Technology is ‘personalising’ corporate travel

23 March, 2017

In a keynote address at the inaugural CAPA-ACTE Canberra Aviation & Corporate Travel Summit (15-Mar-2017), Tony Carter, managing director of Amadeus, outlined a vision for the future of corporate travel which included increasing personalisation for business travellers.

Mr. Carter defined personalisation as the intersection of context, control and convenience. He predicted increased “intelligence” in the booking process, with technology able to match a traveller’s trip intentions with past choices, destination information, peer feedback and, of course, company travel policy.

Personalisation defined

Source: Amadeus

This view is a logical progression of the self-booking journey, which began 25 years ago, and transformed corporate travel by shifting the booking process from travel consultants at travel management companies (TMC) to the travellers themselves. This allowed travellers to instantly search and book their own travel rather than sending off requests and waiting for itineraries to be sent back for approval.

Self-booking has become the established norm in business travel, and it continues to be transformed as technology advances. Adoption is particularly strong in Australia, thanks to the online availability of point-to-point air travel inventory and GDS access to hotel inventory. Most recently, the booking process has shifted from the desktop computer to the mobile device, with travellers expecting to be able to “look and book” anywhere and at any time.

Mr. Carter’s prediction supports the view of the future of corporate travel booking, recently voiced by Serko CEO Darrin Grafton.

“Say you’re driving home after a busy day in the office and you need to sort out flights for a trip next week. Why can’t there be a system that will scan your calendar and previous booking behaviour to figure out what you’re likely to want to do, and then just book it using your mobile or desktop? Well, we actually don’t think this is far off,”

Mr. Grafton wrote in his company blog (03-Mar-2017).

Serko, he says, is working on this technology and using everyday applications like Messenger, Office 365, Slack and Skype to ensure that its complexity doesn’t scare off users.

Travelport has also observed the need for travel personalisation, noting that a TMC’s ability to tailor its offerings depends on the level of knowledge it has of the business traveller. It anticipates a move to extend user profiles and preferences beyond “just their credit card information and the information required to book a trip, because this will be key to extending personalisation to the next level”.

“Using this data in conjunction with mobile features, such as live agent chat, in-app feedback, proximity-based messaging, personal travel assistants and itinerary management solutions, will not only help travellers navigate time-consuming tasks but also create a highly personalised, contextual digital travel experience,” Travelport notes in a White Paper.

Three mega-trends are reshaping corporate travel

The use of business intelligence is one aspect of technology changing the way travel is booked, but it is a product of three mega-trends recently flagged by Sabre in its Emerging Technology in Travel 2017 Report.

According to the report, the following major trends are impacting the industry:

Connected Intelligence allows bots and robots to play an increasing role in every part of travel. Bots, for example, serve as digital personal agents, helping simplify travel through more streamlined search, basic itinerary management and travel reminders throughout each trip.

Conversational Interfaces allow travellers to interact with every business they need to connect with during a trip, from agents to airlines, hotels, financial services and beyond.

Digital Realities, primarily through smartphone applications, are effectively providing travellers with superpowers like real-time translation of written words and access to layers of digital information about city environments, landmarks and transportation.

Many of these trends are being powered by the rise of smartphones and the rapid deployment of apps.

Reported cumulative Apple App Store data (billion)

Source: Travelport

Travelport found that 70% of millennial travellers use their smartphone for travel research and booking. It adds that app users want increased functionality, extending beyond the booking. Where the travel process was once fairly stable, requiring limited contact after booking, the rising adoption of mobile has created multiple touch points through the entire travel lifecycle.

As self-booking capability approaches its third decade, and the iPhone approaches the end of its first, technology has become inextricably linked to business travel. Travel managers and their suppliers therefore need to adapt to the changing needs of travellers who have become accustomed to the simplicity and power of leisure travel tools.

The new environment presents many advantages, such as unprecedented real-time connectivity between all parts of the business travel supply chain, real-time granular data capture and access to information anywhere, any time. Furthermore, the business intelligence behind the data and the enhanced connectivity should allow for the seamless integration of all elements of the travel process in a more efficient, more secure and more manageable system that delivers benefits to the organisation, the supply chain and, most importantly, the traveller.