Tech­nol­ogy: Stream­lined solutions

Chat­bots are in the spot­light right now but busi­nesses are turn­ing to an ever wider ar­ray of tools to achieve sav­ings, writes Linda Fox

The Business Travel Magazine - - Contents -

Cut­ting costs re­mains top of the pri­or­ity list for busi­ness travel buy­ers in 2018, and you can bet that ef­fi­cient tech­nol­ogy and new tools will play a key part in achiev­ing this.

It could be for ex­am­ple that a chat­bot or vir­tual as­sis­tant might mean less hand­hold­ing, leav­ing con­sul­tants free to fo­cus on other things. Ac­cord­ing to one in­dus­try report, Hudl, a sports video startup, is al­ready us­ing a chat­bot-based plat­form to re­place ex­ist­ing travel and ex­pense man­age­ment sys­tems.

But if that seems like too much of a stretch, there are lots of other sys­tems to keep an eye on that could see ef­fi­ciency gains, from air­fare track­ers such as Yapta, which is al­ready work­ing with Amex GBT, to in­cen­tive-based book­ing plat­forms such as Up­side which re­wards trav­ellers when they save money on their busi­ness travel trips.

And it's not just big­ger busi­nesses turn­ing to tech­nol­ogy to achieve sav­ings. Cor­po­rate Trav­eller, which works with com­pa­nies with a spend of £50,000 to £2mil­lion an­nu­ally, has just re­leased tech­nol­ogy aimed at the SME market. General Man­ager Andy He­g­ley says: “We are sens­ing now in the market that SMES are look­ing to have more tech­nol­ogy. The market is grow­ing up and there is de­mand for tech­nol­ogy now.”

Duty of care was named as the sec­ond big­gest is­sue for travel buy­ers in 2018 ac­cord­ing to Busi­ness Travel Show re­search. In this area there are also in­ter­est­ing tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ments such as Con­cur Labs’ pro­to­type vir­tual re­al­ity con­cept to help travel man­agers track em­ploy­ees in the event of an in­ci­dent.

Chat­bots and vir­tual re­al­ity might be head­line grab­bing right now but it’s clear some com­pa­nies al­ready have them firmly on the radar. It’s in­ter­est­ing to note that keep­ing up with tech­nol­ogy comes fifth of the 2018 list but that’s prob­a­bly for a com­bi­na­tion of rea­sons. Most travel man­agers are al­ready do­ing that whether it’s travel ap­proval via mo­bile de­vice or ac­cess­ing data and draw­ing re­ports on trav­eller spend via an ipad app.

En­forced com­pli­ance has also fallen fur­ther down the list of pri­or­i­ties. Some cor­po­rates are re­al­is­ing that trav­ellers are more likely to re­spect pro­grammes if they have enough choice. There are also now a num­ber of star­tups in the cor­po­rate travel space in­clud­ing Rock­etrip, Trav­el­bank, Trippeo and Travo which pro­vide a more mod­ern view of cor­po­rate travel book­ing whether by of­fer­ing user-friendly sys­tems, sav­ings on travel through smarter buy­ing or some other ef­fi­cien­cies. The Busi­ness Travel Show re­search asked buy­ers a fol­low-up ques­tion: “What will the big­gest change in the way you buy/man­age travel in the next 12 months be?” From a tech­nol­ogy stand­point the an­swers here were more telling in terms of ac­knowl­edg­ing the role of tech­nol­ogy and its in­creased use com­ing sec­ond and in­creased on­line book­ings com­ing fourth. The same ques­tion asked last year is also re­veal­ing as a com­par­i­son point in terms of chang­ing at­ti­tudes. In late 2016 and early 2017 travel buy­ers viewed forc­ing com­pli­ance to cor­po­rate travel pol­icy as a big change in travel man­age­ment for the year then ahead, along­side in­creased use of an on­line book­ing tool. Per­haps frus­tra­tion with in­creas­ing out of pol­icy spend along­side the pres­sure to re­duce costs was at a peak but the time, ef­fort and de­sire to look at emerg­ing solutions was just not there. This could all change in 2018 as cor­po­rate trav­ellers back away from sys­tems that are not user-friendly and seek a bet­ter book­ing and man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence from their tech­nol­ogy.

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