A fragmented issue

Content fragmentation means finding the best fares

Travel, Comment

Content fragmentation means finding the best fares costs time and money. Its time customers realised they must pay the price.

As a Travel Management Company (TMC), finding the best fares within the scope of a client’s travel policy, has always been the best way to present the client with savings. But in today’s changing landscape of travel content, actually finding those savings is an ever increasing challenge.

In May 2006, when Air Canada removed its low, Tango Class fares from the GDS (Global Distribution Systems) and made them available only via its own website, the reaction from the corporate travel industry was fast and furious.

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Corporations, GDS providers and travel management all weighed in. But, despite the outpouring of concern, in the months that followed one thing quickly became clear – a new age of content fragmentation had begun.

For travel management companies, (and GDS providers), the concern was obvious: if airlines and hotels were going to reserve their best prices for their own websites, then continuing to offer clients full access to content and savings was not only going to be difficult but time consuming.

Five years on and the furore directed at Air Canada now appears to be a thing of the past – at least from the corporate clients’ point of view.

Today, dealing with the fragmented world of travel content is an everyday occurrence for us as travel management providers and, while GDS companies attempt to evolve into ‘technology partners’ to help us deal with the continuing challenge of finding and displaying ‘best content’, the reality is that it is about more than just the content.

Any content booked outside the GDS requires either credit terms with that supplier or direct payment with a credit card. However, simple cost issues aside, there is another issue here too – the cost of time.

It is not just the time associated with searching multiple platforms to find the best fares (including careful checking of online fare rules to ensure policy compliance).

It is the additional time required to ensure that booking data from third party sites is captured into our back office and security tracking systems to ensure we can offer consistent, accurate and detailed reporting to clients.

Corporate companies are certainly not unaware of the ‘fragmentation’ issue and therefore, they must understand the time it takes for TMCs to combat it.

And yet, while corporates are no longer raising their concerns directly with suppliers – as they did in 2006 with the Air Canada situation – they still continue to demand that their travel management provider offers a ‘best fare guarantee’, while at the same time making the somewhat incongruous demand for lower service fees.

Smart travel management companies are able to overcome the challenge of content fragmentation through effective technology, training and skilled staff – granted a costly investment in terms of time and resources.

But in doing so, these TMCs are able to continue delivering measurable savings to their clients on their travel cost. The wisest companies have realised this and, focused on further optimising their travel programme, have started to offer TMCs savings-linked incentives or higher base service fees in exchange for delivering a successful best fare guarantee.

After all, time is money – whatever business you are in.

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