Innovative Travel

Corporate Travel Management

Eighteen years ago the Corporate Travel Management (CTM) team set out to provide an alternative to the impersonal, one-solution-fits-all travel management companies clogging the market. “Ten years ago every large company in Australia that wanted to use a travel manager was stuck with four or five global players,” CTM Founder and CEO Jamie Pherous reports. “That was their only choice. That might work in the States or Europe, but wasn’t necessarily relevant in our market. Our first goal was to be a point of difference in Australia and New Zealand.” Fed up with cookie cutter travel solutions churned out by busy call centres, Aussie businesses immediately responded to CTM’s personalised, client friendly solutions.

The company’s growth has been stunning – even through the GFC. Over the past eight years, CTM’s sales have grown every year, nearly doubled over the last 24 months, and will grow around 35 per cent this year. After achieving sales of $140 million in 2007, the company has leapt to a current turnover of $680 million, and is projected to achieve the $1 billion mark by the end of the next calendar year.

“The growth has been strong through what we can all agree have been pretty difficult economic times,” Mr Pherous comments. “Clearly our model is compelling [because] we continue to grow market share.” He credits CTM’s personalised service, technological innovation, and overall cost effectiveness for the company’s outstanding success. These principles have also led to widespread recognition within the industry. CTM has won AFTA’S Best National Corporate Travel Management Company seven out of the last nine times, and was just named the Best Business Events Travel Agency in Australia for 2012.

In order to continue bringing clients the most cost effective and personalised solutions, the team is rolling out a handful of innovative products and services this year. The company’s brand new Business Intelligence suite, for example, allows travellers to take control of their expenditures. “Our clients want a highly personalised service [and] the best return on investment for their money,” explains Mr Pherous. “CTM Business Intelligence is what we believe to be best in class in terms of providing that return.” The software was carefully developed using client feedback drawn from the company’s top accounts. The result is a real time, interactive solution that gives clients the control and insight usually reserved only for large travel management corporations. “The feedback, particularly from CFOs, is pretty overwhelming,” Mr Pherous reports. “If you have the data at your fingertips it gives you a lot of control in terms of how to minimise your travel spend.”

The Business Intelligence suite offers clients two leading edge, real-time reporting tools. u-control empowers clients by providing a clear, online visual representation of their KPIs and data, whenever and wherever they want. At the click of a button, users can explore a variety of options, both domestically and internationally, including air travel, car hire and hotel bookings. Perhaps most importantly, the tool analyses how changes to today’s travel plans could save money down the road, offering clients hidden, and often substantial, savings.

The Business Intelligence u-explore tool provides a more in-depth analysis of travel programs. Users investigate data related to air, car, and hotel expenditures to uncover trends and opportunities for increased savings. The interface is easy to use, yet offers complex analysis across a variety of areas including departments and cost centres, fare types, spend volumes, city pairs and booking times. Furthermore, all data and analysis can be easily shared through Excel, CSV, web intelligence or image files.

Ticketbank is another travel management solution recently released by CTM. The system enables clients to actively search for – and use – available credits on hold when booking travel through u-book, CTM’s online booking tool. Through real-time access and an easy to use interface, users can slash costs by taking advantage of every possible savings opportunity. “Somewhere between three per cent and six per cent of all tickets of big corporates are lost on non-changeable tickets that people forget about,” Mr Pherous reports. Ticketbank prompts users to take advantage of past credits and ensures no previously booked ticket goes to waste. The savings can be remarkable. “For some clients, the fees we charge are outweighed just by this one solution,” Mr Pherous says. He adds that the program is particularly critical in the current travel market, where economic challenges have led to a reliance on cheaper, but often non-refundable and non-changeable tickets.

The team is also planning to revolutionise the company’s booking engine through a joint venture with online hotel reservation service Wotif.com. The collaboration will integrate Wotif.com’s distress hotel rates with CTM’s best corporate and client rates, greatly increasing client savings through one user-friendly system. When corporate rates are unavailable at a destination, users will have immediate access to all of Wotif.com’s relevant discounts. The service will be particularly beneficial when booking at small, locally owned hotels in regional Australia, or in cities that are hosting special events which undermine corporate travel advantages. “We believe it will be a game changer,” Mr Pherous says. “We will have far greater content than anyone else will be able to deliver… and it is all seamless through the same booking engine.”

CTM’s biggest new offering is Resource Travel Management, dedicated solely to the country’s resource sector. “A large per cent of our client base are mining and mining related services,” Mr Pherous reports, and the team launched RTM in response to the extremely specialised needs of those clients. The company fully understands that typical travel solutions don’t necessarily fit the resource sector. First, there are the fly-in fly-out demands. And, “it’s not just normal bookings, sometimes you are booking hundreds of people at a time,” Mr Pherous adds. “Secondly, you are dealing with regional areas, so sometimes it is a campsite, or a mum and dad hotel that doesn’t subscribe to a new innovation system, so it can be very manual.” Thirdly, CTM knows that mining personnel need the most up-to-date solutions in case of emergency or evacuation. “So, with [those factors] in mind we put all our products together to deliver a compelling solution for mining and mining services.”

The team already has a proven track record in dealing with the resource sector’s worst case travel scenarios. Because the RTM staff are “highly experienced in mining,” they understand how to overcome challenging situations. The company also has the technology necessary to handle the removal of a large population of people from a remote area. “Our clients get out first,” Mr Pherous insists. “We have a team that works around the clock to do that.”

The infamous Qantas grounding is a prime example of the company’s evacuation skills. “We got everyone out,” Mr Pherous remembers. “Whereas others maybe got phone calls through to tell them they were stuck, we got every one of our 5,000 people who were stuck that weekend out on a plane.” He particularly credits RTM’s mobile technology solution for enabling the team to contact each stranded individual through broadcast texts. In addition, dedicated staff pulled strings and worked tirelessly until the last person was aboard a plane. “We were chartering planes and working with airlines to make them land on the way back to Perth to get people out,” Mr Pherous remembers. Meanwhile, he says, competitors were “having difficulty just making the [phone] calls” to stranded personnel.

CTM plans to continue seeing phenomenal growth well into the future. The team is dedicated to retaining the key factors that brought them the success they are enjoying today. “It’s one thing to grow,” Mr Pherous remarks. “[But we want] to grow and keep the values, quality and control, and services that are a critical point of our business.” Continuing to put clients and staff first is crucial, he believes. Mr Pherous credits the team’s willingness to listen and respond to client and staff feedback as a core reason for CTM’s ongoing success, and the secret behind its innovative new offerings.

The company’s next step is to take its leading edge solutions overseas and offer a personalised alternative to the oversized, impersonal travel management companies that dominate the North American, Asian, and European markets. The company has already opened a division in the United States and is planning an expansion into Europe and Asia soon. “If there is a clear point of difference on a national scale, there will be a clear point of difference on a global scale,” Mr Pherous points out. “We have pretty exciting times ahead,” he adds. “We’ve really only just scratched the surface.”

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July 26, 2017, 12:33 PM AEST