Ahead of the GBTA Convention 2019, taking place in Chicago August 3-7, Robyn Grassanovits, VP Travel Products & Emerging Business at Cirium, shares her predictions for the issues likely to take center stage, her role at the event and what she hopes will be the biggest benefits for business.
Q: How are you getting the most important part of being a member of GBTA?
Business travel is the bread and butter of our industry. It accounts for around $1.3 trillion worth of revenue. And while frequent flyers and corporate travelers make up just 12% of airline passengers, around 70% of all passenger revenue can be attributed to them. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) does a great job bringing together travel providers and other intermediaries who support the business travel sector.
I’m proud to have been on GBTA’s Technology Committee for the past four years, and held the position of Vice Chair for the past two. The committee’s main focus is to hone in on travel technology trends, looking at advancements that are driving the future of business travel. I believe the GBTA Convention is a unique opportunity to let industry buyers and sellers know how Cirium can help organizations improve the traveler experience.
Above all, our committee mission is to highlight that there is so much more to the corporate travel product than just price. We want to bring to light the experience people really have when traveling, quantify this in terms of consumer insights and showcase the impact of that experience for corporate travel buyers.
Q: What do you hope attendees will take away from your panel discussion?
I’m excited about participating in a panel discussion on the financial impact of travel disruption. Flight disruption, delays and cancellations can lead to a series of unexpected costs for travel programs. Without analyzing passenger data effectively, companies may not have the information they need to manage these costs.
Through this passenger data, companies can gain unprecedented insight into what travelers actually experience once they have bought their tickets. Just last year, we analyzed a year’s worth of corporate travel data for one organization, and found the total hours its travelers were delayed adds up to more than 5 years for that one company.
I think it’s going to show the industry is collectively making progress in better understanding the impacts — since last year, we’ve seen a lot of travel managers wanting to get more educated.
Q: Which topics do you think will dominate this year’s event?
As always, traveler experience is bound to be a hot topic, with a key question at its core: how do we support travelers?
The world of travel is so dynamic and full of unknowns that ensuring a smooth traveler experience can prove costly. With extreme weather events, strikes and unforeseen circumstances, such as the recent grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, it’s vital to make sure we have adequate resources at our disposal to continuously maintain the travel experience and proactively manage emerging costs.
The latest use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in travel is also likely to emerge as a key theme this year. Amongst other applications, AI technology enables airlines and tour operators to proactively re-accommodate passengers even before disruption occurs.
As well as AI, big data will continue to be a key talking point. As a data-driven company, we know the power of big data is really made possible when applying machine learning so we can learn more from the data faster.
Distribution is also likely to be a hot topic. Among the many advancements, people and organizations are intrigued by the possibility of booking corporate travel directly through the relevant airlines. When people go direct, the duty of care sits with the airline and companies are not immediately made aware of their employees’ travel itineraries. Even if employees book travel through their corporation or a travel management company (TMC), if their flight details change, their organization may not know where they are, and will be unable to look after them.
Increasingly, the role of TMCs is less about ticketing and more about becoming the main source of information for travelers, particularly in the corporate travel sector. When things go wrong, they are on hand to support in ways airlines can’t. They also play a key role in feeding information back to the corporation for further insight into their travel needs.
However, TMCs are increasingly under pressure to evaluate their business models and look for alternative services that add value for buyers. Direct booking isn’t going away but, where business models collide, there is room to create new opportunities for growth.
Q: What do you get out of attending this event every year?
I have always been passionate about innovation in the travel industry. It plays such a powerful role in the economy, accounting for 10.4% of global GDP alone [WTTC 2019] and affects most people on a daily basis. I’m always fascinated to see just how dependent we are on each other within this field. When people embark on a journey, they receive the support of an incredible network of airlines, airports, ground support and hotels, all interlinked to ensure a smooth travel experience whenever possible.
For me, the GBTA Convention is a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with colleagues I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the last 30 years.
Q: Do you have any personal goals from attending this year?
I look forward to talking to more corporate travel sellers, as well as buyers responsible for procuring travel for their industries. Talking to both sides about their needs, hopes and biggest pain points can really help us identify the next big opportunity. [Reach out to Robyn via Linked In]
At its core, travel is about the traveler. That’s why it’s more important than ever to rely on consumer insight into the traveler experience to help us adapt, create new products and make better decisions.
I strongly believe that through Cirium’s presence at GBTA 2019, we can see travel from a different perspective. We hope buyers will come away with some new ideas on how best to improve their corporate travel programs, while the TMCs who service them can also benefit from the valuable insight Cirium has to offer.