Travel Managers Discuss Data Strategies, C-Suite Hotel Programmes and TMC Partners at latest ITM Buyer Knowledge Exchange

02 Apr 2024

“Does your organisation have a separate hotel programme for senior executives, allowing them to stay wherever they want, or does your C-suite have to use the standard on-size fits all hotel booking policy?” This was one of the questions put to Global, EMEA and UK buyers attending ITM’s latest Buyer Knowledge Exchange session on 19 March 2024.

Interestingly 41% of buyers said ‘yes’ that they do have a two-tier policy in place for executives, and 59% answered ‘no. But a further deep-dive revealed that the approach and criteria vary widely. For example 44% of buyers ask their C-suite to use the standard hotel programme, but these travellers are allowed to book an upgraded room category; and 22% let their senior executives to book a hotel and room category of their choice regardless of cost. Travel managers attending the session went on to share their different approaches which include dynamic pricing structures, rate cap levels for certain cities, or rate cap exemptions for executive employees.

Travel data strategy was also a focus of discussion with buyers sharing advice on how best to successfully combine data sources and resolve challenges around consolidating, cleansing and matching data for accurate analytics and reporting. A pulse check of buyer attendees showed that the majority (72%) primarily use their TMC data for decision-making purposes. However 17% have created an inhouse solution, and 7% are consolidating travel and expense data via a third party. The key takeaway was that travel data analytics is a complicated area, with no ideal solution yet to help buyers resolve the challenges. For example in-house platforms can still be labour-intensive and time-consuming, with no guarantee of accuracy; and coding for expense data is complex.

Another area for debate at the latest BKE was buyers’ current satisfaction with their TMC partnership. In answer to the question “what are TMCs doing well for you at the moment?” the feedback was broadly positive. Examples given by individual buyers as to what their TMC is doing well included: implementation and communication processes; relationships with TMC’s senior management; account management team engagement; understanding of Brexit permissible activities; and educating bookers on best practice booking methods.

Buyer Knowledge Exchange sessions are hosted regularly by ITM to assist buyer members problem solve common issues, ask questions of their peers and benchmark their approach. Travel managers taking part represent diverse industry sectors such as financial services, energy, food, technology, telecoms, consulting, media and entertainment. 

This year’s ITM empower conference in Brighton on 25-26 April will also feature five in-person Buyer Knowledge Exchange breakout sessions.  Led by ITM Board and Associate Directors, each session will give buyer attendees valuable opportunities to gather in closed groups, benchmark and share insights into the following topics: travel technology; distribution, content & OBT; embedding sustainable practice; accessibility; and meetings & events.