Regional Consolidation in Central Europe
Opportunity & Objectives
This client is present in hundreds of countries around the world, but has seen significant business growth in their many emerging markets in Central & Southern Europe. Offices and staff numbers were growing rapidly, but many internal business support services continued to be unmanaged and provided through local legacy relationships.
A new travel team, empowered to introduce cross-market management, recognised the opportunity to bring control, data transparency, and modern tools to their business users. Their objective was to provide better support to stakeholders in managing both internal and client chargeable costs, while also introducing a more consistent quality and scope of service to travellers and bookers.
Unique Regional Service Model
The client spent time researching the existing TMCs, services, deals, booking and payment processes, originally across their 5 most important countries. This confirmed that travel services were highly fragmented, with many reservations even being made directly with airlines and hotels at premium fares/rates, and very little or no data capture or control of travel policy.
A programme of consolidation to HRG was introduced, and we provided a unique regional service model for them. It involves 22 markets across the region, now served from three regional service centres (Prague, Warsaw and Athens) and one local service solution (Turkey).
These centres provide a centralised booking process, where HRG helps control compliance to the regional travel policy in a consistent way for all countries. We also ensure that the best available fares are offered for every itinerary (including access to local market fares, and the client’s own new global and regional corporate deals).
The client improved supplier deals as better quality data became available from HRG for negotiations and demonstrated policy and preferred supplier control.
Our service model also avoids tax complexity and currency exchange costs, as we provide local ticketing and invoicing in each country, along with some peripheral local services for travellers, such as passport and visa processing. This approach also makes it easy to accommodate differing payment mechanisms by market (e.g. BTA, individual corporate cards, bill-back, invoice, etc), which was important for the client to retain.
We also established a sub-area and market account management structure that mirrors the client’s own regional team structure. This has provided the client with a local account manager in every country (new service and support for many), as well as a regional account manager overseeing the overall regional service and programme strategy.
Making it Happen
HRG handled all the operational transitions from incumbent agencies, account set-up activities, and new regional workflow processes. This happened over a standard 3-month implementation time-frame, while the client handled internal communications.
We supported with the traveller/booker training programme, with HRG teams physically travelling to all of the original countries implemented. We continue to support with efficient webinars whenever new client offices open and are introduced to the consolidated service.
Our task is made easier as the client has a clear mandate to implement the new service model, and communications (including to senior stakeholders) was clearly planned, scheduled in advance and controlled.
Successes & Lessons Learned
The new service model is an overall success from the client’s perspective:
- Control with Data
- Improved Policy Compliance
- Pre-Trip Exception Management
- Decrease in Average Ticket Prices
- Maximising use of Preferred Air & Hotel Suppliers
Lessons Learned include:
- Travellers & Bookers continue to prefer local rather than regional contact, so continuous attention to programme leakage and communication of the overall corporate benefits is needed
- Staff turnover (especially at the travel booker level) and ongoing staff growth (often at traveller level) means that an ongoing programme of training and education of the client’s rules and policies is also needed
- The client is now has a stable service platform from which to make plans for further developments, including the wider introduction and optimal adoption of online booking tools, as well as greater focus on travel policy compliance with travellers and budget-holders.