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Rapidly developing changes in economics and rules governing legacy airline participation in global distribution systems are forcing many travel managers to quickly sort out an immense amount of industry information. As a Sept. 1 deadline for decision-making approaches, GDS users and customers trying to understand what's going on are looking to industry advocates for help.
Boiling it all down isn't easy, but the American Society of Travel Agents and the Business Travel Coalition have taken steps, as have such vendors as BCD Travel. The BTC today posted an informative, if alarming, white paper for travel managers ( download here). Likewise, ASTA has offered travel agencies a presentation on the history and prevailing dynamics of the issue ( posted here). Meanwhile, BCD Travel this week posted a comprehensive matrix on the status of negotiations between airlines and GDS firms ( posted here).
According to these and other resources, with some exceptions and caveats, here are the bottom lines:
The likes of BTC are attempting to wake up travel managers to the importance of this issue--some saying the impact lies well beyond the potential for thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in added operational costs. The issue, some say, illustrates a direct attack on the very function of travel management.
According to MacNair Travel Management president and CEO Mike MacNair, "More businesses will give up on travel management because they cannot understand or defend what is going on in the industry. All travel suppliers would have no one who cares to talk to them about travel management, market share, etc., and this will continue to hurt our industry (TMCs, GDSs, suppliers and especially the companies and their travelers)." Suggesting some TMCs would go out of business if they fail to pass on the added costs to clients, MacNair said, "I worry [about] who will support these folks on the road in the instances of strikes, storms, terrorism threats, etc., if few distributors reign the marketplace."
BTC's white paper--which was peer-reviewed by 180 travel professionals including more than 25 travel managers and travel management company executives who put their names on it--characterized the issue in stark terms.
"The really bad news for senior management would be if the champions of content fragmentation, airlines, were to win the battle," BTC wrote. "In the near term, that would mean new levels of complexity, expensive workarounds and higher fares paid. In the longer term it would mean a loss of credibility of corporate managed travel programs and significantly higher overall total costs for business travel-related activities. This is a battle that travel managers cannot afford to lose, much less be on the sidelines during."
BTC white paper
Upcoming BTC seminar
NBTA white paper
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