Q. Can you throw some light on the ACTE, its mandate and its activities globally?
A. ACTE was formed roughly 28 years ago. The idea was to bring together decision-makers on the travel buyer’s side and the supplier’s side together to talk about issues and deliberate on the future. We do it through various educational programmes at different levels so that issues of today are taken forward and solutions are worked and implemented so that the money they spend on travel is more productive. With this intention, we organise about 75 events across 24 countries annually. Five of these events are large global conferences and about 60 of them are regional conferences. Apart from these conferences, we also conduct webinars and virtual conferences.
We focus on creating strong educational content for our members through these conferences. We are governed by a volunteer Board of Governors elected by the members. We also have volunteer Regional Council which helps in developing content.
Q. How strong is ACTE in India and how do you help the industry here?
A. India is in the forefront of a major change when it comes to corporate travel management. We see companies here adopt new ways of managing travel. Lot of travel management methodologies and technologies are being used to make travel management efficient and productive here. Market engagement at this stage is quite important as we can bring in learnings of successful adoption of technologies in other markets to this market. We try to educate corporate travel managers here by bringing in creative managers and suppliers from outside to our conferences.
Q. How technology advancement is bringing changes in the way corporate travel is managed?
A. A major shift is happening on the traveller centricity. It is tough being a traveller today because of issues related to safety, security, cancellations, etc. Therefore companies are no longer focusing on cost saving, but want their employees to be successful in their mission while travelling. But we have seen statistics by Sabre that only 17% of travel management companies recommend travel apps to travellers, which is too low.
However, travel managers are increasingly recommending mobile apps to travellers who are on the road to be more productive and successful. Yes, there are tens and thousands of apps available, but you require four or five of them to be really efficient and successful. So travel management companies have to tell travellers, which are the useful ones and which are going to really help them.
We are currently seeing the trend of members developing their own apps, so that employees can download them and use it for travel itineraries, employee tracking, getting feedback, etc.
Earlier, the procurement team at corporate companies was only concerned about hotel rates and didn’t care about the location of the hotels, which actually made employees travel long distances on taxi for their business meetings. The savings on hotels thus nullified and employees are put to lot of frustration. Today, the procurement department is engaging the travellers more and more in the procurement process. Therefore, a travel buyer’s success and bonus is determined by travellers satisfaction. This is a clear shift that is undergoing.
Q. What trends do you see in terms of corporate buyers engaging disruptive technology aggregators on the ground transport and lodging side into their travel programmes?
A. The larger issue with disruptive technology whether it is on the ground transportation or on the lodging side of larger travel eco-system is the duty of care. In some cases, the duty of care of the employees is well taken care of because they can be tracked with the help of apps, etc. On the lodging side, it is taking a longer time to review units because safety and security issues are quite high on the lodging side. But, we are seeing the engagement level improving over a period of time.
Q. Do you have plans to bring one of your global conferences into India in the near future?
We understand that there is lot of interest in the Indian market and many international companies have offices in India. While picking up a location, the interest of attendees not only to participate in the conference but also to visit their offices makes for an interesting preposition. Therefore, there is critical interest internally and enough change taking place within India which means travel buyers based here want to be engaged and learn from professionals abroad who can share experiences of integrating online tools into their corporate travel management systems. It would be exciting to bring these two groups together. We are looking to have such a global forum here sometime next year or year after.