Tech driving TMC consolidation

by Business Travel iQ | 01 March 2018

Globalisation and common technology were the talk of the Business Travel Show

Consolidation among travel management companies was the talk of the Business Travel Show. At least that is what it seemed to Business Travel iQ.

Many visitors to the annual event were talking about the proposed acquisition of HRG by American Express Global Business Travel and wondering whether this would mean an increase in fees due to a reduction in global competition.

For its part, American Express GBT says that the acquisition intended to make the joined organisation better placed to serve the global market.

GBT says it believes that “the value of the acquisition [of HRG] is principally in GBT's ability to achieve a greater global presence and better serve the combined group’s customers’ needs” and highlights clients who are looking for a consistent portfolio of services around the globe.

That said, it also recognises that the potential for cost savings in combining the two groups are likely to be “substantial”.

There was other evidence of increasing globalisation in the TMC sector at the Show too, with Direct ATPI presenting a joint front at the event for the first time following their announcement last September that they would form a new joint global organisation under shared ownership.

At the time of the announcement, ATPI Group’s chief executive Andrew Waller, previously with Carlson Wagonlit, said, “The opportunities that this new organisation creates for our mutual clients are very exciting. The combination of the two companies under shared ownership creates a unique and unrivalled global proposition which enables us to provide a single offering for our products and services.”

At the Show itself, Direct ATPI’s managing director for the UK, France and Benelux, Adam Knights told delegates during a conference session that small to medium-sized companies were looking for global service more than ever before while clients from a number of industry sectors, including technology and the oil and gas sector in which ATPI has traditionally been strong, were keen on a global approach too. Senior VP of operations Christine Sikes added that standardisation of process and access to common technology were driving forces for the global push.

What happens to technology at a combined Amex GBT/HRG will be particularly interesting.

Amex bought KDS not so long back while HRG bought eWings for its clever technology aimed at small to medium-sized companies which is now being rolled out as OneView by HRG. Yet HRG has also announced its decision to sell off its expense technology arm Fraedom to Visa.

In their statement to the stock exchange, the TMCs said, “Both GBT and Hogg Robinson invest heavily in developing technology-based solutions that cater to complex and unique customer demands. The Combined Group will be focused on optimising efforts to innovate and remain on the leading edge of serving customers and travellers through technology. Combined resources are expected to drive further investment and innovation to enhance the traveller experience, including multichannel access to better content, exceptional customer reporting capabilities to drive business travel savings and efficiencies, and robust pricing alternatives.”

Getting this joint technology right is going to be crucial to whether the Amex GBT/HRG work delivers those “significant cost savings” and “robust pricing alternatives”.

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