Webinar Recording — New World, Real Needs, One Twist: “New World Data Requirements”

We are in the final stretch of 2022 and much relieved that business travel continues its return to pre-pandemic levels. Yet, just as times are different now, so is both travel and the data needed to effectively manage global travel programs. Our panel of data experts spoke about data: what is new, what is old, and where we need to focus in the New World of Data Requirements.

This webinar was held Tuesday, Dec 13th, 2022. Transcript is below.

Panelists include:

Rick George (Moderator)
SVP of Global Strategic Solutions at PTC

Mat Orrego
CEO of Cornerstone Information Systems

Jennifer Steinke
Director of Travel, Meetings & Fleet at Moderna

Eric Almond
Head or Product at Travel Incorporated

Webinar Video Transcription

Rick: (00:05)

Hello, and happy holidays to everyone. It is great to see you virtually trying to wear a little red color for for the holidays. And we would really like to welcome you to the Joint Webinar sponsored by Cornerstone and P t c. As Lierin said, we have a big title: “New World Real Needs with One Twist, which is New Data Requirements”, but we’re really gonna boil it down I think with with our great panelists to a few key takeaways. Hopefully some good knowledge transfer over the next 40 or 45 minutes. And also we hope you all are having a great week. I’m sure you’re close to the holidays. Hopefully you’re gonna be taking some time off very soon for family and friends. And also, this may be the last webinar or so, right? For some of you for this year. And that may be exciting too. But again, we thank you very much for joining us today. I’d like to make some introductions if I might. So ladies first: Jennifer Stanke thank you for joining us. Jen. she is Director of Travel Meetings and Fleet with Moderna. Pretty good couple of years, right? Jen from from a staff perspective. Yeah, not too bad, right? We also have Eric Almond, who has head a product for Travel Incorporated here in Atlanta. And last, but certainly not least, Mat Orrego, who is CEO and co-founder of Cornerstone Information Systems. we thank you all for joining us as panelists, and I’m your moderator for today. My name is Rick George, and I’m part of the consulting team at Partnership Travel Consulting.

Rick: (01:51)

Before we begin, just a few housekeeping items. As Lierin mentioned the webinar is being recorded. We’re happy to send out the recording after today. And also we will have some time for Q&A at the end. So a couple of options. You’re gonna either save your questions toward the end, or if you’d like to type them in the chat box which is in the bottom right of the panel. Lierin will be fielding those. And we’ll, be able to get your questions answered. So now on with the show we’re gonna do kind of a round table back and forth on a variety of questions. And I’d like to start off with a question to each of you. So Jen, Mat, and Eric: what has been, just in a couple of words if you could, what’s been your biggest ‘aha’ moment or revelation or realization this year in 2022 as travel is certainly returning — and returning quickly — but arguably in a different way? So, Jen, I’ll ask you first and then Mat, and then Eric.

Jennifer: (03:01)

Well, I think I think it’s two things for me. As much as things have changed, many things have stayed the same. And also that travelers have just forgotten what they’re supposed to be doing. So, , how do I book, what do I do? What’s happening? What’s the policy? So they’ve had enough time off, just enough to forget about it. And so we do a lot of reeducating of individuals as, as we move through the new processes in sort of this new world order.

Mat: (03:31)

Yeah, I think following the same vein of thinking of people have forgotten what they’re doing is that there’s been a, an obvious loss of institutional knowledge within the operational side of the business. So, so that we’re finding that a lot of our TMC customers are really being challenged with this environment and having to scale their operations. and, and finding that that, that, that people were kind of the poorest glue that held a lot of things together in, in the travel industry. And, and with the loss of that talent it requires further automation and, and processes which aren’t really ready for automation. And they actually did require people. So people are op travel operations, T M C operations have really had had to re-engineer some of these processes, especially around change management. Um about, about a third to sometimes a half of all ticketing now in includes a reissue. And that’s, that’s a time consuming thing. I think Eric can speak to some of that, that he’s seen.

Eric: (04:35)

Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the, the biggest aha moments is what, you know a lot of TMCs have experience with operational challenges, I think, and also the entire industry, just from a service level perspective. customers expectations are, are, are super high. but I feel like they’re also contributors to some of the service factors as Jennifer mentioned, you know having to learn to travel again and not really being ready for calls. And so there’s, there’s a direct and indirect IM impact from both sides.

Rick: (05:10)

Yeah. I guess the, the, the good news through all of this, right, hopefully we could all agree, is that there’s a lot of travel going on, right? And I, I remember being part of a webinar around this time, maybe a little bit earlier last year, and there was still post G B T A convention. There was certainly travel but it was, it was very uncertain. And I think hopefully we, we all sit a little bit better 12 months later than, than we did at, at, at the end of 2021. I, I think this question somewhat ties into some of the comments that that you made. I, I read several weeks ago that G B T A, I think Susan posted a or hosted a podcast that was titled dawn of the employee dawn of the travel centric program. And, and so Jen and Mat in, in Your world, Mat is leading a technology company. Jen is being the the, the head of large Fortune 500 travel program. What, what does that mean to you? In maybe you saw the podcast, I did not, but this employee-centric travel program, did we have it before and now it’s changed, or is it, is it a brand new horizon? Jen?

Jennifer: (06:27)

So Rick, I think, I think it’s two part. I think that prior to the pandemic, there was a lot of focus on the traveler experience and what that looks like. I think that has morphed and, and in a way that we’re becoming more aware and more focused on the, a more holistic aspect for our travelers, right? Like their mental health wellbeing the, the stressors of travel, the challenges around illness and things that happen the flexibility that we wanna give our travelers, right? So we have a workforce that has shifted in which what used to be people going into the office is now more people working from home, maybe more people working remotely how do we identify and adapt our travel programs to meet the needs of those travelers? So there’s a lot of things that I think are are just changing. And also from a risk perspective, we are working more on people risk than just travel risk. So it, it’s, it’s about the, maybe the dawn of a new perspective on how we treat our employees in general, not just our travelers.

Mat: (07:45)

Yep. Yeah, I would, I would agree with that. I mean, I think as an employer I see it as a different kind of employment experience that employees are looking for. and, and they certainly, who found the comfort of home to be a great place to be and, and potentially be as productive. And, and over these two years both employers and employees have found and negotiated, if you will a way of working that definitely fa favors the employee. And, and I think that that has an impact on, on anything from there. Travel, when they travel, if they travel just in the interviews that I do from time to time with potential candidates, it’s one of the first things they ask, how much will I be able to travel? And it’s kind of, or how much will I need to travel? And it’s kind of a tough question to answer, because before I would’ve said, ah, you’re gonna travel a lot, or You’re gonna do this, are you gonna do that? Now? I’m kind of hesitant because whether do they want to travel or don’t they want to travel? What does it what does it mely mean? So you do have a very empowered employee today, and the ramifications of that and the implications of that are, are hitting travel programs across all our customers.

Rick: (08:57)

Yeah, it’s that, that’s a really good point, Mat, and, and Jennifer Jen too tie back to a, a couple of comments that that you made earlier. I remember a couple months ago we were fortunate enough to have you be our keynote speaker at the G B T H Georgia chapter. And, and one of the things that you’re really keyed on was kind of the evolution of duty of care in, in the industry. And it’s, and these are my words, but I, I think at least in my view, having been in this industry 18 years now, that it’s, it’s almost duty, duty of care has been replaced or maybe transitioned into duty to care by, by these companies. And, and first of all, Jen j just the question to you do, do you agree with that? and, and then also from Moderna’s standpoint with global operations obviously you’re in the healthcare pharma space, so you’re you’re key to what’s going on, but how has the company’s focus on safety changed maybe over the last six months or, or the time that you’ve been there?

Jennifer: (10:05)

Well, I think I think it’d be more reflective of the industry as a whole, right? I think it is more of a duty to care. And I think that we have had to learn to adapt our managed travel programs to look at things a little bit more holistically in nature and say and this is not just in my role, but in many people’s roles, in many buyer’s roles, it’s like, are we looking at our policy a little differently? Are we thinking about the need to travel more? Are we also thinking about sometimes we think we can travel less because now we can do things like this, but what is missing there? That collaboration, that human contact, all of that, that now we have to think about differently. So does that now open up our travel programs for more small collaborative meetings, right? Where people that used to meet on the 10th floor in conference room A now are living in 10 different states, how often do we bring them back? How do we look at that collaboration and that human aspect of, of our employees, right? So whether it’s from mental health, wellbeing, stressors, security risk, all the, all of that, I think all buyers are starting to look at their programs a little differently, and it is a duty to care which is a great way to put that.

Rick: (11:28)

Yeah, great. great response. And, and I, I think it continues to evolve, right? I mean, from from, from what I’m seeing in, in the industry, and I’m, I’m sure what the, the three of you are seeing is is, is really becoming more employee-centric. And it may be tying back to the, the GBTA webinar of of a few weeks ago but I, I think also there, there’s a technology point to this too. And I Eric and Mat, I’d, I’d really like you to to weigh in on this because both of you have great technology focused companies. what do you each believe is the most important data element for a company today? and also, have there been any data elements that in the last year or two, two years during Covid has kind of lost its relevance? It’s, it was the, the new kid on the block, or the hot kid pre covid, but now it’s like, eh do, do, do we really need it? And Eric, I’ll start with you.

Eric: (12:31)

Yeah. I, I think I would say that customer proximity account size profitability is, is a lot of what companies are looking at more so than how it was before. it, it’s boiling down to is, as Jennifer mentioned, is that trip warranted or not? there’s different factors that, that are factored in. Am I gonna have this meeting remote or in person? Ideally, the real winners today are, you know of the workforce tool providers like Zoom, Microsoft, and Google, right? As we have this meeting. but ultimately companies are, are focusing internally to assess travel more so than they did before. also duty of care is it has become a little bit different. it’s lost a little bit of steam due, I think, to the inherent reduction or to travel spin in general. internal policies have changed to, from an HR perspective, and it’s, it’s, it’s more about less about tra tracking and more about travel readiness preparedness collecting of the right information when there’s the, the need to travel. And, and so it’s just kind of a inverse of what from A T M C perspective we had to cater to previously. and so Mat, I think you guys are likely experiencing some of the same idea from a data collection perspective.

Mat: (13:51)

Yeah, absolutely. you, I, I think, I think the enterprise itself, the enterprise being the buyer is connecting itself a little bit differently to, to its data and its utilization of data. So I, I think, I think the data that is best utilized in today’s environment is the one that gets to, and the, the tools that get to the employee and the traveler at the right time. Um I, I see kind of a continuous flow of data being important. We do a lot of integration into downline e r P processes, bringing data back into into workflow so that you have like one version of the truth out there. but generally speaking, I think the cause is productivity and efficiency. it’s if you’re going to travel, are you going to be able to do this effectively? Is it going to be something that is gonna be meaningful to your bottom line to your return on investment in that, in that trip? What’s the, what’s the value of that trip versus the cost of that trip? I think that many of the of the, of the potential uses of data now have become about value and productivity.

Jennifer: (15:05)

And Rick, can I just add one thing to that? I think one of the things that buyers are looking at is also being a little bit more thoughtful in preparing for the unasked questions. So what we learned out of the pandemic was we were ill prepared to answer some of the questions that needed to be answered in order for us to better manage what was happening. Because nobody expected what happened, right? I mean, none of us, we thought it was six weeks, we’d be back traveling, and then it was three months, and who thought it would be two years, right? So I think that we’re thinking a little bit more about what kind of data elements do I need to be more thoughtfully and more prepared for questions that have yet to be asked, right? And that all goes to the organization itself and the culture and how it reacted to certain things. And like, well, what if you do more what if scenario planning and then start capturing and collecting data around that so that if you have to pivot quickly that you have those data elements available to you.

Rick: (16:04)

Yeah, very good point. Very good point. And and I, I would, I, I would think too, from a, from a, a regionalization standpoint, there, there’s probably some nuances there. our our clients in Asia for example, are, are still dealing with with, with very significant covid right in, in, in some parts of apac, where it’s hopefully is a little bit less in the United States and Europe and, and in some of the other areas. So that’s, that, that’s an excellent point, John. absolutely. And to, to to tie back Mat, to, to, to a couple of comments that, that you made, I’d like to get your thoughts, Mat, Mat, if I could on, on this that I, I read in the company Dime I believe it was yesterday, about a new blockchain company that’s called Block Sky. did some reading up on them yesterday afternoon. They, they, they seem quite a fascinating company but apparently there’s been a partner partnering between Block Sky and Kayak that is said to remake travel distribution and, and booking and the payment and and settlement process. Mat, what are your thoughts on, on that as as, as a data consolidator BI company?

Mat: (17:18)

Yeah, and I think I think when I look at, at blockchain, I mean, and, and look at it separately from from crypto as, as a framework for how how a transaction could occur within the travel industry the, the, the biggest challenge within the travel industry is the reconciliation of that data. Okay? And, and blockchain allows for that to occur transactionally in, in, in one single transaction through the concept of the ledger and a cons continually reconciling contr transaction, which is today the biggest challenge. And one of the challenges that we have is to, to bring payment and, and booking and other together into one reconcilable kind of settled kind of transaction. It then eventually has to go to all these different sources, expense, HR systems, all of these different places.

Mat: (18:13)

So, as a single version of the truth of what’s occurring with it, it makes a ton of sense. Now you have folks like Block Sky, and Kayak that are distributing and selling travel through that. They’re, they’re creating that environment for their se for themselves in order to do that. And eliminating a lot of costs out of there that currently are, are part of the current process and, and frameworks that we see today between GDSs and settlement processes. BSP are all of these things and, and they can be done a lot more effectively, and you drive a lot of costs out of there that are, are, are super important to look at. Now, does it scale beyond that? Is it something that’s I think we’re gonna find that a lot of companies are gonna do this and create these environments to, to do things. And then we’ll see how they proliferate from here and how others potentially copy it and leverage it.

Eric: (19:12)

Rick, I’d like to add to that, if you don’t mind. So I am component of blockchain and, and crypto. But from a travel perspective, it does introduce a level of, of complexity that I think a lot of people would jump onto. And that’s, that’s obviously going to be fraud and, and security and that’s one of the challenges that the world faces today with, with crypto and identification. And it, it happens today with one of the proponents of ARC is knowing who the traveler is and tracking and all that. So crypto introduces another layer of complexity when it comes to who’s on the other end buying that ticket, right? And, and just that, that fraud introduction. So I just wanted to make that point.

Mat: (19:54)


Jennifer: (19:54)

Well, and sorry, can I add, this is a hot topic, . So and I think it’s important cuz it really talks about what data elements will be available to us. So from a buyer’s perspective, if we think about web three and blockchain and crypto, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be crypto and blockchain cuz you can actually facilitate payments outside of crypto on the blockchain. But I think it brings the buyer or the traveler closer to the supplier and it eliminates a lot of those intermediaries. And that is where the travel industry is gonna be put, holding up big signs that say, oh hell no, we’re not doing this because my piece of the pie is gonna be cut out. And we don’t have the infrastructure, we don’t have TMCs that are building things to bring the, the b the buyers and the travelers closer to the suppliers because what is that gonna do to all of the finances?

Jennifer: (20:45)

Right now? It looks like a bowl of spaghetti. When we think about how money changes hands in the travel industry, what blockchain will do will make it a singular line person to purchase. And if we start thinking about self-sovereign identity, where I am a person and I take my identity and or my corporate identity with me as I move through the process, then we, we reduce some of that fraud and stuff. But I think we are not anywhere near ready. I think what Black, black Sky and kayak are doing, what Winding Tree is doing. There’s a lot of, there’s people that are making some progress, but mostly on the leisure side of things, we’re not seeing a lot of movement on the corporate side. And it’s gonna take some long, it’s gonna take some time.

Mat: (21:26)

Yeah. All, all new distribution in the beginning just brings a lot of, of, of opaqueness. And I, I think with generally where we’re heading with ndc is is a lot more opaqueness than it’s more about distribution than being able to service the transaction today. And, and that’s and that’s, that’s problematic based on how a lot of travel programs and, and sellers work today. But thus is the, is the brave new world we’re heading into .

Jennifer: (21:55)

Well, we can’t ignore it. I think that’s important. I think buyers need to be asking the questions of their suppliers, and they need to understand this, this isn’t gonna go away. I hope it doesn’t take as long as NDC did or is or will continue to take, but I think that there, there is some rapidly accelerating technologies in this space that if as a buyer we ignore it, we could be caught in a very precarious situation.

Rick: (22:18)

Mm-hmm. . So safe to say blockchain is here to stay, but work in progress, would, would that be fair to say?

Eric: (22:26)


Mat: (22:27)

Yeah, certainly. Like the entire travel industry’s a work in progress. .

Jennifer: (22:32)

Yeah. The same work in progress. It’s been for 30 plus years.

Mat: (22:36)


Rick: (22:38)

It revisits itself at the start of every, every New Year, huh? .

Jennifer: (22:42)


Rick: (22:44)

another industry question and, and, and then we’ll, we’ll move on. I I thought this was interesting. I I, it was recently reported around American Airlines tightening up on benefits for their business, extra accounts that use travel management companies and Eric as as the travel management company and Jen as as a buyer. What’s your opinion on on that good, bad, indifferent?

Eric: (23:12)

well, I, I, I think it’s a noticeable disruptor accountant for, for business travel. I mean, the, the overall impact, you know is, isn’t gonna, isn’t very clear from a business travel perspective. just post activities, things like refunds, exchanges, and I know we’re not specifically talking about N D C, but overall it’s the, the impact is ultimately the same. there’s a big, when we had the big significant policy shifts with covid one thing that came out of that was a significant use to burn unused tickets through equity cards. it introduced a completely different level of, of complexity that everyone was unprepared for and I think today this is gonna be several more stages o of that as we go down this road. and American Airline and others are gonna introduce far more complexities that we’re just not gonna know the service impact to the travel business model. leisure is one thing, but TMCs and, and the business community, I just don’t think they’re, they’re ready for it. And even if there’s a cost savings there’s going to be a, a service cost that, that, I just think we’re not quite sure clear what that picture’s gonna look like at this point.

Jennifer: (24:27)

And Rick, I think to kind of echo some of what Eric’s saying, I think, I think the airlines have invested, and I you called out American, we could call any of the airlines, some airlines, not all airlines , but a big number of the big players have invested in the N D C technology. And I think that they’re all of a sudden, like, we gotta do something, we gotta move fast. It’s kind of like the removal of commissions and different things. It’s like they just have to draw a line in the sand and say, we’ll figure it out. and I think that this line in the sand that they’ve drawn, whether it’s with their business extra model or any small business program incentives to the TMCs and NDC and content and how that impacts the corporate travel program. I think there’s a lot of still unanswered questions and things that haven’t yet been figured out.

Jennifer: (25:20)

And I, I fear that that line that they’ve drawn in the sand in some of these things in a world that’s kind of moving to endemic state from pandemic state, when TMCs can barely service the customers that they have now, I don’t know what they’re gonna do. They’re not gonna be prepared by April for some of these big N D C changes. They’re just not. I mean, it’s gonna be a mess. And so I think as buyers, we have to be questioning our air suppliers and saying, Hey what does that partnership look like and how are you gonna help us better manage? And I just, I, I I’m very concerned about service levels right now, just in general. And then you start adding these complexities to it, nothing’s gonna get done.

Rick: (26:05)

Yeah. Eric, do you, do you have a follow up on anything you’d like to add to Jen’s comments around service levels or,

Eric: (26:15)

Well, she, she is, right. I mean, service levels right now is, is very tough across the I think all TMCs and and it’s a challenge finding, you know seasoned agents and, and so there’s a tremendous amount of new talent coming in. But it’ll be months before the, the talent is groomed to the point in which they’re, they’re truly effective. So her, the, the comment about the service level, I think will continue and continue for quite some time for a variety of reasons. And this, this introduction of drawing the line in the sand at this point couldn’t come at a worse time, quite frankly. Um but we are where we are. This is how the travel industry works, and it, it’ll, it’ll shape out over the next six to nine months or, or maybe the next three years with n dc who knows. So

Rick: (27:08)

It’s a lot of a lot of interesting times to come, right. Safe to say.

Jennifer: (27:14)

Yeah. .

Rick: (27:16)

So Jen a follow up question to you, maybe to go a little bit deeper you’ve, you’ve been hired over, over the years by, um a number of, of very large Fortune 500 companies to really transform their travel programs. And I’m sure there are travel managers on this call or might salespeople individuals that might listen to this recording even, even after the, the live meeting today, that are knowing that they need change. They’re, they’re struggling with the internal dynamics of of their company, but they’re just not sure how to bring about it. Now, that could be probably an hour discussion, but if, if there were just a couple of key points that Jen, from your experience with Moderna and, and with your prior companies, what, what would you impart to them? The, the, the, the nervous global travel manager that’s really trying to do the right thing, but uncertain?

Jennifer: (28:15)

Well, I think travel buyers are poised right now in a position maybe better than they’ve ever been if they rethink how they look at their travel program, right? So now is a really good time to reinvent yourself and reinvent your program. and you do that by aligning yourself closer to your corporate business objectives and understanding the culture and their appetite for risk. So if you start talking to key stakeholders within your organization and getting feedback on your program and understanding what the needs are and what their business objectives are, and how travel the travel program can align with those, then you’re building an experience that’s very personalized. And, and it can be, travel programs don’t have to be a one size fits all right? So sales travels for one reason, it travels for a different reason. Your c-suite travels for a different reason, and they may all have different needs that go along with that reasoning.

Jennifer: (29:13)

And I think that we tend to have historically been like, I’m gonna check all the boxes I’m gonna source, I’m gonna get a T M C, I’m gonna do X, I’m gonna do y, boom, boom, I’m gonna package it all up and I’m gonna serve it to everybody in the exact same manner. People don’t, aren’t interested in that, especially when we have younger generations coming in that I don’t know, want everything to be a all about them. So , I think that we have to address the fact that we need to think about more, better alignment with the business objectives of the organization, right? And then how you build the program from there. So that means taking a look at everything from travel budgets to travel patterns to new markets, to policy to supplier, mix, all of those things. And then wrapping it up with technologies, right?

Jennifer: (30:01)

That some people might need this technology, some might need that. Now, that might sound very pie in the sky for a lot of people that are buyers, because I think a lot of ’em like go to their TMC and they’re like, okay, what do you got for me? I think that’s something else that we have to unwrap. And I would recommend to all TMCs, including my lovely friend Eric here and anyone else on this thing, how do you become more customizable instead of boxing buyers in, but maybe creating a better, more pliable model that they can then plug and play technologies into and different services and things. And I think that if we start partnering at that level with our internal business partners and our external suppliers, I think we can build really cool, great, right? Amazing programs that look different in every single organization because the organizations are different.

Mat: (30:52)

Yeah. And that, and that’s where the, that’s where the challenge is. I mean, and Eric, I just jumped in really quickly cuz I think this pivots to you is that in the environment of a constrained environment your, your natural tendency is to, is to standardize and, and create those boxes as this is how we’re gonna do business. but I totally agree with you, Jen, that that that travel now needs to be more pliable and and definable within within buyers as well too. But that’s the, that’s the uncomfortable place that we find ourselves today, is that the operational side of the business needs to standardize and needs to pro provide a more uniform kind of thing. Because going into the pandemic across all my clients, I saw so much variability in how they did things.

Mat: (31:37)

And so it’s it’s a little bit of a problem right now is that travel programs need flexibility and variability, and at the same time, on the operations side of it, they can’t. And the tech stacks that are there are kind of constrained because how do we now introduce ndc? How do we introduce all of this stuff in here? And so this is a really challenging moment in the travel industry because to provide flexibility and pliability is not necessarily where we are today from the operations side. And I’m gonna toss it over to Eric, see what his thoughts are on that.

Eric: (32:11)

Well yeah, so, so two points. one I I, you’re, you’re absolutely right from an operational perspective it is how do we standardize? We need to streamline, we need to make that or streamline to make that more effective for the, from the traveler perspective. But on the, on the flip side, as the new generation comes in, they want quite the opposite. They want the flexibility, they want it to be fluid, they want the communication. And so we actually have some new technology that’s coming out that really, as Jen mentioned, to address all levels, o o of the organization to have a, an open communication channel between all the legacy apps we had previously, the apps that are coming in dc um really about push notifications and feeding and getting content from various places, different different providers.

Eric: (33:00)

And then in turn, being able to communicate different messaging out to different levels of the organization, different KPIs to the top of the channel. That’s what they’re looking for. If I’m looking for notifications from a schedule change perspective I’m the frontline guy I’m interested in. Yep. what’s happening on my trip, not really about the data aspect. and then you throw HR in the middle with the pandemic and they’re looking now looking for different levels of, of information. So the idea behind our platform is one, how do we communicate to all different levels, and then what data are we going to deploy at those various levels? organizing that has been quite the challenge. And I think we have sorted it out amongst with within trial incorporated here and going into next year. That’s, that’s really our goal is to plug all of those gaps and, and target every aspect of the organization and figure out what piece of data what action and, and what levels of interaction are you looking for. And, and that’s, that’s the core problem for us to solve going into next year, because otherwise, at, at the rate the industry’s moving in different directions you’ve, you’ve gotta have that flexibility to pull it together. And, and, and that’s one of our core focus right now.

Rick: (34:12)

It’s not great. So again, another work in progress, right? For for the travel industry on many levels from the supplier and, and the buyer perspective. Right?

Rick: (34:22)

just a couple more questions and then li I will I will turn it back over to you. Jen wears many hats in in, in her life. And I’m, I’m very happy she’s moved to Atlanta actually as as well. So we’re kind of neighbors 40 miles apart, Jen. But glad that you’re here. I wanted to just give you a second to plug your, your other daytime job around tams, which is a great organization, growing organization. If there’s anything you’d like to say about what’s coming up in 2023, please do.

Jennifer: (34:58)

Yeah, thanks. So we have a lot of exciting things. So for those that don’t know, TAMS is a travel meeting society. It stemmed out of covid. We delivered some industry standards around cleanliness and health and stuff into the marketplace. And then kind of went to Tams 2.0. We’ve got a variety of committees. We’re actually very focused for 2023 on project deliverables to solve industry problems. Like what? So the people can come to us and be like, Hey, I have an idea for this. And then we can foster that and nurture it and build out project teams to then deliver whatever that solution might be. It might be a standards, it might be a white paper, it might be, I don’t know, just something we do in the industry. Who knows what it could be. Cuz we, we try to be really flexible and fluid.

Jennifer: (35:41)

we are new and growing. We have a lot of good things for 2023, I think we’re probably gonna maybe have an in-person event. We’ll see. I’m, we’re working on some things like that. We’ve just launched our membership in October, so if you’re not a member, sign up now. Tams travel.org cuz it’s $69 for two years. So it’s affordable to everybody. and yeah, there’s a lot of work to be done if you wanna be engaged and really be impactful and have some fun while you’re doing it, then come join us on our journey.

Rick: (36:16)

It’s a good deal. $69 for, for two years, right?

Jennifer: (36:20)

It’s cheap.

Mat: (36:21)

It’s cheap.

Rick: (36:23)

cheap. Alright, folks, final question and then I’m gonna turn it back to to Lierin. we’ve got what about 17 days, 18 days left in in 2022. So I, I’d like to ask each of you, starting with Mat and Eric then Jen what, what’s your outlook for 2023? What, what do you think is gonna kind of take the lead in, in either the technology space, the travel buyer space, the TMC space? So Jen, take it away.

Jennifer: (36:54)

Hmm. I think I’m gonna have to have a lot more really intense, thoughtful conversations with my suppliers, about whether it’s service levels or pricing, because it’s getting tough out there. Things are very expensive, and I’m finding that there is a lot of people trying to recover financially. And so we have to have intense, thoughtful conversations around that.

Rick: (37:19)


Mat: (37:21)

Yeah, I mean, I, I mean, I can I continue to see the effort that that it is to really automate and automate the operations of of, of, of travel companies travel sellers TMCs out there in general. I think that the information and the processes that that we need to continue to focus on are, are by far the most difficult ones. Um especially around refunds, exchanges and pricing. And then we’re gonna have to deal big time with with American airlines and what I assume going to be the followers after that on, on new distribution channels and, and what that’s going to imply from the standpoint of, of all the things that that require processing and information that come from that.

Rick: (38:12)

Yeah. And Eric, final thoughts?

Eric: (38:15)

yeah, for travel, incorporating 2023 for us kicks off a year of innovation and connection to be able to innovate and connect with our customers. the, the demands over the last year has has been I think very different than it has been in the past. And so we’re realigning our roadmap and our, our budgets to take those ba basically head on. And so we’re not looking to get back to 2019 levels. We’re really looking to move forward and exceed customers expectations and deliver that that high touch relevant travel experience and so, and we’ve committed to that we’re completely refreshing infrastructure, technology and the, and, and the service levels over the next three years. The budget’s committed and the company’s committed, and that’s the direction in which we’re we’re headed.

Rick: (39:04)

Good deal. And on on that thought, with just a few minutes left in, in our 45 minute block, leron, I’ll give you back the floor for a minute to see if there’s any questions from our, our large audience.

Lierin: (39:16)

Yeah, we’ve got a few questions here. and I’d like to remind everybody that you can definitely use the chat box there to ask questions and I’ll make sure it gets to the panel. one in specific Cayman for Eric asking what is the one thing you wish travel buyers did that would help you better serve them?

Eric: (39:37)

honestly, probably police their own travel policy. Um as a as they learn to travel again many cases things are very unclear. The expectations are a little out of, out of line. So imagine if the agencies being asked to police the policy, what’s happening when imagine if they get to the front line of the hotel, the car counter, the airline counters. If we’re not policing it, they’re certainly not being policed, you know several levels down. So I, I think it’s really is reshaping, realigning and getting everybody back to un understanding what, what travel’s all about.

Lierin: (40:19)

Well, thank you. Good question. yeah, another one this one is being directed towards Mat. Are there any technologies that the industry is currently missing?

Mat: (40:32)

Well, I, yeah, I think, I think the online booking tools, I mean, many of them are, are going through re-engineering. Some of the newer ones obviously are thinking are, are thinking more contemporary, but you have a lot of OBTs that you are going to need to get aligned with NDC pretty quickly here. and and that includes the usual suspects out there. And, and the other one that I think is, is emerging and you see some emerging players out there, it is this whole collaborative travel and, and how do you bring people together? because the online booking tools facilitate just single traveler kind of bookings, but not as much bringing 5, 10, 15 people together into Atlanta. And and how do you facilitate that through a simple invitation? Because a lot of those people have never booked a trip before, and the whole learning curve on a traditional O B T is something that they probably are gonna be challenged with. So I think there’s some new technology around meetings and groups and how that all, all comes together that needs to get filled in there. And I think it is, but adopted is the other question. ,

Lierin: (41:39)

. So this one looks like it’s for the whole panel first says great insights. question is, which do you think is the number one transformation process business travel should go through to be prepared for the new era of travel? And they clarify that they’re specifically referring to the industry and all the players, suppliers, and buyers.

Jennifer: (42:04)

wow, that’s a big question. I think, I think if we can focus on how technology can drive a more seamless end-to-end process, providing the content, and regardless of where it comes from, I think that that would be kind of an ideal state for where we are so that we can meet our travelers where they wanna be met, right? So if I wanted to go to aa.com and book, how do I bring that back into my program? There’s some tra there’s some technologies out there that can do that, but then how do you service it? so when we have this NDC component and we have blockchain, so I think trying to look at if we could do everything better and create a seamless experience, what would that look like? I don’t think people are having those conversations, by the way, because there’s, no one has everyone at the seat at the table, right? So TMCs might do one thing, technologies go off and do another, and buyers are thinking about this, but we’re never sitting a lot of times in those same rooms altogether, having really hard conversations. I think we tend to be a little bit too much siloed,

Eric: (43:18)

Right? I I think one of the biggest disconnects is you have the buying experience and then you have the actuality of what happened. So there’s a, a lot of data loss between this is what I booked, this is where I stayed. Collection of data at the expense level, you know even if you bounced back to duty of care, did the travelers show up? Where are they currently? there, there’s a lot of systems that are involved from front to back. There’s a lot of dis disjointed data between front and back so there’s a clean way to to aggregate, to truly understand the success of a purchase start to finish and the outcome of a trip to be able to get a, a, a clear picture and to be able to make, build policy and, and to build your travel program based on actuality as opposed to theoretically, here, here’s what happened. That, that would be a significant impact, I think, to the industry as a whole.

Mat: (44:09)

Yep. Yeah, for me, it’s the transformation needs to be serviced. we are, we’re, we’re stuck at, at, at pretty bad service levels today. and with, with difficulty seeing as to what’s gonna change that and, and throwing more people at it is not the solution in an industry that needs to maintain its margins and its costs at very slim levels to be as efficient and productive as it needs to be. So the whole digitalization of service and how, how it’s consumed transparency, all of these great new airline retail strategies and what they’re trying to inspire, trying to do and inspire to are wonderful, but those transactions need to be serviceable and in how suppliers work with each other in that it’s not just an airline flight, it’s the airline that transitions to a hotel stay or to a rental car and a rental car and a hotel stay. All of that has such rich opportunities to become more serviceable and more friendly to the employer, to the traveler, whoever it is.

Rick: (45:13)

Any other questions, Lierin?

Lierin: (45:15)

Just one more actually.So if we’ve got time, I’ve got one, and this one’s directed for Jennifer. what kind of challenges do you think N D C is going to cause for the managed travel program?

Jennifer: (45:30)


It’s a big one, but I, I wanna, I wanna kick off on a positive note. I think getting richer content in front of our travelers is really important. I think being, giving the airlines opportunities to bundle in merchandise and stuff, I think creates a better experience for our travelers, because then they tend to go out less looking for something else on the websites and things. So I think it’s a good thing. I think where we still have challenges, and I don’t understand why we are 13, 14 years into this, right? where we haven’t figured out how to service these bookings, right? That’s the problem. So the airlines are saying the GDSs aren’t moving fast enough then now they’re gonna pull content. Well, that’s gonna just totally irritate me beyond belief, right? I’ve already got that issue with some airlines overseas right now.

Jennifer: (46:22)

the TMCs, how do they service that business? so now my travelers don’t give two hoops about N D C, right? They want what they want and they want get it, and they want it to be able to be serviced. And so I think that’s gonna be a real challenge for buyers. But I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water, because I think the opportunity to create better, richer content to put in front of our travelers is a, an amazing opportunity. But I still think we’re a little far away from that.

Rick: (46:55)

This is true. Well, on, on on that note, on the positive note, we’ll we’ll, we’ll leave it at that. We tried to solve all of world’s problems in travel today, but I think we only scratched the surface, right? So maybe we should come back in in three months or six months and do a version 2.0 and see where things have changed. But I really, this has been some great insight from all of you some great questions from the audience and, um on behalf of my company, really, thank very much Eric Mat and, and Jen for for your time. And also a big thank you to Lierin at cornerstone for doing all the behind the scenes coordination of this. We we, we truly appreciate it as as you mentioned, there will be a video record or a video audio recording that we will be sending out so you can share with your your near and dear friends and on behalf of all of us here, we’d like to wish you very happy holiday season.

Rick: (47:54)

Happy New Year. Great New Year, great 2023. And hopefully we’ll be talking again soon. But we thank you very much for joining. Take care.