ITM Sets Up Distribution Taskforce to Bring Voice of Travel Buyer to Forefront of Airline Retailing Changes

03 Apr 2023

Airfare distribution and NDC are currently causing a major issue for many travel managers who are feeling battered by the challenges of airline retailing changes and the impact on managed travel programmes, the Institute of Travel Management (ITM) has revealed. 

The severity of buyer members’ concerns has led ITM to form an Airfare Distribution Taskforce to bring the collective voice of travel managers into the supplier community, raise awareness of the ‘gaps’ that must be addressed to support managed corporate travel programmes and support members navigate this period of change, both internally and externally. The taskforce is at pains to point out that its aims are not based on buyers’ resistance to change, but the need for transparency around airlines’ motivation, investment roadmaps and partnerships where the buyers' voice is truly being heard.

The objectives of the taskforce are as follows:

  • Specific to managed business travel, define the customer, the intricacies and value of the managed programme and what buyers need from airlines.
  • Determine the principles of a minimum viable product (MVP) for airfare distribution to corporates and a unified voice to articulate that position to airlines.
  • Support buyers to articulate the changes and potential impact to stakeholders across their business
  • Arm buyer members with the information and clarity to ask the right questions of their suppliers to jointly find a mutually beneficial path forward

The taskforce consists of seven ITM buyer members, from diverse industry sectors including media and entertainment, pharmaceutical, banking and finance, consultancy and technology. The taskforce has already met twice and will continue to meet for further discussions on an ongoing basis. 

The immediate aim of the taskforce is to publish a guide that will support buyer members’ understanding of the changing landscape, what it may mean for them and practical tools, tips and internal statements to manage internal stakeholders. The taskforce also aims to provide a summary of non-negotiable aspects of a corporate-managed travel programme and raise awareness of why not having all key players in the ecosystem ‘ready’ for NDC is a major challenge. 

“NDC, airline distribution and modern retailing are causing our buyer members a major headache with some describing it as a ‘mess.’ Some have expressed concern that they will face a deluge of complaints from travellers about fares being visible but not bookable in their OBT. Other buyers expect a potential increase in leakage, whilst others foresee challenges with managing the manual processes for exceptions to policy. The complexity, ‘noise’ and different viewpoints across the industry have become overwhelming for many of our buyer members,” said Scott Davies, CEO, ITM. 

“We, therefore, felt it was vital to set up our own Distribution Taskforce as ITM has a critical role to play in bringing the travel buyer’s voice to the forefront of the distribution discussion. The corporate customer’s requirements have been distinctly missing from industry discussions to now. The taskforce aims to bring the discussion back to what is important within a given travel manager’s programme, determine what action they need to take, and help buyers find workable solutions,” said Davies.