Constantly bouncing from one operational activity to another creates many challenges for travel managers. Tactical activities like booking travel, negotiating with suppliers and ensuring compliance with travel policies all combine to prevent them from focusing on the bigger picture.

How can they become more strategic in the future? How will this benefit the organisation?

To answer these questions and more, Sabre teamed up with the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) to research the role of the travel manager today and to explore the future. In late 2014, we conducted the most comprehensive study to date.

A shift in focus, alignment and influence

The research shows that only around 50% of travel managers work on strategic sourcing plans or procurement structures and that fewer than 6% of those researched report to their CEOs.

Failure to fully connect with their organization’s leadership or occupy a strategic corporate position is possibly the most pressing challenge faced by travel managers. According to the research, most travel managers aren’t necessarily measuring what senior executives need in order to address their priorities. This shows the need to elevate dialogue to board level and to align their activities more closely with corporate objectives.

The challenge for travel managers is to shift conversation away from the tactical data and metrics, instead focusing on strategic metrics that matter most to their senior executives.

Technology and partnerships are the key

Travel managers can increase their influence and value by utilising the latest travel technology and are looking to external partners such as TMCs for help. The expertise they provide can help travel managers mitigate or even remove the risk of being left behind by a lack of innovation.

Analysing data in a way that’s more meaningful to senior leaders within the organisation demonstrates the value of travel programs and provides organisations with actionable insights – definite steps they can take to generate business results.

Whilst advances in technology provide a golden opportunity for travel managers to navigate from tactical to strategic, the research shows the relationships between travel managers and TMCs are traditionally very transactional and largely based on tactical tasks. The ways in which travel managers and their external partners anticipate potential future needs of the corporate traveller are crucial for their own strategic success.

In other words, both need to work more closely together to add value and be seen to be doing so.

To discover more about the research and what it means for you, request your copy of the white paper.