Social distancing and limited physical interaction helps set a new course – virtual payment technology and removal of expense reporting set to ‘evolve quickly’ and be ‘adopted at a faster pace’

It is clear that even once the world starts to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and as vaccines help facilitate the return of travel, we will still see social distancing requirements and reduced physical interaction. Whether this is directly to limit any future infection spread or simply that people will be more wary in the future.

This will clearly open the door to greater use of touchless technology, and according to Amadeus SVP commercial corporations Arlene Coyle there is a strongly belief that virtual payment technology and the removal of expense reporting “will evolve quickly and be adopted at a faster pace” thanks to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Virtual card technology certainly provides a safer way to make and reconcile corporate travel payments and expenses. “Moving forward, virtual payments will remove friction across the corporate payment and spend management experience for the traveller on-trip as well as for corporate functions when reconciling expenses post-trip,” explains Ms Coyle.

While travel restrictions remain in place in many parts of the world in 2021, Amadeus recently took its corporate clients and industry partners on a virtual journey through the current reality and its vision for the future with the key theme of putting the “oopmh back into corporate travel and expense management”.

Traveller sentiment studies have shown that business travellers have a clear desire to get back to face-to-face meetings. Amadeus’ own Global Traveler Survey, indicated that almost three quarters (71%) said they would travel immediately or within one to three months of the lifting of global travel bans.

The major theme running through the event was time for change, time for collaboration, time for trust. Speakers addressed many topics, on how fast and easily businesses can take decisions on new travel policies, and, how stringently they can incorporate safety measures for employees and enforce them globally.

It also looked at what technology we can expect to meet and greet us on future journeys and whether freshly rolled out touchless technologies will become a permanent fixture in the new normal. Most importantly, after this slow-down in business travel, the discussion was firmly planted on the role corporations will play, both small and large companies, to efficiently manage travel and expense management via a new digitally connected workforce.

The event aimed to set the scene on how the industry will find the best ways to navigate extraordinary times together and three main areas emerged that can improve the corporate travel experience and encourage traveller confidence.

Heading these was digital transformation to enable smart connectivity as businesses across the world undergo rapid digital transformation following the COVID-19 outbreak. As an example, Ms Coyle highlights the findings of a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting last year to explore the state and challenges with travel and expense  management processes and tools.

Amadeus commissioned Forrester Consulting last year to conduct a survey of finance, procurement, travel management, IT, and HR leaders at large enterprises to explore the current state and challenges with travel and expense management processes and tools. The study, ‘Digital Transformation For Travel And Expense: Balancing Process Efficiencies, Compliance, And Employee Experience’, was published in Sep-2020, based on qualitative interviews and a survey carried out amongst 556 respondents.

The findings acknowledged that enterprises needed to rethink their travel and expense management technologies to digitally transform, improve employee experience and enhance the efficiency of financial operations through automation and integration.

“Going forward, at Amadeus we strongly believe that virtual payment technology and the removal of expense reporting will evolve quickly and be adopted at a faster pace,” says Ms Coyle. “The need for this is also recognised by many of our customers and partners,” according to the executive, who believes that for corporate travellers, virtual card technology “can revolutionise the way payments on-trip are made.” If it simplifies the experience then business travellers will certainly welcome the development.

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