OPINION: The ease of travel technology is key to winning business

Renaud Nicolle

Renaud Nicolle

APAC’s business travel market is booming. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimates that the sector globally will reach $1.6 trillion by 2020.

Then by 2025, business travel spending in APAC is expected to have doubled and account for half of the world’s total spend.

Business travel makes business happen. Whether it’s building customer relationships, bringing teams together to strengthen organisational culture, or networking at important industry events, face-to-face interaction makes a difference.

However, new technology is changing the face of business travel. Travellers want choice, price transparency and personalisation. At the same time, corporations want better value from travel spend.

Business travel agencies must adapt to this evolving environment, delivering a service that helps their customers and travellers get the most out of business travel. Effectively, business travel agents serve two masters: the corporation and the business traveller. Their needs are vastly different. Corporations are looking for a partner that can provide the right travel options to their employees within the company’s travel policies, while optimising return on investment and ensuring duty of care. On the other hand, business travellers want personalised, connected and reliable experiences to suit their needs. Business travel agents must equip travellers with access to the information and tools that help them to enjoy stress-free and efficient experiences, from booking and beyond.

Technology can help bring the agent, the corporation and the traveller together and serve the best interest of all three parties.

How technology can be a competitive differentiator for business travel agencies

Business travel agents manage huge amounts of content on behalf of corporations and the business traveller. Currently, this content is fragmented at several levels because it’s across many different platforms. This way of working is inefficient and fails to deliver a seamless experience for the agent, the corporation and the traveller.

This is why we are aggregating all relevant content in one single platform known as the Amadeus Travel Platform. As travel content becomes aggregated and centralised through advanced technology, business travel agents will be able to access content more efficiently, without changing platforms. They’ll have a ‘one stop shop’ making it convenient to shop and book the relevant content when and where the traveller needs it. They’ll be able to offer more choice to the individual travellers’ profile, take advantage of new content via NDC connectivity, and allow corporations to control what the traveller sees. This in turn will deliver better experiences to business travellers because they can create a tailored experience right from point of booking, through to trip.

How technology can deliver greater return on a corporation’s travel spend

National and international business travel is becoming an increasingly large part of people’s working lives. In fact, corporate booking policies today are becoming a recruitment question and a means to attracting talent for certain APAC businesses. Already, corporations are seeing examples of flexibility in travel policies to reflect desire, status and expectations of employees. In fact, our research found that 44 per cent of all professionals would leave a job due to a poor travel policy, while half said that a company’s travel policy would impact their decision to accept a job contract. At the same time, poor business travel spend management can lead to cost and productivity inefficiencies, limited strategic oversight of travel management, and frustrated employees.

Travel and expense (T&E) is the second-largest indirect spend category for many corporations, but quantifying the value of business travel remains a key challenge for many organisations. Corporations want better value from business travel spend, and this is where technology can play a critical role.

Travel analytics offer the tools to manage travel programs effectively, giving greater visibility and control, driving savings and increasing return on investment for corporations. However, legacy technology represents an obstacle for any firm looking to streamline their processes. For T&E optimisation, information technology is the underlying enabler and all steps of the process depend on it.

How technology enhances the business traveller experience

Innovations in consumer travel have created a more demanding business traveller. Today, they want choice, price transparency, personalisation, mobility and simplicity to enjoy stress-free and efficient experiences. The busy traveller needs technology that is easy to use and makes their life easy, but also offers a great user experience.

The introduction of technology and mobile capabilities into the booking and travel process means the business traveller now has freedom and control in the palm of their hand. Should anything go wrong, or changes need to be made as flights are delayed or cancelled, the traveller expects the freedom to make changes to their booking on-the-go.

With chatbots, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things on the rise, there is a huge opportunity for agencies and corporations to tap in to this technology to better service their travellers. However, this experience must be easy to use – using a multitude of different tools can be just as stressful as using none at all. The less time employees on the road spend dealing with preferences and settings, the more time they can focus on their jobs.

Technology can put the business traveller in the driving seat, while ensuring corporations meet their duty of care obligations and retain the control on their travel spend. It is the role of the business travel agent to leverage the best technology to deliver on the disparate needs of corporations and their travelling employees. Connecting the entire travel ecosystem, and powering smarter business travel at every stage of the experience through technology, is the key to winning business.

Renaud Nicolle is the vice president of business travel across the Asia Pacific for Amadeus’ travel channels division.