The arrival of direct connect technology has certainly spun parts of the business travel industry for a loop – but is your travel management company amongst them?
Direct connect has definitely polarised the opinions of travel management companies (TMCs) and their customers; some see the changes to content distribution as an important step forward into the future of the business travel industry and can wax lyrical about the benefits, whereas others remain cynical and reticent.
However, if you and your organisation are on board with direct connect and would like to enjoy the benefits that it will bring to your business travel programme then how do you ensure that your TMC is on the same page?
Here’s a handful of telltale signs to help you work out how direct connect-friendly your current travel supplier really is:
1. Where does their content come from?
Content might seem like a bit of a buzzword in some industries, but when it comes to business travel it’s absolutely key to seeing significant savings – having access to a wide choice of different content (sourced from a combination of GDS’s, online booking sites like booking.com and direct connects) means that you’re best placed to find great prices and packages.
If your TMC relies on the GDS to provide all of their content, content that is then passed on to you as a customer, then it’s unlikely that they’re prepared for direct connect. Although this might not seem like too much of a problem right now (with only a few airlines implementing a direct connect solution), this could become more of a problem in the future – especially if suppliers choose to bypass the GDS altogether and only offer a direct booking system, leaving GDS-dependent TMC’s out in the cold.
2. Have they got an opinion on direct connects?
Direct connect solutions, and the related topics of New Distribution Capability and GDS booking fees, are a hot topic in business travel right now – meaning that any TMC worth its salt should have an opinion of their own.
Part and package of being an innovative TMC, one that pushes for new and creative ways to provide customers with noticeable savings on their travel spend, is staying abreast of industry changes and trends – if your TMC has nothing to say about the latest changes to distribution of travel content, or your account manager hasn’t mentioned it to you, then this could be a sign that your TMC is more traditional in approach and so isn’t quite ready for direct connect technology.
3. How recently was their technology updated?
If you’ve been with your TMC for a number of years and have never seen any kind of update or additional features added to their booking technology then that’s a big red flag in terms of their ability to implement direct connect solutions.
Updates to online booking tools, the introduction of an app or the addition of new features are all signs that your TMC invests in its technology and places importance on improving it so that they are able to offer a better customer experience. It’s also a sign that they’re keeping up with industry changes and are keeping an eye on the kind of technology that’s now available – if updates are slow to come, or non existent, then it’s a strong sign that they’re not ready for direct connect.
4. Who owns their technology?
Knowing whether your TMC owns and develops their booking technology, or whether they use a third party service, will really allow you to gauge how well prepared your TMC are when it comes to implementing direct connect solutions.
If your TMC uses a booking tool that isn’t developed in-house then they’ll have limited control over enabling it to receive direct connects. They’re simply the middleman between the people who build the booking tool and the people who use the booking tool, which means any changes or updates to the booking tool will be slowed down. If you’re interested in the benefits of direct connect, then now is the time to ask your TMC how likely it is that their booking tool will allow for new forms of content distribution.
5. How do they plan to deal with increasing booking fees?
Whether your TMC is convinced of the longevity or benefits of direct connect or not, major airlines seem to be and they’re applying fees to GDS bookings accordingly – so how is your TMC going to deal with this?
Lufthansa and British Airways have both recently applied a blanket fee to all bookings made through the GDS’s; if your TMC relies on the GDS as its only source of content then does that mean your organisation will see a hike in travel spend? With many industry insiders assuming that more airlines will start to apply GDS booking fees, it’s well worth ironing out how your TMC plans to deal with these fees sooner rather than later.
If you’ve got further questions about direct connect and NDC, and how they can affect your travel programme, then get in touch by tweeting your questions to us @ClickTravel using #DirectConnectNDC or contact us directly here.