Collecting the right data and reporting on hotel spend can be draining and time-consuming; you need to gather the data, organise it, write the report and create the charts. What’s worse?

This data is essential to your travel management programme, but knowing you have all the right information isn’t easy.

To unpick this challenge, we sat down with for Business Key Account Manager Philip Nauta, to discuss the landscape for reporting on hotel spend and tips for travel managers to improve their reporting and data collection processes.

1. Companies use a variety of data sources to look at hotel spend, from the travel agency, credit card company, maybe online booking tool and also internal data: what are the main differences between these types of data?

Travel agencies provide comprehensive data on the bookings they provide, be it air, hotel or car bookings. Corporate Credit Card data can add value because the data they capture is actual spend data; not only the spend related to the room-night but also food & beverage (F&B), parking and other services used at the hotel. Whereas the credit card data cannot be broken down, the actual spend does help to see where you spend the most travel dollars. It also shows the trends and market share of different hotels.

A mandated corporate credit card will also capture those hotel bookings not booked by the travel agency (so-called ‘rogue spending’) – potentially identifying out-of-policy spend. Internal reporting out of the company’s general ledger usually only captures the total amount spend at commodity level; i.e. ‘hotel’. Data comes from expense reports and typically does not provide any information about property names or destinations.

2. What are the typical options to obtain the data and how flexible is the availability?

Typically, standard reports are ‘pushed’ out by email to corporate customers at monthly intervals. Alternatively, customers are requested to click on a link to fetch their reports from a secure extranet. Ideally, Travel Agents and Credit Card companies provide an online login to a secure portal where customers can interrogate their data as they require.

3. How do companies use the data? Is there a difference in how travel managers, purchase managers or finance managers look at the data?

Travel managers may use the data in various ways: for supplier management, policy compliance, savings opportunities a/o. Purchase Managers typically are interested in supplier spend looking at patterns, thresholds, and spend targets. In Finance the travel data is used to look departmental spend, YOY spend and linking it to budgets.

4. What are the biggest data collection challenges that TMs face? And what would an ideal situation be for the TMs, regarding bringing the data together? Are there any alternative data sources that TMs can use to supplement the information from these four sources?

Travel Managers face several challenges in collecting the data: one is global coverage; for the data to be meaningful, global travel should best be managed by one global Travel Management Company and paid for by one global corporate credit card. Secondly, as no data source is entirely adequate, they will need to look at a variety of data sources, interpreting maybe different currencies and reporting periods & formats.

Some third party data consolidators in the market can aggregate data requirements at a fee.

5. Are TMs using the data they have available effectively? What else could they do to get more insight?

Whereas Travel Managers for the largest enterprises have set up effective management information; there is an opportunity for SME’s to make better use of the available spend information. For instance, are they using too many hotel properties in a specified destination; is there potential to consolidate with fewer hotels. Or in the case of negotiated rates, are these being used or does it make sense to rely on the best rates available on for instance? And are travellers following the policy and stay with the destination budgets?

6. Are there any other considerations about data to bear in mind?

Most important is to respect the data privacy of your travellers. Travel and Purchase managers should always make sure they request traveller consent to use the corporate travel data; the best moment to do this is when setting up the traveller profile with the Travel Management Company. Also, check if the Corporate Credit Card application contains wording around sharing data with the employer.

7. It’s often said that you should only collect and analyse data that helps you make better business decisions. How is this true for the Travel Manager?

This is true. Too much data can lead to ‘analyses paralyses’….there is so much data to base decisions on, but ultimately it is the corporate traveller who is on the road and needs the best value for money.

8. What is the trend for reporting on spend and the data collection? (is it more data, is it more detail, are people more interested for duty of care – what are the trends?)

Policy compliance, supplier spend and savings opportunities remain the top demands for travel reporting. More recently companies have also started looking at pre-travel reporting to influence travel behaviour. The need to locate travellers in case of emergency (‘Duty of Care’) has become an essential task of every Travel Manager.

9. How do you think the way data is collected and shared will change in the future?

Travel data will become more intuitive, and there is a role for travel industry suppliers to provide immediate advice on how to translate the data into actionable decisions that drive cost optimisation.

10. How can for Business support data collection? (grouping feature) is the world leader in booking accommodation online. for Business focuses on the needs of Enterprises and SME’s. With functionality such as labelling, budgeting and grouping we can now provide reporting on corporate hotel bookings to satisfy today’s Travel, Purchase & Finance Managers.

Philip joined for Business in January 2017. Before that he spent many years with American Express both on the Corporate Travel and Corporate Payments side of the business. He has worked in different Key Account Management roles including managing Corporate Payment Relationships with Fortune 100 companies where he was responsible for Global Account Management.