As the travel industry continues to evolve at a rapid rate, the skillset required by travel managers is following suit, with data analysis and tech-savviness at the top of the list. Not only do today’s travel managers need to be experts in collecting, managing and analysing data, they’re increasingly required to be aficionados in everything from mobile technology to virtual reality. These changes are transforming the travel manager’s role.

Skill 1 – Data Analysis

In surveys of travel managers, one thing shines through. Data analysis is crucial to success. A survey by Carlson Wagonlit Travel found that 67% of travel managers in North America cite using travel data to build benchmarks and predictive analysis as a top priority for them.

There are several reasons for this. For example, being able to analyse data about travellers’ preferences allows travel managers to meet travellers’ demands for more personalised experiences, increasing compliance. Plus, analysing business data can help to identify which parts of a travel programme are working and which aren’t. Travel managers can then tweak the programme accordingly, saving costs.

But where to start?

How Data and Technology are Transforming the Travel Manager’s Role

Step 1 – decide which data to collect.

There are obvious pieces of information travel managers will already have access to such as passport number, airline frequent flyer profiles and seat preferences. Other data to collect includes expenses and whether these are within policy or not.

Step 2 – store and analyse this data

There are many software tools on the market that can store and analyse travel data intelligently in order to improve the company’s ROI. For example, while it might cost more to send a traveller first class, if they can work for the whole flight, you’ll pay back the cost of the ticket, and possibly more, in billable hours. The most advanced tools can understand this.

Step 3 – sell data analysis to management

Predictive data analysis tools are expensive. But if you can demonstrate through small experiments that they will generate big savings, what’s not to like? Try analysing the travel expenses data of the top ten travellers that go against travel policy for a month and work out how much this is costing the company.

Skill 2 – tech-savviness

The travel industry is being transformed by technology and travel managers know they need to be ready. A 2013 Radius Travel report showed that 62% of travel managers thought being technologically savvy would be more important in three years’ time. Fast forward to 2017, and it’s clear they were right.

Let’s take mobile. A survey conducted by Sabre in partnership with the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found that seven in 10 business travellers want the tools they use for their business trips to include self-service components i.e. apps and other digital tools. But implementing a mobile strategy won’t only keep travellers happy; it can make travel managers’ jobs easier too.

For example, an integrated mobile platform, which automatically connects booking to expenses, means that expense reports can be viewed more easily, budgets monitored more easily, approvals granted more easily and cost-benefit analyses done more easily, all from wherever the travel manager happens to be.

Virtual reality is another great example. In the future, this could be used to give travellers remote tours of hotels before they make their choice, or help them navigate an unfamiliar airport or transportation route, thereby minimising mishaps while they’re away.

Concur has already developed a prototype that could help travel managers when a security incident occurs. The tool provides a 3D simulation to help them find and communicate with employees travelling for the company. With risk exposure increasing by the month, it’s a technology travel managers can’t afford not to be keeping on their radar.