2017 saw some big developments across the political, economic and social landscapes. In the world of business travel, we have seen airlines cancelling thousands of flights, companies going into administration and new product offerings across the board from basic economy to apartment-style first class.

There have been some large-scale hotel mergers and acquisitions as well as third party aggregators entering into the accommodation space.

Ground transportation has seen a shake up through new technologies and various legal challenges. All areas have experienced new disruptor products and technologies including further consolidation from the likes of Uber, AirBnB and Surfair to name a few.

So, what can we expect in 2018?

Following a slight blip in activity as a direct result of the Brexit announcement in June 2016, we have since seen a ‘business as usual’ approach and clear evidence that clients are actually travelling more and further afield.

This was welcome news as it demonstrates that there is more requirement than ever for business travel as well as identifying growing opportunity for business outside of Europe.

In the world of travel management, companies are not burying their heads in the sand with Brexit – they are facing it head on and tackling it as any other challenge to the market.

New Distribution Channels (NDC’s)
We predict that in 2018 we will continue to hear a lot of noise about New Distribution Channels (NDC’s). As these new channels present themselves, the traditional Global Distribution Systems (GDS’s) will need to prove that they are the best source and the most productive channel to enable agents to effectively do their job as a Travel Management Company (TMC). The GDS’s are still proving themselves as the preferred option.

To date there aren’t any alternative aggregators that are ready to provide the distribution of content that a TMC needs to effectively fulfil their day to day requirements.

Throughout the coming year, we expect to be constantly reviewing all channels and their business fit for content distribution. Air France / KLM are the latest airline to announce they will be charging a distribution fee – following in the footsteps of Lufthansa and BA.

This will be treated in the same way as the previous announcements, following review and discussions. This is not the first time we have had suppliers disrupting the booking process by introducing new channels and distribution methods – we went through a similar process with hotels not that long

Following reviews, discussions and some brainstorming at our end – we developed our own solution, ResWay, to effectively pull in all the best rates and fares into the one channel. Through working with the suppliers in partnership, we will ensure we continue to provide the most competitive content, in one easy place.

Much talked about towards the end of 2017, this will surely be a hot topic with the go-live date of May 2018. There has been a surge in press and some (fairly) aggressive campaigns by consultancies threatening the consequences of not being ‘GDPR-ready’.

At Hillgate, we have been working with an appointed consultancy since January 2017. As a TMC that is managing personal data on behalf of our clients every day, data security and privacy is at the very heart of what we do.

We are taking GDPR very seriously and are communicating our actions regularly so that our clients know that we are prepared.

Key to our success will be in ‘seeing the wood for the trees’ and making sure we are covering everything without getting too lost in the detail.

Technological Developments 
2017 saw a lot of ‘game-changer’ technology being released across all industries such as the use of AI and VR, automation & Chatbots, the internet of things & smart technology all creating an ‘everything on demand’ type culture.

At Hillgate, we believe that there will be a continuing desire by our clients for us to drive our technology to be more like other technologies they work with either at work or in their personal life.

So, as the technology powerhouses (the Apple’s of this world) introduce more user-friendly and useful technology, we will need to be doing the same.

Payment Options 
This year we saw a definite shift away from account facilities and a move towards more frequent direct debit. This has resulted in more prompt payments, quicker processes and less risk for all companies involved.

In 2018, we predict airlines will still be striving for a weekly direct debit as opposed to our current twice monthly direct debit set up. We don’t see any decision being made on this until after 2018.

2018 – Hillgate Travel
At Hillgate, we are entering into 2018 following a strong year of growth, consolidation and innovation. We are very much looking forward to the new year – tackling any challenges head on and working with our clients and suppliers to continue to deliver industry-leading travel management services.