Corporate travel has always oiled the wheels of commerce, and that’s especially true in the global economy. But turn the clocks forward five years and the signs are that technology will transform how we source, book, fulfil, track and measure travel.

This has far-reaching implications for the roles of travel managers and travel management companies (TMCs). Why now? How to adapt and add more value? Which technologies?

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.

Travel tips

Technology is just one tipping point. A combination of factors is in play, such as rising consumer expectations, exponential growth of mobility and new markets continually opening up. Plus, there’s a wider array of travel suppliers competing for a direct relationship with buyers. On top of all this, procurement teams are exerting more influence in the travel buying process.

Much of the research amplifies what we are already seeing. And all of these tipping points place travel managers and TMCs in the eye of a perfect storm. They shout, “ACT NOW!”

However, a startling research finding is the apparent distance between awareness and action. While travel managers appreciate ways in which our always-on, connected world will impact their jobs, they also said that their responsibilities would be broadly similar in three to five years.

Technology won’t wait

Reacting slowly to trends can trip up even the most pioneering company, as history shows. For example, Research in Motion (RIM), makers of the BlackBerry, failed to see the signs. Wedded to government and corporate sectors, RIM underestimated consumer appetite for app stores and how quickly demand for touchscreens would outstrip keyboard-equipped smartphones – its’ signature offering. Within a decade, it was R.I.P. RIM.

This failure to read the writing on the wall has a strong parallel with corporate travel. In our white paper, The Transformation of the Travel Manager, we explore reasons why many companies have yet to realize the value of travel programs. Three recurring themes echo what we already know from travel managers and the TMCs that support them. To be explored in future blog articles – in short, they lack influence and buy-in from leaders, and aren’t always measuring the right things or communicating at a strategic level.

If this reality gap is limiting the future of travel managers , closing it quickly is an urgent task that travel managers and TMCs would be well advised to tackle together. To discover more about the research and what it means for you, request your copy of the white paper.