides real-time viewing of the best rates and fares available for every trip, including the academic rates and fares specifically negotiated by Campus Travel and available only to the learning related industries.
Campus Travel has multi-sourcing platforms that search the largest range of domestic and international airfares. Our technology also features preferred supplier arrangements and comprehensive management information reporting. With this intelligent functionality, organisations can have increased visibility into:
- their travellers’ expenditure, to uncover new savings opportunities
- their overall travel budget, including regular benchmarking and greater control
- their travellers’ location in an emergency, with the added peace of mind knowing Campus Travel can assist 24/7 in bringing travellers home safely whenever possible.
Through e3 and other technologies, organisations and their travellers can also enjoy the convenience of making international point-to-point bookings online, checking in and flying using boarding passes sent by MMS to smartphones, and improved itinerary and calendar tools such as Tripit synced with gmail, Facebook and Linked In.
2011 is the year to embrace technology and all its benefits, as a powerful strategy in best practice travel management. Combined with a careful review of your travel patterns, policy, compliance and supplier agreements, technology will help extend the value of your travel even as costs start to rise. And that means academic road warriors can move forward in the world of learning, knowing they have the right information and productivity tools at their fingertips.