Five Forces in Business Travel

Posted by Andrew Bartolini on March 1st, 2010
Stored in Articles, Events, General, People, Solution Providers, Strategy

The Masters Program in partnership with The National Business Travel Association, was held last month in Washington D.C., and by my estimation delivered on its promise to deliver an event that “offers a combination of market insights and executive networking.” This invitation-only event was comprised a 50/50 balance of CEOs and leaders from each segment of the travel industry and corporate travel buyers with an agenda of speakers that included CEOs, analysts, corporate buyers, supplier executives, entrepreneurs, and political pundits. While I participated (albeit somewhat bleary-eyed after a red-eye flight from L.A.) on a panel focused on business travel procurement that capped off Day One, this article will look at an earlier Panel Discussion entitled “Outside Industry Perspective – Technology Industry Standardization,” which was moderated by Tom DePasquale, EVP Technology at Concur and joined by Greg Brockway, President and Co-Founder of TripIt, and Frank Petito, President of Orbitz for Business.

Any panel discussion that I’ve joined typically includes a call or two beforehand to make sure that everyone understands the primary topics for discussion so they can prepare and bring their best ideas to the forum. Tom, Greg, and Frank one-upped the usual practice by developing three independent presentations that each focused on the same theme: The Five Forces in Business Travel. This group of executives collectively believes that there are five forces will shape the travel industry for years to come – so, move over Michael Porter (seen here discussing his model and applying it to several industries including Airlines at 2:15 of the interview), here they are:

  1. Globalization – The trend of globalization as explained by the trio means that not only are business travelers spending more time abroad, the enterprises they work for are becoming increasingly global. This will create a growing demand for service/solution providers to have truly global operations. Secondarily, as enterprises compete on the global stage, the demand for efficient travel will be crucial.
  2. Market Consolidation – Consolidation has been most visible in the airline industry but as the needs of enterprises in support of their business travel expands, service and solution providers will continue to merge or strike partnerships that are designed to expand and improve service levels.
  3. Connectivity – No news here. Business travelers spend time online planning their travel and considering their destinations and how to optimize their time on the road. Offline travel management companies will need to be able to offer online services. This “force” also refers to professional and trading partner connectivity and the benefits of working with solution providers operating from the cloud or delivering Software as a Service (SaaS).
  4. Mobility – As much as any, this “force” will change the way we conduct business in the future. Smart-phones have already begun to differentiate services based upon software and applications. Service providers will need to move aggressively in this area to provide mobility solutions, for certain; but they must also begin to layer in contextualized services based upon traveler location and destination. (My comment: mobility is something that travel/procurement teams should be including in their solution/service provider evaluations.)
  5. Social Networking – The way that people communicate, interact and exchange ideas has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. Wait. It just changed again. How people gather, receive, and process information has, is and will too. Yep. Social networking for business travelers is an area in its nascent stages that will have broad implications on how business travel is managed and how business travelers travel.

Admittedly, each presenter had a slight variation on the five forces, emphasizing and highlighting the forces that play to the relative strengths of their company’s offerings – I’ve attempted to synthesize – but all three view each of these five forces as inevitable, as “gravitational forces.”

With heavyweight panelists like Tom, Frank, and Greg it’s easy to see why this Masters is “a [travel] tradition, unlike any other.”

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