< PrevNext > The Direct Channel Will Tie in TMCs & Travel Managers By ARC COO Lauri Reishus / January 24, 2020 Share With the immense scale and complexity of air travel, our industry still relies on many legacy frameworks that weren’t designed to meet the needs of modern travelers. One framework—the stark division between the direct and indirect air travel sales channels—will be dismantled in 2020. Airlines, travel managers and travel management companies need to collaborate to build omnichannel solutions, delivering greater transparency and an enhanced customer experience. Business travelers are high-value clients for both airlines and travel agencies, and they generate revenue for their employers. Those travelers want to book in their preferred channel, whether that’s through their TMC, online booking tool, or the airline website or app, where they can take advantage of loyalty perks. By booking direct, however, travelers lose access to valuable TMC servicing and duty of care, leaving their travel managers with gaps in program data. Travelers expect seamless experiences: They want the ability to buy anywhere and receive service from anywhere. Airlines want to enable direct booking experiences that give travel managers and TMCs transparent access to that important traveler data they’re missing. Travel managers want to open up servicing capabilities to TMCs. In 2020, channel-agnostic technology providers will begin to connect the dots between airlines, travelers, travel buyers and their partners in the direct channel. As transparency increases across these connections, a new ecosystem will emerge, where direct and indirect bookings are essentially treated as one and the same.As the omnichannel environment expands, corporate travel programs will become more traveler-friendly without sacrificing high-quality data. Travel managers will begin to transition from “looking the other way” for certain travelers’ direct bookings to more actively engaging with and managing them, creating deeper transparency and accountability, while designing more creative, traveler-centric policies that measure new key performance indicators like trip success.As travel programs become more diverse in design and scope, TMCs will be the linchpins that hold them together. Managing post-ticketing functions on behalf of travelers, travel buyers and airlines will remain critical in an environment where about one-quarter of corporate itineraries require changes. The role of TMCs as data and reporting stewards will also expand, delivering even greater value in simplifying complexity for corporate customers. As transparency increases, data privacy and security will also need to be carefully managed.Travel managers will turn to TMC partners for more consultative guidance in this progressively complex environment. By managing disparate traveler data, TMCs will have a unique perspective that equips them to advise on program and policy design, as well as technology selection and implementation. As a result, airlines, travel managers, TMCs and travel agencies will all reap the benefits of happier, more productive business travelers. Beyond 2020, travelers will ultimately be able to buy anywhere and service anywhere—with perks and within policy.