B2B Channels: Making the Most of a Powerful Sales Force

As the travel industry finds its way back post-pandemic, it has quickly realized the power of travel agencies and B2B channels. With new complexities such as cancellations, vaccine passports, and entry requirements, travellers are relying more heavily on agencies to book their travel.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, air tickets sold through travel agents in the U.S. were up 3.7% to USD $7.8 billion, and that upward trend is expected to continue.

B2B channels are becoming an increasingly important revenue stream for airlines and travel industry suppliers. It’s important to know how to optimize those channels for the best revenue management.

Why focus on B2B channels?

As global distribution system sales dwindle, travel suppliers are focusing more on direct booking channels.

The industry is accustomed to B2C marketing strategies, which revolve around the end consumer. But it still falls short overall in catering to the B2B segment with innovative marketing strategies and better customer service that drive sales. Many still use the same cookie-cutter approach across their entire agency book of business.

Facebook, Google, and Amazon understand the significance of making their ads more visible and relevant to end-users. Consumers don’t actually hate all ads — 83% of respondents in one survey said they’d like the ability to filter ads for a better fit. It’s intrusive and irrelevant ads that ruin the customer experience, which is why taking an intelligent approach to designing and targeting your content is increasingly important.

It’s one thing to show users promotions. It’s quite another to display targeted promotions that are actually relevant to them. For the most part, agencies learn about suppliers’ promotions through Facebook groups or email marketing campaigns that don’t consider their bookings history. An agency that mostly books the Caribbean or the Middle East, for example, is pushed promotions for destinations like Milwaukee and Tennessee.

What’s the answer? The industry needs innovation and process improvement in terms of distribution and how it markets to B2B channels.

Travel agency management through optimizing B2B channels

B2B optimization means creating promotions that feature certain routes, criteria, or agencies and making relevant promotions visible to specific agencies on multiple channels, including your own direct sales. Monitoring improves conversions and the likelihood of booking, and you can reward agents’ loyalty. You can set general or specific targets, integrate a promotion with your own loyalty program, or introduce a new one. The automation can push promotions and pull incentives dynamically and influence shopping results in favour of your own bookings.

Any travel supplier can create multiple promotions. The challenge is in introducing parallel promotions alongside existing ones. It takes extensive resources to handle the manual labour that generates, including bottlenecks on calculations, payments, and customer service. And it can be hard to measure performance when these promotions are launched, let alone adjust them in an agile way.

The Flex Travel Solution Business Rule Engine is one way to do this. It’s not merely a silo for promotions or marketing but an efficient, end-to-end process that optimizes the process from promotion and agency incentives to payment. Suppliers can avoid that cookie-cutter strategy and instead create targeted and dynamic promotions relevant to an individual agency. They can quantify results in real-time and adjust their strategy where needed for better yield management.

Optimizing your B2B revenue management can lead to much improved performance management and sales and an optimized user experience (including commission management and agents pocketing more of the commission). It’s a way to spend less time and save money on reconciliation, chasing payments, and disputes. Ultimately, it also leads to better customer service and outcomes as the travel industry moves forward with pandemic recovery.

Written by Sama Al-Obaidy, Flex Travel Solutions

Sama Al-Obaidy serves as Head of Product at Flex Travel Solutions, a travel technology company that helps travel industry suppliers efficiently manage and grow their B2B channels through intelligent revenue management, forecasting capabilities through predictive analysis and automated payment solutions.

As part of the executive team with over 15 years of Travel Industry experience, and having led key projects at companies such as IATA, Air Canada Vacations, Aimia and TUI, Sama brings invaluable experience and industry knowledge to Flex Travel Solutions product development team. She drives many initiatives to ultimately enhance the SaaS solution to keep up with industry standards and customer needs.

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