Travel’s Grand Reopening: Top 3 Most Critical Touchpoints According To Our Experts

 

  • Managing our cancellations is going to be a huge hurdle (and advantage!) when it comes to “getting back to normal”.

 

  • Knowing where all of your bookings are & managing your leakage is a Front-And-Center-Topic for our industry going forward.

 

  • Traveler and corporate confidence will be the key to a quick return … lack of confidence will drag this out.

 

 

Find out what we’ve learned (and how to apply that knowledge) below…

 


 

Travel’s Grand Reopening: “Are You Ready For Business?”

Cornerstone Information Systems was thrilled to host a webinar regarding the reopening of travel in the pandemic world that we all face. Here are our takeaways.

 

Notice we did not say “post-COVID”. The post-COVID world is still a long way off, and in order to survive as an industry, we need to prepare and settle down for the long stretch of recovery to take place here and now. The world is still being affected by this pandemic and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It is a fluid and precarious unknown environment, but we are all finding out that in order to survive, we must navigate it – not just wait for it to pass.

 

The Situation As We Know It

 

“I never would have expected in my 32 years in this industry to ever be facing something like this. It’s new for all of us. What’s interesting is that we complain sometimes about how fragmented this industry can be, and about how many different silos are out there and how many different players there are. But in crisis, we really came together and that shows.” – Mat Orrego | Cornerstone Founder & CEO

 

While our industry was already facing a unique set of challenges before this hit, we all have to recognize that the last few months have really forced us to face some existential threats directly to life as we know it. We have never seen an event shut down the entire global economy before, and travel is taking the brunt of these changes. An Oxford economics study was done recently showing an expected 45% decrease of revenues for the entire year, and an 81% drop in April and May just so far.

 

But despite this doom and gloom, people are still traveling and we’re still seeing PNRs come through. There is also a bit of optimism around the fact that this situation might alleviate quicker than traditional types of economic depressions. Given those facts, we believe there is an opportunity here. But that opportunity starts with travel starting to return.

What Happened?

 A graph showing huge spikes in cancellations of bookings in March 2020

Many thanks to Omega Travel for furnishing this data regarding cancellations. Immediately as the situation began to ramp up, we saw cancellations — a lot of them. And for good reason! Borders were closing, countries were being declared “hot spots” and “high risk travel zones”. Conferences were being cancelled, and so were all the flights for their attendants. High profile meetings were being moved online. Trips were cut short, so return flights were cancelled in favor of immediate ones headed home.

 

This was an enormous and immediate challenge. Cornerstone published another article here called “Data: The Catalyst For Corporate Travel’s Recovery” that dives deeper into the subjects of “what went wrong” and “what went right”. Cancellations are an important topic to discuss in that light.  But in looking ahead, we can simply note that they existed, and were handled with an expediency and cooperation between industry businesses that exceeded expectations.

 

A Cornerstone hosted industry-wide survey also broke down cancellations and found some companies reporting more than 25 events or meetings being cancelled for the rest of the year:

 

 

A graph showing survey respondents indicating how many external meetings they had seen since early March 2020

So where are we right now, and were do we need to “come back from”? The cancellations are the key. As travel ground to a halt, our aftermath is twofold:

  1. Mountains of confused data from the cancellations that need to be sorted out and tracked
  2. No trips being booked to replace all of that traffic.

 

Fixing both of these challenges is going to be key in returning travel to “normal”.

 

 

The Repercussions of the Pandemic

 

Perhaps the most obvious repercussion has been financial. Navigating the waters of loans, banks, Acts of Congress, staff reductions, salary reductions – it’s all been far more than what we expected when we turned the calendar page to 2020 this year. But there has been more than just balancing the ledgers.

  • Staff reductions mean that we need to come to terms with the fact that we are going to look different once this passes. Some companies will acquire others. A few big players may have to be smaller businesses in order to survive. And yet others may grow due to the immediate direction change of the industry.

 

  • Processing cancellation and refunds is also an immediate financial concern be it for travel tickets, hotel stays, or conference exhibitions. Decisions are being made every day as to whether refund policies will remain ridged or be relaxed. Ticket exchange policies and cancellation policies are also under scrutiny. While we expect many of these policies to go “back to normal” once this passes, many others may not. And if COVID remains in our lives longer than a year, more and more temporary changes will become permanent.

 

Practical repercussions are also rife in all of our systems right now. Getting travelers back to where they needed to be was the immediate concern of course, and we all accomplished that together. But now, we are left with a myriad of questions and mountains of records.

  • Unused Tickets are going to be a major concern going forward. How will travelers get value from these (or get value back from these). Besides the concern over refunds and exchanges, the sheer volume of unused tickets and the issue of tracking them is absolutely an immediate concern to solve. (Consequently, Cornerstone has been updating our TicketTRAK software to help deal with exactly this issue).

 

  • Health and Safety Concerns are paramount to address right now. Travelers will not get back on the road unless they are assured of their safety. Airlines, hotels, trains, car rentals, and everyone else that represent a point of physical contact for a traveler needs to be able to relate the same message: “we are safe, and our facilities are sanitary”.

 

  • Airtravel Sanitation Concerns are especially at the forefront of traveler’s minds when it comes to the aforementioned health and safety issues. Likely, we will see more and more airlines take on policies like that of Delta Airlines – blocking middle seats and capping capacity on flights.

 

  • Virtualization of the Workspace is going to be perhaps the longest lasting repercussion. How many face-to-face meetings have we all realized in the past few months could be conducted online? How many expensive business trips have companies realized they could save money on by holding a virtual meeting instead? And while many of us are eager to get back on the road and see our clients in person and close deals in distant board rooms … there is absolutely going to be a contingent that will not follow suit. Facebook and Twitter have both led the way by making work from home a “permanent option” for their employees. Those that follow suit will be contributing to the lack of business travel going forward, and that is simply a new way of life that we will have to navigate.

 

 

What Comes Next?

 

Despite everything, reservations are still being booked. We might have seen massive drops in travel, but it did not halt altogether. The main measure that we are using to predict is confidence. For that, we’ve deployed industry wide surveys. The following graphs are courtesy of Omega Travel, but they reflect the trends that we at Cornerstone have been seeing as well:

Four charts showing survey responses to travel confidence questions

Omega Survey Takeaways:

  • Confidence in travelers is going to be awarded first and foremost to big companies and chains than to smaller travel businesses and space sharing companies.

 

  • Trust is being placed in airlines to maintain sanitation. Less than half of respondents said they would change their flights if only middle seats were available.

 

  • People seem evenly divided over whether or not to trust rideshares like Uber and Lyft, but that division disappears when asked about hotel alternatives like AirBnB.

 

  • Far more travelers will prefer hotels over AirBnB alternatives. This is such a pervasive feeling that companies who did not have a policy on the matter are now restricting their travelers to preferred hotel chains and not leaving anything to chance.

 

Cornerstone surveys also found the following:

Two charts showing survey responses to travel confidence questions

  • The majority of respondents predicted that they would begin traveling again between 2 and 6 months, though some answered that it would be closer to a full year before they felt comfortable traveling again.

 

  • Respondents estimated roughly 54% of future business (that would otherwise have been conducted with travel) will be conducted virtually instead for at least the rest of the year.

 

 

 

Predicting The Future of Travel

 

One point that was made clear in all surveys and all discussions is that domestic travel will pick up before international travel. The speed at which it picks up will have to do with traveler confidence in their safety as provided by the travel suppliers.

 

Travel suppliers are doing everything possible to educate the traveling public about sanitation procedures, and policies are being put in place to take those procedures even further.

 

It can also be surmised that the lack of traveler confidence in such companies as AirBnB will bode well for hotels. With people needing to travel on essential business first, and other business as confidence grows, hotels may gain back some of the business that space sharing companies had taken from them in the recent years. If a hotel can weather this storm, the other side looks particularly sunny.

 

The rise in people driving themselves on trips (thus avoiding both flights and rideshares or car rentals) is also not a trend that will likely die out quickly. While the convenience of flying for long distances is not going to fade, people are already opting to drive themselves on shorter trips and may continue to do so until that confidence rises.

 

The quicker suppliers can instill an aura of safety and instill confidence in both travelers as well as liability-minded companies and TMCs, the faster the industry as a whole will rebound. But that is going to take more than just great messaging – it’s going to take real data, and smart data management.

 

If you would like to learn more about how you can better prepare for the COVID world of travel, schedule a demo with Cornerstone’s automation experts today. 

 

Many thanks to those involved in the discussion! Click here if you would like to watch the recording of our webinar: “Back in the Air: Travel’s Grand Reopening”.

Data: The Catalyst For Corporate Travel’s Recovery

 

Shoring up travel data practices in response to COVID, and preparing for the next major disruption to travel. 

 

“What Went Wrong? What comes next?”

The first isn’t anyone’s favorite question. The second is essential.

 

In light of COVID’s disruption of the Travel Industry, these are questions that we need to answer. With Mitch moderating, Mat, Cara, and Brian gave their answers as well as explained where the gaps were … and how to plug those gaps for next time. For a full recording of the event, listen here.

 

Data is the key to unlock the answers for both questions above. This article is about how data makes the difference as well as some of the challenges that we’ve had to date. And of course, how the future looks and how we manage ourselves out of this.

 

What Went Right?

 

The biggest “bright spot” for travel during the outbreak of this situation was how we all came together to get our people home safely and efficiently. Businesses had people all over the world, and when the time came, those people all got home – many within a deadline of 24 or 48 hours. When the stakes were high, the whole travel industry was physically able to work together to help our customers. Most businesses were able to get their clients home without any major complications which speaks volumes to the infrastructure that we have in place right now.

 

What Went Wrong?

  • Aggregating Data: Some of our challenges started to occur once we started trying to aggregate all of our data from our own systems, from the TMCs, and from the suppliers in order to form a bigger picture regarding what exactly was happening. We had so many people in the PNRs leaving notations and making changes. Not all of it was synching up. It became a Duty of Care issue.

 

  • Cancellations: There were problems around cancellations and getting that data disseminated. Sometimes you had a latency effect where you had a reservation that had been cancelled still showing up on lists tracking where travelers were. Obviously, this is going to cause a lot of confusion because while we are trying to get our people home, it turns out some were already home.

 

  • Sharing information with each other was also an issue when it came to the industry trying to understand the big picture of what was going on, especially in the early stages. We found ourselves relying on our own data. For example, when it comes to trips to China, what our clients are doing does not necessarily represent the overall pattern. It’s only when we bring our collective data together that we can see the big picture and realize that this is a crisis. Had we had the big picture earlier, we might have been able to issue warnings on what we would have known to be higher risk trips.

 

  • Sharing Data Publicly: Similarly, it may have made a difference to know that travel in February was down by a certain amount, or that it plummeted in March. Had we shared the aggregate data, the country might have had better insights into what was going on.

 

  • Combating Leakage: There was a higher than normal amount of leakage during this whole situation, and a lot of it stemmed from travelers taking actions by themselves that were therefore not recorded in their trip. This presents both an opportunity for better data collection, and an opportunity to talk about policy.

 

  • Ignoring Policies: In the crisis situation that we had, policies tended to “go out the door” as travelers began cancelling and rebooking their own hotels and flights. For example, once it was announced that a certain border was closing, a traveler might panic and rebook themselves without mentioning it to their TMC. Many people just wanted to get home however they could. Some went straight to the airport and booked a flight there.

 

Some of these issues are more public policy and industry issues, and some can be changed from the bottom up. Major steps that would have both quick and large impacts include refund management and rate audits. Other changes are quite systematic and would take more cooperation between different travel entities to address and ultimately fix.

 

How Do We Untangle The Current Situation?

 

Unfortunately, the answer is that we are facing a lot of manual work right now. For example, the whole process of annotating reservations, the process that needs to place back into those reservation systems along with the PNRs is not a highly automated process right now. There will be a lot of manual effort involved in getting all of our data and processes “back to normal”.  This is the foundation to tracking refunds due, collecting them and tracking credits or unused tickets.

 

There are facets of the solution that are automated, or can be pretty simply. For example, tickets from cancelled trips can be loaded into various ticket tracking programs and referenced. One of the areas that is least automated in travel process is applying those potential exchanges. Putting these tools in place now will reduce the workload and set the stage for smoother operations when travel starts coming back.

 

Travel Technology Going Forward

As an industry, we must start conversations regarding how technology can help the sharing of data while protecting confidentiality and privacy. The sooner the industry can adapt to new technologies and allow for that Single Source of Truth to be accessed by everyone, the sooner we will have a far more robust crises management capability.

 

Data sources are completely fragmented across the travel industry. Right now, you get data from the GDS, from credit cards, from central bills. All of these systems are different, and the data very rarely matches.

 

Twenty years ago, the GDS was the answer. Today, there are so many forms of content that are available that don’t go through the GDS that the GDS alone is not able to serve that purpose any longer. We need something else to step in and take that place. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you got a different answer every time you tried to look up your bank account on a different device. We need to have a unified place for data just like the banks. The travel industry will get there, but the process will take a while.

 

New technologies from blockchain to machine learning have a lot of potentials. But no matter which technology comes out on top, we need to be able to distill the data to a Single Source of Truth.

 

On an individual level, companies, we see three critical areas that MCs and other suppliers will look to technology and data management to find greater efficiency.

 

  • Automating the ticketing, refund and unused ticket processes to increase efficiency and capture revenue.

 

  • Capturing and integrating leakage data will be another major area of focus due to the risks and costs that off channel bookings created

 

  • New sources of data, like near real-time health risk assessments will be needed to help managed a new set of policy concerns and approval processes.

 

 

What is going to be the new normal?

 

First and foremost, data use will be much more strategic than it has been. So the Single Source of Truth mentioned above will become paramount. The acquisition of data from multiple sources, aggregating it, and matching it (as opposed to seeing it from different silos) is going to be very important.

 

Another change we predict is that travel policies will likely become much stricter going forward. Companies are going to enforce policy much more closely as this crisis sits at the forefront of all of our minds.

 

Conversely, we may also see a push toward flexibility on the part of the traveler. These two points do not have to be at odds. Booking channels and booking policies are not the same thing. While policies may be more stringent, the options open to a traveler may open up dramatically. Remember all those travelers booking their own flights home and causing so much leakage? We need to be able to capture that leaked data while still allowing the traveler the flexibility to act on their instincts.

 

Ultimately, data management needs to happen more naturally in the industry. Anonymized data needs to be shared across a broader group of shareholders. Flexibility is also key. Travelers want to do things in ways that make them as efficient and productive as possible, and having data keep up is really the bottom line.

 

 

 

Free Trial of TicketTRAK to all Topaz Clients!

Are you finding yourself burdened by too many unused airline tickets due to COVID?

While business is still be down due to the pandemic, some activity is happening in the travel industry — unfortunately, much of that involves flight changes and cancellations.

All of this is leaving companies with thousands of dollars in unused tickets.

 

“Topaz and Cornerstone Can Help”

 

We are starting by making our newest version of TicketTRAK available to you for free for the peak summer season if you sign up with us by Monday, May 18th. This means that you can use this tool from us for free until July 31st to help reclaim the value of your cancelled airline tickets.

What can TicketTRAK do for you? Great question! Read on to find out:

 

Tracking Cancelled Tickets Due To COVID-19 Concerns

 

We know that suddenly, a lot of companies have found themselves with tickets for flights that will not be used. Capturing the value of unused tickets will be a major priority as the global business world fluctuates.

Our TicketTRAK platform actually keeps tabs on these unused tickets, and with proper management, up to 80% of their value can be recovered. In fact, our sister company Cornerstone Information Systems just released an update to this platform making it easier as well as more robust in its functionalities. It can integrate with BookingBuilder™, interact directly with PNR remarks, simplify the process for adding non-ARC / BSP tickets and MCOs, and more.

We also know that most of your airline ticket cancellations have already taken place. We can retroactively go back through cancellations in order to track what has not been processed by TicketTRAK. 

 

Let us help you with this burden. Sign up to speak with one of our experts here. 

 

Don’t consider the value of unused tickets to be lost. Start tracking your tickets with TicketTRAK and redeem as many of them as policy allows.

 

Webinar Q and As — Data: the Catalyst for Corporate Travel’s Recovery

Webinar Questions and Answers

Thanks again to our panelists for sharing their insights on the role of data for business travel during the early stages of the COVID crisis and in its recovery.

A recording of the entire session can be found here:

There were many questions that we did not have a chance to address during the session. The responses below represent the collective view of the four of us.

Enjoy, let’s keep the conversation going and stay safe, everyone.

  • Mitch Gross, 12 Squared Growth
    • mitch@12squaredgrowth.com
  • Mat Orrego, Cornerstone Information Systems
    • mat@ciswired.com
  • Cara Whitehill, Traxo
    • cara.whitehill@traxo.com
  • Brian Beard, Data Visualization Intelligence Inc.
    • bbeard@dvibigdata.com

 


Do you think corp travelers will now comply more with their corp travel programs instead of managing their own bookings just to have peace of mind in terms of safety, cleanliness etc? Thus making it easy to deliver Duty of Care post COVID-19?

Everyone wants to stay safe and travelers may have seen how important it is to be communicated with in a crisis. So it’s natural that they would be more compliant. The big IF: compliant with what? Companies and TMCs will have to double down on communication so that people know what they are supposed to do and why.

Policies are also likely to address a different set of issues, like which destinations, what types of properties and what ground transportation are recommended. Driving travelers to approved channels is critical so they can be guided to the safest solutions. And most travelers should like that.

For strongly mandated programs, it’s likely that compliance to mandated channels will increase a bit in the near-term, but the reality is that there will always be some blindspots no matter how strong a mandate companies have (execs who prefer to do their own thing; meetings and events which require booking via separate channel; better rates found outside the TMC; day-of-travel disruptions that are impossible to handle in-channel; etc). That’s been the case for every major disruption we’ve seen — behavior always reverts to the mean, and that “mean” means some amount of program leakage.

A more realistic and practical approach is to leverage data aggregation solutions to catch this off-channel data and feed it into Duty of Care services and other management workflows pre-trip. Many travel teams may not realize this is possible, but tech has evolved so that you can manage this activity just as you do your in-channel activity. That way, you fill in the gaps in these off-channel blind spots and ensure you can keep employees safe and accounted for.

Bottom line, we think corporations will push for improved compliance within their programs. Although, many travelers will continue their behaviors unless the employers develop stricter ramifications for non-compliance. Duty of Care data will go up a level in importance and new ways to acquire out of program bookings will be developed.

 


I just got on the call so you may have discussed this already, but do you think leakage will decline significantly post covid-19? Companies will run tighter programs requiring additional pre-trip approvals?

Again, leakage is likely to decline if expectations and the rationale behind them are clear. At minimum, we can expect more pre-trip notification on out of policy bookings. In many cases pre-trip approval will also increase, especially in the early days of the recovery.

We may see a short-term increase in compliance, but it’s unlikely that leakage will decline much in the long run. The underlying drivers of leakage aren’t going away just because of the pandemic, and given that there are tools available to travel teams to manage this activity the same way they manage in-program activity, it’s going to become less of a problem.

The same is true for pre-trip approvals. As travel returns to normal. Companies that had a pre-trip approval process will continue to use it, other companies will opt for increased communication about updated travel policies instead of implementing a pre-trip approval process.


What are your thoughts on blocking nonrefundable hotels?

It makes sense as an interim measure for hotels and for air too. Even though most properties are waiving refund restrictions and cancellation fees, this can change at any time on a supplier by supplier basis. Blocking puts control back in the company’s hands and avoids potential hassles in tracking refunds or credits. But you’ll need to work with your TMC to be sure this is technically feasible.

You won’t be able to control this with off-channel bookings, including use of consumer and supplier. Communication and education, as always, is as important as the policy and tech change. And a solution to identify and act on off channel bookings should be a fundamental part of any travel program.

 


How does Traxo separate business vs personal travel within the supplier feeds?

Suppliers prompt the user to specify whether their trip is for Business or Personal travel; if Business is selected, then the supplier will show the traveler their company’s private negotiated rates for that business trip, and feed the data to Traxo so it can be synced to their company’s duty of care provider as well. If the user specifies a Personal trip, then they continue on the normal booking flow and no data is sent to Traxo or their company. This ensures that only business travel bookings are captured and fed into the company’s travel management workflows (ie, duty of care).

 


Do you see companies enforcing more stringent travel policies to diminish or get rid of leakage in the name of Duty of Care?

Yep.

In the near term, this may be likely for programs that already have strong mandates. Given the tools available now to capture bookings from any source, including “leakage”, and sync them with a Duty of Care provider, this will be less of an issue in the long run.

 


How have companies managed Duty of Care for meeting attendees?

We saw a few companies that had meetings challenged by this and especially the meeting organizers that had to take safety into consideration. Most of our clients that managed internal meetings cover their employees’ participation as part of their regular duty of care policies. In the “New Normal” we will see a lot more consideration for safety of and verification of perhaps healthiness when bringing people together in groups.

Solutions that capture off-channel bookings, like Traxo, can capture meeting and event booking details (ie, via PassKey, hotel-direct, etc.) and feed these to a company’s Duty of Care provider. So they get the same Duty of Care coverage as TMC bookings.

 


It’s great to capture off-channel booking however the caveat to that is the lost discounts and support.

Yes, as well losing the data for supplier negotiation and the extra work to find people, process refunds, and increase policy compliance.

Capturing off-channel bookings is just the first step. There is no point in capturing the transactions if you don’t do anything about it. This could include education, either at the point of sale if your tool permits, or via management follow up afterward. Transactions can also be canceled and rebooked if captured in time,

Capturing the details for off-channel bookings *before* the trip is the key here. That enables the travel team to proactively respond if a rate is higher than the company’s private negotiated rates or policy limits, and also enables these bookings to be fed to price monitoring services like TripBAM or Yapta. Relying on expense reports or credit card reports after the fact won’t help you here, because it’s too late to change the booking.

Additionally, most suppliers can now enable a company’s private negotiated rates to be bookable directly on their website or mobile app, so your employees can actually get your same discounted rates booking directly with airline or hotel sites. Using a data aggregation service to sync those booking details to your Duty of Care, TMC, and reporting tools means you get the discounts, support, and Duty of Care coverage for these bookings just as you do for your in-program bookings.

 


I have many travelers that are going directly to the airline or hotel to cancel their reservations vs. our TMC, which is not common for us (we have mandated policy and very good compliance). I think they maybe just panic cancelled. This is creating a mess in our normally very accurate reporting; any suggestions on how to recover from this reporting mess?

This one is going to be a little painful as you may need to come at from multiple angles. You might start with pulling reports from your TMC, expense and card systems on bookings for travel in March onward, including any future bookings. Once you have identified trips and travelers, you can filter out the ones that were processed via the TMC.

Once you have the list of transactions by supplier, you can reach out to get status on refunds. If you haven’t been notified, it is fair to assume no refunds. Follow up with travelers directly on transactions the suppliers say were already made.

Most important will be to have a good system to track unused ticket or hotel credits so you can be sure you get the full value for any transactions that won’t be refunded in cash.

 


For us we often saw traveler bookings with us coming through to the GDS but then cancelling at the hotel directly to jump on a plane to get home, so for our data the traveler would still show in that location. Even if we received notice, our agents couldn’t manipulate the booking since it was now past date. Any suggestions or ways to address this to make the data more accurate? In our case, we figured it’s better to cast a wider net and still capturing / reaching out to them. Just interested if anyone else experienced this.

 

While the best practice is to edit the reservation, we saw a lot of database changes in downline reporting processes. This made it difficult to maintain a single version of the truth. The reality is the industry is challenged with synchronizing changes management issues and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

 


Do you feel like this is a good opportunity (call it silver lining) that our Travel Managers and Travel Agencies are talking to travelers? Reminding us of the personal touch that “IN THIS TOGETHER” moment.

100%. The research and our personal experience shows that most travelers really want to do the right thing for their companies but they often don’t know what they are supposed to do. So use the opportunity to not only rally people together but also to let them know what they should do.

The old advertising principle that people need to hear something seven times before they remember it applies here. So you’ll want frequent but varied messages. And people are more distracted than ever, so keep it short.

Finally, you can lead by example, proving that we’re in it together by showing the things you are doing to improve their experience and keep them safe and healthy.

This is also a great proof-point for travel teams and their service providers to uncover critical gaps in their existing programs, and create an incentive within executive teams to allocate budget to address these gaps. Corporate travel teams may not always get the C-Suite exposure they deserve, and often are regarded as purely a line-item on the cost side. This situation is highlighting how critical business travel is to a company’s operations, so it’s a perfect opportunity for travel teams to push for exec level support and resources to upgrade their programs for effectiveness and efficiency.

 


How do you think about future liability around business travel and how it will affect demand with anticipated recurrence of coronavirus in the fall and winter of this year?

None of us are legal experts so we won’t address the legal liability issues. On the business travel side, there will probably be an “abundance of caution” regarding destinations, property selection, carriers and dining. Cash will also remain very tight well into the recovery and airline capacity is likely to be limited, especially if blocking middle seats continues. All these point toward a slower rebound.

But we have to balance this with an eagerness to stimulate sales and reconnect with clients and business partners. So it’s impossible to predict. Overall, the market is likely to remain skittish with shorter advance purchase windows and fewer restricted fares and prepaid rooms to allow people to react to the latest conditions on a location-specific basis.

A recurrence is likely to trigger a heavy pull-back in travel spend. We expect companies to be very cautious around traveler safety.
The risk of a recurrence also underscores the need for travel teams to get their programs tuned up ASAP. They need to address the data gaps and operational workflows that didn’t perform well the first time around.

 


One of the challenges experienced among buyers is being able to communicate directly and in a timely proactive and ongoing fashion with impacted travelers and their managers, to provide direction in crises. Are reporting companies incorporating key contact information and a portal for travel managers to communicate with impacted travelers in an effective way or is the reliance on this info only through the TMC?

We are seeing increased demand for data products, especially those that tap multiple sources or help capture off-channel bookings. That was a major pain point. Most products, TMCs and duty of care providers already offer locators, reporting and communication. The key thing is to be sure they are set up properly, kept up to date and tested periodically, just like you should do with your smoke detectors at home.

 


Do you think corporations are going to get much more engaged with their TMC’s in solving the “one keeper of the truth” solution for their data or even possibly taking it into their own hands and not wait on their TMC’s to figure this out as they have been?

We think many corporations will dive into their data issues, especially for traveler tracking, refund management and unused ticket consumption.

They would like to see their TMCs get more proactive with technology solutions to help in this area, but the reality is that TMCs likely do not and will not anytime soon have the resources to do this. TMCs are terrific partners for service, support, program strategy, and supplier negotiations, but most are not technologists. Traxo is seeing more TMCs looking to partner on this front, where we can be a data source/technology partner for them so they can do what they’re best at, but do it with a more comprehensive data set.

Travelers sometimes book / search off the TMC channel because it’s the only option given for loyalty benefits. Do you see travel programs starting to include additional options (such as airline approved sites) and how would you collect and manage that data?

We’re likely to see a few approaches. One is supplier direct deals where corporate deals are honored and data is piped in. But this still creates issues for traveler tracking, disruption management and refund handling. Some TMCs already help on these issues, generally for a fee, but it’s not a simple task.

Many airline and hotel sites already support company’s negotiated rates on the airline or hotel website/mobile app, in addition to loyalty benefits. Suppliers who do this can also feed the booking details back to the company’s Duty of Care provider and other reporting tools so that these bookings get the same coverage as TMC bookings. Quite a few companies already allow this (take a look at Suzanne Boyan at ZS Associates, BTN Travel Manager of the Year, who is doing this with her program).

 


With suppliers including TMCs staffed so differently as a result of this, do we think that suppliers will be structured so differently that it will be challenging for buyers to decide how they will work with them given that the service model may be very different?

We’re probably going to see a variety of approaches as suppliers including TMCs try to figure out the best approach to servicing while keeping a tight rein on managing expense and staffing. That’s really healthy – the industry has always been creative in addressing issues like this. But it is probably going to be chaotic for a while as there won’t be a single solution.

And it’s not just on the servicing side. You can expect technology to play a role in order to improve speed, servicing and cost. Pricing models are also evolving, with some already offering SaaS models.

So yes, a wave of innovation will increase complexity and it will take a little time to work out the kinks and for new models to gain adoption and become the new normal. Harder in the near term, really healthy and exciting in the long run.

 


What was Traxo’s most surprising learning from your data insights during COVID19?

Air “leakage” was one point that we’ve noticed is much higher than people typically think.

Giving travel teams detailed visibility into off-channel bookings, particularly the upcoming travel, was huge – it enabled travel teams to be far more proactive in cancelling trips than they otherwise would have been. Also, the historical visibility turned out to be a major benefit, because clients could very quickly identify employees who had recently been to China, Italy or other COVID hotspots instead of waiting for those employees to file an expense report at some distant date. This could have direct impact on employees’ & coworkers’ health.

 


I’m guessing Traxo can REALLY help with the unused ticket MOUNTAIN that all will deal with – can you elaborate?

Yep! Since Traxo captures the flight receipt details at the time of purchase, clients have the record of the transaction including the key details they need to submit for refunds (ie, ticket number, flight number, travel dates, etc.). Travel teams can download a report with that detail for their flight bookings, and either action it themselves or share it with the TMC to centralize efforts.

 


 

Thanks again for joining us! 

 

Help Us Model The Future of Travel

Take Cornerstone’s COVID-19 survey here

 

Predicting the return of the travel industry survey

Take Cornerstone’s Survey: Predicting The Return of the Travel Industry here.

 

With COVID 19 peaking in the United States and around the world, businesses like Cornerstone are all trying to answer the same question: “How quickly will travel return to its previous levels?”.

It’s our way of wondering when we can all get back to normal or just understanding what is normal now – and you can help us answer that.

 

Travel Data for This Moment

As a data company, we at Cornerstone want to find our answer as empirically as possible. With all the data within our servers, we’ve been pretty adept at modeling trends in the past. COVID is far more significant of a problem than any of us have faced before, but we still believe that the correct data can form the most accurate pictures of our future.

Please take our COVID-19 Survey here and help contribute to our COVID data model. We will make all our conclusions to this data public once completed. We will also be administering this Survey again in mid-May so that we can track any patterns that may be changing over time.

 

How Will We Weigh Our Data?

We feel like the best predictor of when travel will return to full strength is going to lay in the rate of confidence growth. The quicker companies return to being confident about the future, the faster we will all start spending on travel again.  Many of us have been hit either financially, logistically, through sheer lack of productivity. How quickly can we all recover from those disruptions? How quickly will your clients recover?

And will there be a “new normal” after this is all over?

While many of us are looking forward to going back to the way our lives used to be, studies about disrupted suggest that some people simply never went back to “how it was” before.

We are hoping that our Survey might reveal any such evolving trends. Do you miss meeting your vendors face to face? Or are you enjoying how many meetings video conferencing allows us to schedule in a single day? The answers will affect not only how quickly travel “comes back” but also if any initial surge in travel will last.

 

Predicting the Future

After such global emergencies as SARS, MERS, and H1N1, travel will rebound eventually. We all know this – humans are transient creatures. We love to move, to see new things, and to meet others face to face. It’s in our nature to travel.

Please take a moment and fill out our Survey here and help contribute to these answers!

 

If you are interested in distributing your own branded version of this survey to your own clients, we will provide this survey for free. Cornerstone clients, please contact your account executives. Everyone else, please inquire by sending an email to learnmore@ciswired.com with the subject “Travel Survey”.

 

We are looking forward to sharing what we’ve learned with you all.

 

Cornerstone Forum Resources

 

This page is a repository for any and all helpful information and resources that we can offer to those taking part in the Cornerstone Forum.

This page will be added to as we learn and accumulate more information. (Last update: 4/1/2020)


Below is some good information for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). You can also read the text of the final version itself here.


Great Forbes Article Reposted From GBTA:

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the world’s peoples and economies. In the United States, as businesses shut down or pare back, millions of workers have already been laid off, leaving many to wonder how they’ll pay their bills. CONTINUE READING

Free Trial of TicketTRAK To Help You With The COVID-19 Pandemic

 

CALLING ALL iQCX USERS!

We have been talking a lot with our customers these days and we’re sure you’ve been taking stock with yours as well. Despite business being down, we hear clearly is that activity is way up – much of that involving flight changes and cancellations.
All of this is leaving companies with thousands of dollars in unused tickets.

 

When COVID-19 eventually fades into the rearview mirror, one thing is for certain: business travel will resume.

 

We don’t think we’re alone in wanting to look our customers in the eye, shake their hands, and have a quality, face-to-face conversation.  When that time comes, today’s cancelled ticket will become tomorrow’s exchange opportunity. But if what we’re hearing is right, finding those tickets could be a significant challenge. 

 

“Cornerstone Can Help”

 

These three words have become the ‘Cornerstone’ of our philosophy during this time of uncertainty. With the novel coronavirus COVID-19 having such a harsh impact on the travel industry, we want to do everything we can to live up to that motto.

 

We are starting by making our newest version of TicketTRAK available to you for free for the duration of Q2 if you sign up with us by April 17th. This means that you can use this tool from us for free until June 30th to help reclaim the value of your cancelled airline tickets.

 

What can TicketTRAK do for you? Great question! Read on to find out:

 

 

Tracking Cancelled Tickets Due To COVID-19 Concerns

 

Capturing the value of unused tickets can be a major priority as the global business world fluctuates. The conference circuit is being particularly hard hit as event after event is cancelled due to the risk.

That means that suddenly, a lot of companies are finding themselves with tickets for flights that will not be used.

Cornerstone’s TicketTRAK platform actually keeps tabs on these unused tickets, and with proper management, up to 80% of their value can be recovered. In fact, we just released an update to this platform making it easier as well as more robust in its functionalities. It can integrate with BookingBuilder ™, interact directly with PNR remarks, broadcast functionality via our iBank platform, simplified the process for adding non-ARC / BSP tickets and MCOs, and more.

 

We also know that most of your clients’ airline ticket cancellations have already taken place. We can retroactively go back through cancellations in order to track what has not been processed by TicketTRAK. 

 

If you can say “yes” to the following, please do not hesitate in signing up for our free offer:

  1. You are CURRENTLY an iQCX client
  2. Do you have multiple unused non-refundable ticket logs?
  3. Wish you had easy access to unused ticket information?
  4. Wish you had an easy way to include manual tickets and/or MCOs’ in your unused ticket reporting?

 

Let us help you with this burden. Email your account executive or sign up to speak with one of our experts here.

 

Don’t consider the value of unused tickets to be lost. Start tracking tickets for your customers with TicketTRAK and redeem as many of them as policy allows.

 

FAQs:

Q – How soon do I have to sign up?

A – Anyone signed up by April 17th, 2020 will be able to take advantage of this free version of TicketTRAK until the end of Q2 (June 30th, 2020). After June 30th, you can decide to keep it, or unsubscribe from the service.

 

Q – How soon do open ETR’s show up in TicketTRAK?

A – We have built the module to start checking open ETR’s once a ticket is issued. That means we can pick up an opportunity on an ETR that was canceled pre travel, not just the day post last segment.

 

Q – How soon are exchanged ETR’s removed from the database?

A – You decide how often you want iQCX to check the status, or you can place the PNR on the traditional iQCX processing schedule with a remark and the ETR status is changed at that time.

 

Q – What if I do not have Booking Builder. How would our agents know if an ETR is available for use?

A – Our standard offering comes with a queue back to the agent once the PNR is presented to iQCX for QC/Issuance. We place the PNR back to the agent with the open ETR number for use

 

Q – Is there a cost to implement Booking Builder if we use it?

A – No, we do not charge for the iQCX set up and loading to the Booking Builder database every day.

 

 

TravelOptix Upgrade – What’s New

We have a number of great new upgrades to our TravelOptix platform via Qlik Sense to announce! Check out what’s new below!

 

(more…)

Cornerstone’s Top 10 Tips and Tricks For Working From Home

Due to the Coronavirus COVID-19, more and more people are being asked or required by their companies to work from home.  For many people in every industry, this will be a new experience. It may even be their first time connecting remotely to their office for a full 8 hours of productivity.

Cornerstone’s employee population is actually very closely split between in-office and remote employees. About 50% of our employees work from home across the US. So we asked many of them the question: what tips and tricks would you give for people who are just embarking on their own “work from home” journeys?

This is what they said:

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Need to Build Trust With Your Travelers? Consider an Audit!

 

 

 

Do you know what builds trust in your market? Having your caliber of service proven by a third-party auditing company. Very few actions can promote your program as “Trustworthy” better than engaging with a non-invested auditor and being given top marks.


Why an Audit?

Maybe your travelers are making a lot of noise. Maybe you are looking into saving some money on your company’s travel. Or maybe you just want to benchmark how well your agency is doing at providing you the lowest fare…

 

For all these scenarios, investing in Topaz for an audit of your travel bookings is absolutely the way to go!

 

A Topaz Audit will provide you with exactly the kind of answers that you are looking for and the data you need about performance. Is your agency or online booking tool offering you the best fares?  And if they aren’t, why not? Are your fares being undercut on the internet? Topaz can help answer all these questions and more.

 

What Would Happen During an Audit?

 

All PNRs booked by your agency or online booking tool are sent over to Topaz. You could choose to have 100% of your bookings audited or a statistical random sample. Topaz will take the PNRs sent from your company and look deeply into their booking to discover the following:

 

  • Did the agency or booking tool identify the lowest fare within policy?
  • Were your negotiated airline discounts being applied when applicable?

 

After analyzing your determined amount of PNRs over the course of your audit timeline, you will get a detailed readout answering all the above questions, and boiling down to everyone’s favorite question: How well is your program performing?

After all the time and money invested in your travel program it is imperative it is working as planned.

 

 

“Always Room for Improvement”

 

In an interview with Topaz’s general manager Michele Simon, Michele states that no matter what “there is always room for improvement”. This applies not only to her own company, but to everyone. In fact, that is exactly what Topaz audits do!

 

“We identify problems and provide the client with the information to fix them.” – Michele Simon

 

With the cost of investment in tools and people, not to mention the cost of travel itself, it is important to validate that things are working as they are intended.

 

There is no denying Topaz’s tenacity and dedication to get the job done. Couple this with their highly skilled team of Auditors’ drive for detail and consistent work ethic, and Topaz can evaluate and analyze an agency’s performance to the penny.  Identifying errors, providing recommendations for resolution, and providing a way to operate more cost-effectively are all markers of a successful audit!

 

 

 Are You Ready to Begin?

 

Inquiring about an Audit is as easy as sending an email or making a phone call. Click here to get your quote.

 

Still not convinced? Check out our compilation of real life Case Studies. These will provide a real assessment of the experience customers have had with Topaz and some of our services.

 

Either way, we here at Cornerstone and Topaz are here to help you look great and grow your business. Contact our teams today to get more information!