Mountains of luggage. Temporary structures built simply to shelter long, snaking queues of delayed passengers. Strike after strike. Cancellation after cancellation. No extra staff and no new solutions in sight.
It’s safe to say that travel is in a pretty chaotic state right now.
In the middle of it all, travel management companies (TMCs) are struggling to plug a recruitment gap which is quickly widening into a chasm.
What’s happening? What challenges are arising? And what can TMCs do about it?
How did we get here?
The travel sector was uniquely affected by the pandemic. With entire countries on lockdown and travel restricted to emergencies only, the sector nearly collapsed. And while governments tried to spare as many jobs as they could, through furlough schemes and other economic stimulation incentives, it ultimately wasn’t enough to keep people in place.
Those employed in the travel sector had to move on.
And with them went the skill and knowledge of seasoned employees. The full effect is only now being felt, as borders open, consumer confidence returns and the European summer peak kicks in.
The impact on business travel
For TMCs, the loss of know-how, client and supplier relationships, and human resources has been drastic.
Simply hiring new people isn’t the answer – even if there were a significant candidate pool to hire from.
That’s because new hires always need some amount of ramp up time to get into the flow of their new role, regardless of their experience level. And, as highlighted in a recent report from BTN Europe, there’s just nobody to train them.
Rising to the challenge
The problem is twofold: the customers of TMCs need support through the widespread travel disruption taking place and TMCs themselves need more human resources to cope with the rising demand for their services.
But experienced TMC staff are short in supply. Attrition in the industry is currently rampant, and the competition for skilled expertise is fierce.
To overcome this, industry leaders are seeking to become more authoritative in their pay and compensation packages, while investing in people on the front line of customer service. That’s all well and good for major TMCs with the funding to do so but what about the rest?
One idea that TMCs can try is documenting and storing shared company knowledge in a centralised digital database. This can be anything from the likes and dislikes of specific clients, to a process map for sourcing new tools. Giving all employees, old and new, access to knowledge can vastly increase productivity and employee independence. It can also reduce the time it takes for new hires to learn the specifics of the job.
Still, there is one thing that TMCs can practically do to alleviate the pressure; and that is to embrace business travel technology.
Tooling for success
In the short-term, implementing smart travel booking technology is a remedy to the labour shortage in the travel sector. But it’s not just a short-term patch; implemented correctly, software like HotelHub can genuinely streamline and enhance the operating efficiency of TMCs.
Earlier in the pandemic, one of our major corporate travel clients trialled predictive analytics – a system that diverted resources to where they were most needed. The algorithm was taught with their historical booking patterns to predict future travel demand. This was a huge boost to planning and strategy – and allowed human resource allocation to be managed more effectively.
Predictive modelling for travel could be implemented at other TMCs who are struggling to keep up with labour shortages. And another area to consider is the automation of travel booking processes that do not require human interaction or aren’t client/supplier facing.
How HotelHub could help your TMC
Our flagship tool, HotelHub, provides a single platform for agents to book across multiple channels, both GDS and non-GDS. It’s also enhanced with process automation, including a smart AI which can assist human operatives and make TMC’s lives so much easier.
Our latest HotelHub Index data shows a growing shift from offline to online bookings, possibly as a result of TMC service issues related to staff shortages. HotelHub’s single-source API delivers consolidated and curated hotel content to OBTs, allowing both travel arrangers and travellers to seamlessly book accommodation online. These bookings can also be serviced offline, if needed, allowing TMC agents to deliver consistent service regardless of how bookings are made.
Within HotelHub, the hotel segment automatically gets added to the PNR, with back-office and itinerary notes. Single-click bookings can be enabled when payment details are available, further improving productivity. With built-in analytics features, the effects are demonstrable.
What will the future bring?
So, how will it all play out? That remains to be seen. Investing in technology – and training your teams to use it – isn’t always straightforward. But HotelHub takes away the burden of infrastructure development, by giving you a versatile tool that can cut manual work and boost productivity.
And we’ll always be at your side when you need it most.