How Digital Transformation is Impacting Travel Managers

Ralph Colunga |

As innovation and technology continue to disrupt nearly every aspect of an organization, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and SAP Concur have partnered to explore the impact this is having on corporate travel management. Our recent poll reveals interesting insights on the evolution of the role of the travel manager in a world of digital disruption.

SAP Concur and GBTA Survey: The Evolution of Corporate Travel Content


Digital transformation, like the emergence of New Distribution Capability (NDC), continues to influence employee experiences and travel program management and, one key result is the responsibilities of a travel manager are shifting. Rather than primarily managing people and policies, travel managers are spending increased time overseeing the technology enabling business modern travel management.

Here’s a look at some of the results of the poll and main takeaways:


Travel managers are confident online booking tool (OBT) use will increase.

  • 72 percent expect bookings made through their OBT will increase in the next three years, with only 4 percent believing OBT use will decrease during that time.
  • In contrast, four in ten expect bookings made directly through airline (40 percent) or hotel websites (38 percent) to decrease.
  • It’s not surprising to see travel managers confident that their OBT use will increase, and as an OBT provider we’re happy to see that confidence in and commitment to the OBT channel.
  • It’s also not a surprise to see travel managers less bullish about supplier direct bookings. However, we continue to encourage travel managers to pursue increased visibility and transparency in their managed travel program, regardless of where travel originates.


At the same time, travel managers are taking steps to incorporate more content and technology into their managed travel programs.

  • NDC is on the rise – more than half (58 percent) of travel managers either already have (12 percent) or expect to include NDC bookings (46 percent) in their managed travel program within the next year.
  • One-third (34 percent) of travel managers currently incorporate supplier direct bookings, and another one-third (37 percent) plan to have this integration within the next year.
  • Almost half (46 percent) already have direct connect bookings as part of their managed travel program today, and another 20 percent plan to add them in the next year.
  • Travel managers can use changes to technology and content to their advantage to draw more travelers toward policy compliance, provide better traveler care, contain program costs, and reduce invisible spend.


Travel managers plan to try to avoid changing fee structures such as increased airline fees for bookings made via travel management company (TMC) and global distribution system (GDS) channels

  • One-half (51 percent) plan to attempt to negotiate away such fees, while 30 percent would seek to implement alternative sources without fees.
  • Only 12 percent say they would pay the additional fees.
  • Travel managers should keep a close eye on technology innovations in the industry and think about which partners can help them avoid increased fees in a way that provides more transparency in to all bookings to better fit their needs.


Most travel managers collaborate with their TMC to make configuration changes to their OBT, but the majority do not review configuration settings regularly

  • 57 percent of travel managers say their TMC is responsible for making OBT configuration changes, but only with explicit direction from the travel manager.
  • Despite the previously mentioned confidence that OBT bookings will continue to increase, OBT configuration changes don’t happen regularly.
  • A majority of travel managers say OBT configuration changes are made on an as-needed basis, such as when there are traveler complaints that require review (42 percent) or when major changes occur like changes to suppliers or policy (11 percent).
  • For travel managers who want to see their OBT use increase, it’s even more important for them to stay on top of and understand enhancements and improvements to the OBT which can help increase usage among their travelers.

These takeaways point to a larger trend - travel managers today, in their increasingly challenging roles, are embracing new technologies to better meet the needs of their travelers and company policies.

Irrespective of which OBT a company uses, we hope their technology provider and TMC partners can provide guidance and support to help travel managers understand all the features the OBT offers and which functionality can help increase transparency, visibility, and compliance in a fast-moving industry.


More About the Poll

The poll, a collaboration between GBTA and SAP Concur, gathered responses from 226 travel managers and buyers to learn more about the effects of the emergence of new business travel technology – what managed travel programs currently look like, how programs are changing, how travel managers expect their programs to evolve in the future, and more. To learn more, check out our executive summary with a deeper dive into the poll.