It's GOOD TO Talk
[ BOOKING TRENDS ]
The one thing that was conspicuous by its absence in several pieces of recent research on technology in corporate travel was the apparent lack of drive for travel transactions on mobile phones.
If you cast your minds back a couple of years ago, there was a bit of a race to get booking functionality, especially for hotels, up and running on the various corporate travel applications. But the latest studies - Advantage Travel Partnership’s white paper and Travelport’s Global Digital Traveller research – paint a slightly different picture.
While there is a huge amount of discussion now around the importance of putting the traveller experience first – and according to Advantage “at the heart of the process” – what that pretty much comes down to is connectivity and convenience in terms of being able to leave things and then pick up where a traveller left off across whatever device they choose.
As a consortium of smaller travel management companies it is perhaps not surprising that the Advantage white paper talks about the importance of ongoing human interaction, with the role of technology enhancing TMCS' relations with their corporate clients.
And while the Travelport study hones in on the habits of UK millennial travellers, sometimes viewed as the silent traveller, it also highlights the importance of humans, especially if something is going wrong.
The study reveals that 42% of UK millennial business travellers describe being unable to get advice from human consultants during the booking process as a common painpoint.
The idea that business travellers, especially millennials, want to do everything themselves isn’t necessarily true. They do want access to mobile booking capability and online booking tools that mirror their consumer experience, but there is perhaps a little too much focus on mobile as the ultimate transaction medium.
Simon Ferguson, Travelport Vice President and Managing Director for Northern Europe, says it’s more about managing the whole trip in the mobile environment and comes back to that need for “convenience, speed and ease of use”.
Ferguson adds that travel managers should be thinking of mobile as an engagement medium and something to be used to encourage and influence the right booking behaviour.
Booking business trips via mobile will likely become more widely sought after as technology improves while chatbots and increasingly voice search are areas that could also help. The Travelport research reveals 56% of millennial business travellers in the UK already use voice search in the travel planning process and there are wider predictions out there that 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020.
The potential for voice as a means to book and manage business travel is exciting. Travelport’s Ferguson highlighted a leisure example with an online travel company experimenting with Alexa that could easily translate into the corporate travel world. In the leisure experiment Alexa hooks into a digital travel profile which knows data on health, payment, calendar, frequent flyer and hotel preferences, to make travel recommendations. If, or should that be when, it’s hooked into a business traveller’s profile with historical information, it starts to look very interesting in terms of not only a more user-friendly experience for travellers but maybe also in terms of analysing best times to travel and finding potential savings.
While mobile booking tools were once the holy grail, chatbots and voice search could take travel booking to the next level, writes