Nick Williams looks at the importance of back office finance systems and analytics for the travel industry
When it comes to travel, the world has never seemed smaller or more accessible. With ABTA’s Travel Trends Report 2017 finding that almost a quarter of the UK’s population were planning to spend more on holidays in 2017, and industry figures suggesting an 11% increase in holiday bookings for Summer 2017, consumers are clearly wanting to travel. But, at the same time, comes increasing consumer demand for choice and flexibility in the way they organise and book travel. This has led travel industry players to invest in new, intuitive customer-facing and front office systems to facilitate a better, more connected and more accessible booking experience.
While this investment in outward-facing systems is a very welcome step for consumers, many travel businesses are still struggling to put the right back office systems in place to help derive maximum value from the slick, intuitive websites, apps and booking systems. In fact these solutions often mask a labyrinth of less efficient and less functional solutions crunching the data in the background. By bolting-on new front end solutions to older, disconnected back office systems, travel businesses are putting themselves at a disadvantage. At best, this technology gap between front and back office can lead to additional processes, resulting in the time-consuming and error-prone re-keying of information, as well as make-do workarounds. However in the worst cases, it can render the very functionality that the business has invested in useless, as the existing systems are too slow or simply unable to support the advanced performance of the new technology.
To deliver a genuinely seamless consumer experience, while benefiting from real value-add efficiency savings and increased business agility, travel providers need to get their back office in order. Perhaps the most important area of the business to get to technological grips with is financial management. In an industry that experiences extreme seasonality and complicated customer buying patterns, the need to carefully control costs and accurately account for revenue is paramount.
With a business-wide financial management system in place, which links directly to front-end systems, travel businesses can improve the way they collect and manage vital financial information, in real time. Plus, with powerful analytics built-in, the ability to quickly and intelligently analyse and report financial information suddenly becomes the norm, rather than an arduous and time-consuming nice-to-have. This contextualised information provides actual, in-depth insight into the business, informing decision-making and underpinning strategy, increasing not only the agility of the entire operation but also its ability to respond to, and even predict, ever-changing customer requirements.
The most effective systems are those that are tailored to meet the specific needs of the travel industry, incorporating multi-lingual, multi-currency and multi-company capabilities, as well as the ability to slice and dice data appropriately, reporting by product, tour, code, date, region, PAX, customer and more. It’s this targeted reporting and analysis that is only possible with a dedicated system in place, and something that a network of creaking legacy systems couldn’t hope to replicate.
Even the most well thought out investments in customer-facing systems for the travel sector cannot achieve optimum levels of ROI without the necessary systems in place behind the scenes. If the investment is only skin-deep, travel businesses will forever be frustrated by lost opportunities and an inability to respond effectively to customer demand. Bridging the ever-widening gap between front and back-end systems with an intelligent financial management solution, with real time analysis and reporting built-in, is the only way to guarantee quicker, more effective decision making. It’s this capability that’s key to ensuring optimum levels of customer choice, convenience and service in a travel sector that has the potential to grow and grow.
What to look for in a financial management solution for the travel industry:
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