Dear travel managers,
Yours might be one of the most exciting jobs in the world. Seriously. You have the ability to affect the lives of many traveling employees, and that must be really cool. At the same time, it’s quite the task, which means yours is one of the hardest jobs in the world, too – and ‘job’ is arguably an understatement, for you need to perform a juggling act of sorts each day. Think about it. The HR department, the IT team, security folks, procurement people: they all have their own interests, and juggling these comes down to you. As if that weren’t enough, you also need to manage travelers’ complaints – for example, if they discover the same hotel is 20 dollars cheaper on XYZ.com. A travel manager’s life can be tough, right? I feel you.
I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but the above pretty much reflects what I said during my speech at BTN Innovate in September 2015. It marked one of the most epic moments in our company’s history: we took home both the jury and audience awards, and we were introduced into the industry in a wonderful way. Now, we might be a tiny little bit biased here, but if you ask us, BTN Innovate is one of the best conferences in the industry – and it’s a fact that many share our opinion. Why? Because it highlights the industry’s need to innovate, which seems to be a daunting task.
Technology: taking the (right!) plunge
Fortunately, not all of you need to innovate, especially when it comes to technology. As for technology adoption, it typically follows the law of diffusion: there’s a small segment of innovators and early adopters (typically 15% of a market), but those who can actually bridge the chasm between early adopters and a buyer market’s early majority are the winning suppliers in large technology markets. This is why most people find technological innovations the opposite of fast and exciting: they wait on the sidelines to separate the wheat from the chaff (or, the fads from the solutions that stick).
All right. So what should we do regarding technology? Well, we definitely shouldn’t overestimate short-term change while underestimating long-term transformation. Trust me – we did that, too. Four years ago, when we won BTN Innovate, we believed everyone wanted to break free from their professional straitjackets. How, you ask? Simple: by owning the interface and the relationship with travelers, becoming supplier independent, and (truly!) owning their program’s data.
News flash: we were wrong. None of our customers could cough up the budget for a corporate travel app, nor did they have any experience rolling out a traveler-engagement platform for thousands of travelers. On top of that, most of them had never concluded a contract with a start-up company before.
But here’s the twist: they took the plunge. They said, ‘Let’s play to win. Let’s win the hearts of our travelers.’ They opted for a traveler-centric program which focuses on increasing travelers’ productivity, meeting their and the organization’s needs. Why? Because it comes with obvious benefits, such as higher savings and more safety. The best thing was, our customers didn’t require proof – they wanted to be the ones to prove it.
Full steam ahead
Let’s hope BTN Innovate 2021 will bring us a fresh dose of that same spirit in the form of new faces, companies, technologies, and ideas. And let’s help these new companies take the next step(s) by showing them our willingness to explore and learn together!
Jeroen van Velzen