Midsize travel management company Travel Incorporated's move
this month to establish a division dedicated to group and meetings air service
management is designed to capitalize on what its executives called an
underserved niche that corporate procurement strategies inadequately address.
Duluth, Ga.-based Travel Inc.'s new Group Travel Partners
division, an outgrowth of its TI Groups service now available to Travel Inc. non-transient
clients and incentive houses, will market meetings air management to
corporations "that manage their meetings a little differently than their
corporate transient business," said Travel Inc. president Mike Brown.
"A lot of companies push group, meeting and incentive
travel into their corporate transient model, but it doesn't always work that
way," Brown said. "Group negotiated air contracts offer in many cases
substantially greater savings and flexibility. There are zone fares,
opportunities for multiple name changes, baggage considerations—many things
that come with group and meeting experience as it relates to air than what
we're seeing trying to be pushed to a corporate transient model."
That the meetings market does not fully exploit the
possibilities of air management is the byproduct of a larger trend, Brown
explained. "Group and incentive travel seems to have gone from a high-touch
service to a much more lower-touch environment," he said. "Over time,
the highly qualified, experienced group travel counselors were being laid off
and in many cases not coming back into the business. There's a void there, and
there's expertise there that is almost irreplaceable. What drove a lot of that were
new procurement methods of selection, where the price pressure was somewhat
significant, so more people defaulted to what was considered maybe more efficient
ways of managing this process, or at least the air portion of it. We saw it
"The whole move toward strategic meetings management
has been big-time over the past few years, yet no one addressing that air
component piece—the largest cost item with every group movement," added
Group Travel Partners vice president Yvonne Long. "We'd like to resurrect
the question as to why, because the savings opportunities are so huge."