Still outlining your 2016 travel program goals and deciding where the time/energy/money/interest are going to be focused?

World Travel, Inc. has got your short-list ready to go.

  1. Keep an eye on the airlines’ GDS distribution agreements, because content is king.

This is neither the first time nor the last time you’ll hear about this, so start brushing up on your understanding. Your Global Distribution System (Apollo [owned by Travelport] or Sabre) is how the lion’s share of your content is aggregated when travelers are offered pricing and availability on the planes, trains, and automobiles (and hotels) that they’ll book for any given business trip. Of course your TMC has solutions for providing pricing on vendors that don’t participate fully or at all in the GDS (ahem: Southwest, Amtrak), but as the Great Big Bucket that Gathers All the Pricing & Availability Data, the GDS offers the best way for your agent or OBT to execute price comparisons.

The GDSs are an efficient means of accessing relevant content for us, but they represent a large cost for distribution to the airlines.  The GDSs want to secure full content for their user community, while the airlines want to pick and choose what they supply and at what price.  Such friction eventually starts some fires. In 2015, LH decided to charge extra for tickets sold through the GDSJetBlue and Travelport cited irreconcilable difference and got a divorce. (Consider yourselves the “dependents” in that arrangement, and don’t expect child support.)

World Travel, Inc.'s President, Dee Runyan, offers this perspective on the JetBlue/Travelport breakup.

"All products and services that eventually have to make their way into the hands of the consumer have a cost for distribution.  The challenge for businesses is to ensure that cost is minimized while still being able to efficiently go to market.  JetBlue is looking at the “minimized” piece and forgetting about being efficient.  For example, they pulled out of the second largest GDS in North America but forgot to program the ability for corporations to access their discount online.  Such clients are now left to pay full price even after years of loyally supporting the airline."

From where we stand, we expect more suppliers to test the boundaries of their relationships with the GDSs. But know this: Global Distribution Systems offer the most transparent price comparisons on real-time inventory and could offer the most comprehensive ancillaries list and fee comparison (if the suppliers would allow access to that data) in the pre-purchase travel-shopping universe. Because it takes time to track down pricing from airlines and hotels and cars, and it takes more time to determine what kind of ancillary applies to your booking, and it takes more than online aggregators can offer to make sure content offerings feature legitimate and real-time data.

Dee Runyan, again:

"The GDSs upon which OBTs and agent content access are anchored are still efficient distributors of airline inventory.  This is a commercial argument between suppliers and the GDSs.  As contracts between those parties come due, there will be some casualties.  Corporate America has a big voice in this and needs to let it be heard. Price increases for inefficient distribution channels ultimately are borne by the consumer of the service."

The Takeaway: GDSs are good and proven. Vendors that try to push ill-conceived or limited alternatives end up hurting your bottom line in the long run. We’ll help you keep abreast of any further disruption.

  1. Duty of Care and Risk Management are more than just catchphrases. They’re your next internal initiatives.

The world is a big and crazy place, and thanks to your business, your travelers are booking travel all over the map. It is more important than ever to get a handle on your Risk Management plans and programs so that you’re prepared for any eventuality. The thing is: creating an effective Risk Management program isn’t like filling in MadLibs. Each program is going to differ according to your industry, travel footprint, health insurance programs, and so much more. World Travel, Inc. works with a number of Risk Management companies that offer remarkable insight, education and support when you’re ready to start. They’ll help you determine how complex your program needs to be, and then (more importantly) help you set up something you can integrate and implement easily with both your travel base and your TMC.

You may need to put together a team for this discussion. As Dee Runyan says,

"Anyone overseeing a company’s travel program in any capacity has the obligation to help ensure the safety and security of the travelers.  Please don’t assume that someone else is looking at this or that it is just an “international” issue.  Oftentimes the responsibilities are split between risk management, HR and travel departments, so it is incumbent upon the travel team to drive policy and coordination in this very important area."

Have questions? Good. You should. Contact your Account Manager or Sales Executive to learn more about our Risk Management partners.

The Takeaway: Rally HR and your C-Suite. Liability is real and your travelers are entitled to your preparation.

  1. Cyber Security is important.

Not to sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but yes: there are bad guys trolling the internet, yes, they want access to your payment and personal information, and yes, many of them are smart enough to hack into your systems to get it. If you don’t believe us, just ask Target. Or Starwood. Or Hilton. Just as with Risk Management, your best game plan with Cyber Security is to get out ahead of it. Make sure you know the data security compliance of anyone who’s handling your data. World Travel, Inc. recently received a PCI Compliance rating after a submitting to a third-party security assessment. PCI Compliance has to do with payment information security, but there are many facets to the cyber security gem, so we’re pursuing further assessments, in vein of service organizational control report attestations.

Dee Runyan:

"World Travel takes seriously its responsibility to keep both your travelers’ PII (personally identifiable information) and your company sensitive payment directives and data secure.  We only work with travel technology vendors who are PCI compliant (such as the GDSs, the online booking tools, etc.) and provide extra levels of security that you expect.  We view ourselves as stewards of your travel program and part of that mission to remain ever diligent in protecting your travel-related information."

Sound complicated? That’s because it is. Sit down with your IT team and double check that your cyber security protocol is up to snuff. It begins with adequate password rules and not letting partners keep credit card CVV or CSV codes on file. And it keeps going from there.

Our World Travel, Inc. President sums it up well.

"We welcome the opportunity to join that dialogue with your IT professionals to ensure they understand our piece of the travel technology infrastructure."

The Takeaway: Know where your data is kept and who can easily access it. And stay tuned for more from World Travel, Inc. on this topic.

Chesley Turner

Written by Chesley Turner