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How new technologies can power smarter business travel

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When context is everything, offering relevant information at the right time and place to the traveler is fundamental. When consumers are more empowered than ever before, travel technology needs to speak to business travelers in the simplest way. Technology should bring together the travel management company, the corporation and the traveler and aim to serve the best interest of all three parties. The reality is that new technologies enable a win-win for all.

Conversational interfaces eliminate hassle

It remains true, even more so today, that for some travelers, the mobile phone is the main point of contact with their TMCs. Mobile is also a vital tool for travelers, too, when in destination, and as a result it offers a significant opportunity for TMCs.

Thanks to mobile, instant messaging platforms like Slack, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat have emerged as a main touch point for many travelers throughout their journey. Instant messaging has become the world’s number-one communication tool. In 2017, there were more than five billion users on messaging apps.

TMCs need to grasp this opportunity as a way to cross-sell, upsell, service and interact with the traveler at each step of the journey. Travel expense will no longer be separate but instead will be integrated throughout the business traveler’s touch points (Salesforce, Outlook, Slack and more).

When combined with the power of artificial intelligence, these touch points can remove the hassle of logging into a self-booking or expense tool and offer travelers a more personalized and hassle-free experience.

Artificial intelligence: From travel companion to travel essential

TMCs sit on a massive amount of data and should leverage this data as a way to build predictive analysis and benchmarks, and to offer relevant and instant information to travelers.

Leveraging user location, past activities, network recommendations or preferences, AI should inspire and support travelers at every step of their journey.

TMCs sit on a massive amount of data and should leverage this data as a way to build predictive analysis and benchmarks.

An example of AI is natural language processing (NLP), where machines are able to understand speech or text. Thanks to platforms such as Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Lola, NLP has become more relevant in the AI space and will soon reshape corporate travel.

As AI-based bots improve their performance, they will in turn increase traveler productivity.

AI will enable further automation of the self-booking and expense management experience, not only improving traveler productivity but also increasing compliance with corporate and legal policies and helping to avoid fraud.

When we know that the average cost of a manually processed expense report is €23.48, whilst the average cost for a fully integrated T&E solution is €6.052 , it is easy to see the benefits of this automation.

The increased relevancy of AI ensures better personalization for the business traveller. Intelligent virtual assistants that leverage data gathered can significantly reduce the business traveler’s need to contribute throughout the booking and expense process.

This does not only increase productivity, but also ensures the traveler’s trip is as delightful and enjoyable as possible.

VR and AR boost confidence

Virtual and augmented reality are very likely to be game changers for the travel industry.

In 2016, over 11 million VR headsets were sold worldwide. VR is expected to reach as much as $70 billion by 2020; therefore, now is arguably the time to get onboard with VR and AR in the corporate travel space.

Some leading travel players are already developing interesting solutions. In 2017, we have seen the first VR booking thanks to Navitaire, where travelers can purchase a flight and go through the entire booking process from shopping to payment thanks to their VR headset.

We can imagine VR being the next generation of advanced user interface with rich content enhancing the corporate traveler’s experience, particularly at the booking stage. One can imagine self-booking tools being integrated with VR, giving people greater reassurance about where they may be visiting and staying while away on business.

In addition, in the meetings and events space, VR can be used as a way for meeting organizers to pick and choose a venue without having to go there beforehand.

In the report Managed Travel 3.0, we have seen that offering the right information at the right time to travelers is key for an improved customer service.

Progress in geolocalization technology allows TMCs to view more precisely than ever before where a traveler is located, be it inside or outside. This offers a large amount of possibilities for upselling or duty of care.

By putting together behavioral data and the geographical position of a person, TMCs can offer specific information in a delimited perimeter thanks to geofencing.

Lifting the challenges of business travel

As technology advances, so do the options to better connect, serve and inspire travelers. Connecting the entire travel ecosystem and powering smarter business travel at every stage of the journey is key for TMCs to stay relevant.

By delivering more options and greater integration from search and booking to expense reconciliation; from airport parking, lounge access, hotel and meeting rooms; to departure control systems and baggage check-in, travellers can be freed from the challenges they face today.

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