Self Book­ing tech pow­ers busi­ness travel

Self Book­ing Tech­nol­ogy (SBT) has emerged op­ti­mally to man­age pro­gramme com­plex­ity, en­sur­ing com­pli­ance, yet of­fer­ing au­ton­omy to the cor­po­rate trav­eller

Micetalk - - Contents - Ankita Saxena

Busi­ness travel, with all its com­plex­ity is an es­sen­tial part of any cor­po­ra­tion to­day. Ac­cord­ing to the whitepa­per by KPMG and FCM Travel So­lu­tions-Busi­ness Travel in In­dia, Emerg­ing Trends and Op­por­tu­ni­ties, the in­dus­try es­ti­mates the value of travel booked/ man­aged through Travel Man­age­ment Com­pa­nies (TMC) at ap­prox­i­mately USD175 bil­lion or 14 per cent of the global travel spends. The re­port at­tributes the lower share of TMCs to busi­ness travel be­ing dom­i­nated by small busi­nesses, whose small vol­umes do not jus­tify us­ing ser­vices of a TMC. These smaller busi­nesses ei­ther book their travel them­selves through on­line or off­line sources in­clud­ing OTAs. The emer­gence of on­line travel ag­gre­ga­tors tar­get­ing smaller busi­nesses by as­sist­ing them with Man­aged Busi­ness Travel ser­vices has opened a new seg­ment in the busi­ness travel mar­ket. With OTAs in­creas­ingly tar­get­ing mar­ket tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated by TMCs as an al­ter­na­tive ser­vice provider, it is im­per­a­tive for TMCs to en­hance the range of of­fer­ings by us­ing al­ter­na­tive book­ing chan­nels and dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing them­selves through more value added ser­vices con­sid­er­ing their abil­ity to of­fer higher de­gree of per­son­alised ser­vices com­pared to OTAs. TMCs pro­vide a wide range of ser­vices to their cor­po­rate clients rang­ing from ba­sic tick­et­ing ser­vices to com­plete strate­gic travel man­age­ment ser­vices. In the In­dian busi­ness travel mar­ket, there are three mod­els pre­dom­i­nantly used: Com­pa­nies opt­ing for self book­ing tools; Com­pa­nies opt­ing for OTAs, not TMCs and Com­pa­nies not opt­ing for a selfbook­ing tool.

WHAT IS SBT

The whitepa­per ex­plains that un­der the adopted self book­ing tools com­pany em­ploy­ees use on­line/SBT that is in­te­grated with hu­man re­source repos­i­tory of the com­pany for rel­e­vant pol­icy com­pli­ance/ ap­provals and with fi­nance of the com­pany for ex­pense man­age­ment. This SBT is gen­er­ally pro­vided by TMCs or pro­cured from sys­tem sup­plier or de­vel­oped in-house. The TMC's GDS pow­ers SBT, which is used by em­ploy­ees to plan trips and book­ings. In­te­gra­tion of TMC plat­forms with com­pany tech­nol­ogy plat­form is an im­por­tant cri­te­rion for TMC se­lec­tion for most cor­po­rate due to data/ in­for­ma­tion se­cu­rity risk. Ad­di­tional ser­vices like visa and pass­port ser­vices, Forex, travel in­sur­ance and others may be pro­vi­sioned through a sin­gle TMC or com­pa­nies may con­tract var­i­ous part­ners for the same. Ac­cord­ingly the SBT's pro­vi­sioned may in­clude op­tions for all seg­ments of trip book­ing and may in­te­grate ex­pense man­age­ment, re-im­burse­ments for seam­less travel ex­pe­ri­ence as well.

DE­VOID OF ER­ROR

Geetha Arekal, Man­ager Global Travel Pro­gramme (ASPAC), Unilever In­dus­tries, points out that the com­pany has to man­age travel for nearly 35000 em­ploy­ees and nearly 4500 off­site meet­ings to ar­range. “For such a mam­moth num­ber of trans­ac­tions,

There is enough va­ri­ety in the mar­ket cur­rently for a suit­able SBT tool for cor­po­ra­tions

man­ual book­ings are very cum­ber­some and this is where SBT helps in man­ag­ing cor­po­rate travel bet­ter. We have seen an adop­tion level for LCC of nearly 87-90 per cent while the in­dus­try stan­dard is about 57 per cent." She de­fines SBT as a vis­ual game where va­ri­ety of op­tions are avail­able on the plat­form, sav­ing time con­sumed to search for them. There is some rea­son­ing be­hind the op­tions avail­able which is de­liv­ered as per the pol­icy of the cor­po­ra­tions.

COST SAV­ING

Vikram Kohli, Pres­i­dent, FCM Travel So­lu­tions, opines that aware­ness for SBT tools has in­creased over the past few years. Ear­lier the com­pany re­ceived two queries per quar­ter which moved up to al­most 6-7 queries a month. He feels that SBT tools ad­dress the key pain ar­eas of the cor­po­ra­tion like com­pli­ance is­sues. One can sell a pre­ferred part­ner bet­ter on the SBT tool; pro­vide instant MIS; quicker and safer trans­ac­tions; cost sav­ing. "Peo­ple are look­ing for a hy­brid model where some per­cent­age is on­line while other part is off­line. This I be­lieve is not a true SBT as it still has an el­e­ment of hu­man in­ter­ven­tion. Data col­lec­tion is still a ma­jor chal­lenge. We have in­tro­duced the same through SMS ser­vice but in ar­eas where there is no mo­bile net­work, the ap­proval sys­tem fails," says Kohli. Ac­cord­ing to him, there is enough va­ri­ety in the mar­ket cur­rently for a suit­able SBT tool for cor­po­ra­tions but, adop­tion has to be in­creased for newer fea­tures to be in­tro­duced in the mar­ket. "Tech­nol­ogy is mov­ing fast to­wards chat bots, voice based in­ter­ac­tions with in­crease in mil­len­nial pop­u­la­tion but at the same time, adop­tion lev­els of SBT tools at cor­po­rate travel front is dis­mal," he added.

The cor­po­ra­tions are see­ing the ben­e­fits of adopt­ing SBT tools and the good part

Ankush Bin­dra, Man­ager Travel & Visa, Eric­s­son In­dia Global Ser­vices, agrees with the ben­e­fits of SBT tools but points out that in case of in­ter­na­tional travel, man­ual in­ter­ven­tion is re­quired to pro­vide rea­son­ing to the trav­eller for a longer du­ra­tion flight, which sinks adop­tion lev­els. Ex­plain­ing the con­cept fur­ther, Swati Bha­tia, Head–Prod­ucts & So­lu­tions, In­dian Sub–Con­ti­nent, Amadeus In­dia, feels that through a con­sul­ta­tive ap­proach, bet­ter SBT ser­vices can be de­liv­ered. “Tech­nolo­gies are avail­able in the mar­ket. They may be costly and a cor­po­ra­tion has to opt for their im­ple­men­ta­tion. Con­sul­ta­tive ap­proach re­quired where in the con­sul­tancy and the cor­po­ra­tion will have a dis­cus­sion to de­cide which tool is best suited to the re­quire­ments of the cor­po­ra­tion and what cus­tomi­sa­tions are needed in terms of com­plex itin­er­ar­ies.”

CHAL­LENGES

Some are men­tioned be­low:

• Can­cel/ resched­ule

• Com­plex Itin­er­ar­ies

• Mo­bile apps are more in­for­ma­tional than trans­ac­tional in na­ture.

• How­ever, the is­sues of con­nec­tiv­ity force man­ual in­ter­ven­tion

Bin­dra also points out that 95 per cent of the times, reschedul­ing a flight is al­most equal to a new book­ing and this is a chal­lenge plagu­ing busi­ness travel. He feels that a sys­tem has to be de­vised where the can­cel­la­tion, reschedul­ing and re­book­ing a flight is a seam­less pro­ce­dure and is also con­sid­er­ate of the cost.

"This is the right time to po­si­tion it to the cor­po­ra­tions for the travel agents if they haven't done so al­ready. Tools are avail­able but the cor­po­ra­tions have to opt for them," added Bha­tia.

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