Communication is a two-way street

ITM chief executive Simone Buckley says suppliers must understand the value of consulting the travel community on key decisions.

People who know me would probably say I’m a positive person. I always look for the best in people and situations. I try to be optimistic about the future, no matter what challenges are put in my way. It pains me, therefore, to use this column as a channel to vent frustration.

Leaders across the industry regularly extol the virtues of communication across the supply chain. Key messages about partnership and working together echo from the stages and platforms of forums and events across the world. Why is it, then, that some people just don’t listen?

Late last year, it was Marriott. It started offering free high-speed wifi to loyalty cardholders, but only if they booked directly with the hotel. Was the corporate customer base taken into consideration? No. Instead the hotel chain unveiled an initiative that had the potential to damage managed travel processes.

Next up: Lufthansa. Whether its decision to introduce a €16 surcharge on bookings made through the global distribution systems was correct or not is, to a certain extent, neither here nor there. The point is that, once again, a major international supplier took a unilateral decision without talking to its highest-yielding customers. There was no communication whatsoever.

And last month it was the turn of Virgin Trains. The train operator introduced an automated refund system. Sounds like good news, no? The problem: it only applies to tickets bought in advance, directly on its website or through its app. Compensation, it claims, can only be paid to the card used to make the booking. This means reservations made through travel management companies and self-booking tools via rail booking platforms such as Evolvi and are not recognised – yet another reason for a traveller to be enticed away from a company travel policy.

In this case, we are pleased that Virgin Trains has acknowledged that it should have consulted the managed travel community before going to market. It has also agreed to sit with senior industry stakeholders to discuss how corporate refund processes can be improved. So there is some cause for optimism. We must hope that other suppliers get the message.

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