Travel and meeting managers in the UK and Ireland appear to be on the verge of demanding “more diverse data sets” than they’ve had up till now, according to T. Paul Tilstone, chief executive of The Institute of Travel & Meetings (ITM) UK & Ireland. Tilstone’s observation was made at the preliminary release of the Institute’s latest research paper, which focuses on managers’ use of data. The research is being provided immediately to ITM buyer members who participated in the research; release to the wider membership will come in 2011.
“Clean, effective and complete data has always been one of the primary goals of our sector,” said Tilstone. “Whilst there are still clearly some issues with achieving 100 percent coverage and buyers are spending considerable amounts of time working through data, where it is linked to specific annual targets, it clearly influences sector pay and supplier selection in nearly half of cases. There also appears in the research to be a real demand ahead for more diverse data sets compared to more standard data requirements in the past.”

Collectively, the ITM members who took part in the survey represent travel and meeting expenditures in excess of £34 billion worldwide. In addition their use of data, the survey collected information about how it was used to measure program success — and sometimes their own pay — as well as the origins of data, and corporations’ investment and return from its use. Among the findings:
TMC and card data are the most frequently provided and used sources.
• 49 percent of buyers use internal resources to analyse data.
• 45 percent of buyers use a travel management company, hotel booking agency or a meetings agency.
• 54 percent of those who outsource analysis to the intermediary are “somewhat” satisfied with the service;
• 27 percent are “very” satisfied;
• 19 percent are “not very” satisfied.
• 42 percent of buyers have specific,  annual, measured targets to achieve.
• 62 percent of those with targets have bonuses and pay incentives relating to achieving the targets.
• 43 percent of buyers use specific, annual, measured targets in supplier performance review and contract  renewal stages.

Corporate Cards and Payment Systems

The research also estimated that an average of 19 percent of buyers’ time was spent normalizing and consolidating data for effective use. The responses suggest that there is still further opportunity for effective data providers and analysts in the market, especially when coupled with increasing data demands.

“With up to a fifth of a travel and meetings buyer’s time spent number-crunching, there is clearly a case for further outsourcing this function to effective operators,” said Colin Goldney, managing director of Argate, ITM’s research partner. “This highlights another area of opportunity for quality program managers in the intermediary or consultancy sector to add value to the buying and managing process.”