The Business Travel Magazine - - Booking Tools -

TMCS are not just en­hanc­ing their book­ing tools – they’re also strip­ping back func­tion­al­ity and pitch­ing them to SMES, says Linda Fox, who rounds up the lat­est de­vel­op­ments

Aflurry of new book­ing tools tar­get­ing small and medi­um­sized com­pa­nies re­leased at the re­cent Busi­ness Travel Show was a clear marker that this area – the SME mar­ket – is viewed as very much up for grabs.

Travel man­age­ment com­pa­nies con­tinue to pur­sue the elu­sive, less-man­aged trav­eller with sev­eral break­ing down ex­ist­ing tools to make them more at­trac­tive to this cat­e­gory and oth­ers de­vel­op­ing en­tirely new of­fer­ings.

Amer­i­can Ex­press Global Busi­ness Travel is a good ex­am­ple. The com­pany has just re­leased its Busi­ness Travel Made Sim­ple con­cept which bun­dles up ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy and ser­vices in to what the com­pany hopes is an un­com­pli­cated, off-the-shelf op­tion for SMES.

Kate Roe, head of mar­ket­ing, EMEA and APAC, for Amex GBT says this is not a new prod­uct or ser­vice, but the com­pany’s most pop­u­lar so­lu­tions with sim­pli­fied pric­ing.

It in­cludes el­e­ments such as a book­ing plat­form, ser­vic­ing, GDS con­tent and au­dit­ing tools with sup­port avail­able via tra­di­tional chan­nels as well as the com­pany’s new chat tool. It also of­fers tips and ad­vice on how to im­ple­ment the tech­nol­ogy, and how to present it at board level as well as trav­eller level.

“It helps travel man­agers get to the point where they are mak­ing book­ings faster,” says Roe. The TMC de­cided what to in­clude in the ser­vice by mea­sur­ing us­age of its tech­nol­ogy and in­ter­view­ing cus­tomers on what they are look­ing for in man­aged travel.

Roe says that while this is not Amex GBT’S first foray into try­ing to launch a sim­pli­fied ser­vice, it feels in a bet­ter place now be­cause it owns the book­ing tech­nol­ogy and there­fore has more con­trol.

Sim­i­larly, Cor­po­rate Travel Man­age­ment has un­veiled its Light­ning Lite tool. The Light­ning plat­form was orig­i­nally launched in 2017, aim­ing to pro­vide re­sults to users in sec­onds in a book­ing en­vi­ron­ment with a con­sumer feel to it but with travel pol­icy, pre­ferred sup­pli­ers and ap­proval built in.

CTM'S new Lite ver­sion is de­signed for com­pa­nies with travel spend of up to £750,000 per year and comes in three pack­ages – Sil­ver, Gold and Plat­inum. All three of­fer the Light­ning book­ing tool and from there busi­nesses choose the level

of ser­vice they need based on the  num­ber of trav­ellers and trips they do.

Flight Cen­tre’s busi­ness travel brand Cor­po­rate Trav­eller also con­tin­ues to chase the SME mar­ket and re­cently un­veiled YOUR.CT – a bun­dle of ser­vices it says are de­signed purely with that mar­ket in mind.

Its Gen­eral Man­ager, Andy He­g­ley, says the com­pany is find­ing there is real de­mand from SMES for au­to­ma­tion. He de­scribes the mar­ket as “grow­ing up” and YOUR.CT pro­vides a plat­form of el­e­ments in­clud­ing pre-trip ap­proval, book­ing, trav­eller track­ing, pro­file man­age­ment, and re­ports all within a cus­tomised dash­board. The tech­nol­ogy is avail­able via desk­top, tablet or mo­bile.

The TMC'S sis­ter busi­ness, FCM, has also been de­vel­op­ing its cor­po­rate book­ing tools and re­cently un­leashed Seeqa. It uses the Amadeus cytric plat­form and ac­cord­ing to FCM So­lu­tions Global Gen­eral Man­ager, Markus Ek­lund, is less about “rein­vent­ing the wheel” and more about pro­vid­ing a “unique ex­pe­ri­ence and adding value.”

Seeqa is not only about com­bin­ing var­i­ous sources of con­tent in­clud­ing GDS, non-gds and FCM’S own con­tent on to one plat­form, but also about try­ing to make bet­ter use of trav­eller and com­pany data,” he says.

Ek­lund be­lieves the in­dus­try is poor at us­ing the in­for­ma­tion it has avail­able such as who the trav­eller is, their pref­er­ences, their com­pany pref­er­ences and what peers are book­ing, and should use it bet­ter to make di­rect rec­om­men­da­tions.

A fur­ther in­ter­est­ing el­e­ment of Seeqa is the in­te­gra­tion of FCM’S ar­ti­fi­cial chat­bot ap­pli­ca­tion, Sam, which acts as an on-trip as­sis­tant and has been learn­ing and evolv­ing since its launch two years ago. Its roadmap for 2018 in­cludes trav­eller track­ing via GPS, a ver­sion of Sam for travel man­agers and de­vel­op­ment of a Sam com­mu­nity for the shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion and travel tips. There’s also talk of bring­ing Sam onto ad­di­tional plat­forms such as Wechat.

One thing that stands out in the FCM de­vel­op­ments is the talk of us­ing data. It’s not a new dis­cus­sion but par­tic­u­larly per­ti­nent for the SME mar­ket which is al­ways look­ing for a bet­ter price and is of­ten hard to keep in pol­icy.

The hu­man touch Mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion makes it eas­ier to keep in touch with trav­ellers and some sort of hy­brid of au­to­ma­tion and hu­man touch is where the con­sen­sus cur­rently seems to lie.

One US start-up, Up­side, aimed at trav­ellers from SMES, be­lieves the DIY busi­ness travel mar­ket is un­der-served and in des­per­ate need of in­no­va­tion. The com­pany re­cently an­nounced a deal with the Wall Street Jour­nal to help read­ers with their busi­ness travel. What’s in­ter­est­ing is that the deal in­cludes con­sul­tants who are on hand to as­sist 24 hours a day via a va­ri­ety of chan­nels to help where needed.

A white pa­per from Ad­van­tage Travel Man­age­ment con­firms this ap­proach in terms of the on­go­ing need for hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. This is sup­ported by re­cent re­search from Trav­el­port around UK mil­len­ni­als which re­veals that this age group seems to want a blended ap­proach with 42% say­ing they get frus­trated when they can’t ac­cess hu­man con­sul­tants dur­ing the book­ing process (see page 36).

The need for trav­ellers to be able to get in touch with con­sul­tants dur­ing a trip is also im­por­tant and part of Trav­el­port’s Trip As­sist mo­bile prod­uct is push-to-call

re­cep­tion held in the ex­hi­bi­tion zone, of­fer­ing a chance to meet with in­flu­en­tial in­dus­try col­leagues as the day closes. As well as con­fer­ence ses­sions, there is an ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing up to 60 top travel and meet­ings com­pa­nies for del­e­gates to meet and net­work with dur­ing the event. What's more, the whole con­fer­ence and ex­hi­bi­tion area are in­te­grated in one open­plan area thanks to the use of silent con­fer­ence tech­nol­ogy that proved so pop­u­lar at last year's event.

Con­fer­ence pro­gramme The full TBTC event pro­gramme will be avail­able on­line soon and fea­tured in the next is­sue of The Busi­ness Travel Mag­a­zine whose ed­i­to­rial team is cu­rat­ing the com­bi­na­tion of ses­sions based on del­e­gate feed­back.

If you are a travel man­ager and your busi­ness has im­ple­mented an in­ter­est­ing change to its travel and meet­ings pro­gramme and you would like to share your ex­pe­ri­ences on stage at TBTC with other del­e­gates at­tend­ing, please con­tact Andy Hoskins, Ed­i­tor of The Busi­ness Travel Mag­a­zine. Call 020 8649 7233 or email andy.hoskins@bmipub­lish­ Sup­pli­ers in­ter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing should call Kirsty Hicks on 020 8649 7233.

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