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Three Things we Learned at the BTN Tech Talk Chicago

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AmTrav was proud to sponsor the BTN’s Travel Tech Talk in Chicago this week, it was great event with a room full of travel experts – and so good to be back together face-to-face!

The elephant in the room was that technology isn’t really top-of-mind for travel managers right now – the big concerns are that 2022 travel budgets have been spent in just the first six months of the year, and airline, hotel, car rental (and even TMC) service levels make traveling for work extra challenging.

Those concerns turned to conversations towards what technology could be built to relieve service issues, and to how Travel Managers can be strategic with their time and their provider selection.

Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Self-service capabilities are coming. Many providers are working furiously right now to develop software that allows bookers and travelers to change their trips themselves within their booking tool or app – and lighten the load on their travel agents. Serko’s Zeno tool and AmTrav are two providers who shared their progress.

(Webinar idea: a faceoff between providers showing off their self-service change capabilities, diving into which use cases are and are not supported – oneways, roundtrips, multi-city, domestic, international, which carriers, change of returns, day-of changes, single passenger, multi-passenger, etc. Would be fun!)


So much of being a Travel Manager is reacting, one crisis or complaint to the next – from COVID to return-to-travel to “we just spent our 2022 travel budget in six months!” So when you do get to be strategic, how do you prioritize? Cathy Sharpe of ITW encouraged buyers to use the 80/20 rule: focus on the 20% of use cases that actually make up 80% of your transactions, and Tony D’Astolfo of Serko tweaked that to encourage buyers to focus on the top points of sale that account for 90% of spend.

As an example, if 90% of your volume is in the US, in USD, is it worth it to look for a provider that covers the other 10 countries – you’re greatly limiting your selection of TMCs and OBTs with that choice and probably paying a lot more in implementation and ongoing cost. Or is your time better spent finding a provider who does a great job for 80-90% of your transactions, or negotiating agreements that maximize your savings and benefits?

Is it RFP season?

There was an awful lot of RFP talk, perhaps related to those service issues. Rather than shoehorn all the advice into a theme, I’ll share each of the most interesting pieces individually:

  • Validating integrations: How do you determine if an OBT or TMC works well with your expense provider, your HR system, your other ERP systems? A Yes/No checkbox on an RFP doesn’t cut it – providers admit that they’ll check “Yes” with only minimal integrations, leaving customers to discover later that, say, receipts aren’t sent to the expense system for every sale, void/refund and change. So get specific in your questions, asking what technologies are used (email, SFTP file transfer, API), asking when and how the integration works – and when it doesn’t.
  • References: How do you get the real low-down from customers instead of just the highlight reel? Andy Menkes suggested asking not for referrals, but instead a full customer list and lost customer list, so that you can pick the references, perhaps getting more thorough assessments than you’d get from carefully-selected promoters. (Not that those promoters can’t share valuable insights about how to get the most from a provider, of course.)
  • More questions, smoother integrations: Finally, as someone who works on RFPs for AmTrav I’m loath to endorse this view, but Andy Menkes pointed out that the smoothest TMC and OBT launches he’d experienced followed the lengthiest RFPs. Score one for 100 question RFPs.

Overall it was an excellent meeting, in large part because we were able to gather and see each other in person. Speaking of Gathering, meetings technology and integrations didn’t get a lot of attention, but for those looking to better track and manage their meetings spending, AmTrav just published our Meetings Travel Guide to help you find the best method for your organization to plan meetings travel, from DIY to Cvent to TMC to AmTrav Gather – check it out!

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