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Emerging Technologies to Redefine Business Travel

In order to realise the dream of “digi-smart business travel”, it is imperative for Indian businesses to incorporate a technology enabled integrated business travel programme. While there are no “one size fits all” solutions, there are multiple technology initiatives that travel managers need to consider balancing the trilemma of cost control, enhanced compliance and meeting the business traveller expectations.

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Updated:June 26, 2018, 5:23 PM IST
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Emerging Technologies to Redefine Business Travel
Image for representation. (Photo courtesy: AFP Relaxnews/ scanrail/ Istock.com)
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Over the last few years, the impact of technology has been huge on both travellers as well as travel service providers; tools, technologies and apps are constantly evolving to enable better travel experience. The year 2018 has been the year of embracing smart technology in travel and hospitality. The industry has prepared itself to stay ahead of the increasingly tech-savvy traveller. Our latest whitepaper, ‘The Digi-Smart Indian Business Traveller 2018 by FCM Travel Solutions, India’ in association with KPMG focuses on emerging technologies in the travel industry and their impact.

Technology is rapidly revolutionising travel by maximising efficiencies, improving experience and increasing choice and options for the average traveller worldwide and increasingly in the Indian market. Rapid penetration of smart phones, Near Field Communication, in-flight WIFI, faster networks and many such advances are only accelerating the penetration of technology into every aspect of travel. Self-Booking Tools, Travel Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Sharing Economy Services are not only here to stay but hold myriad and exciting possibilities for the future.

In order to realise the dream of “digi-smart business travel”, it is imperative for Indian businesses to incorporate a technology enabled integrated business travel programme. While there are no “one size fits all” solutions, there are multiple technology initiatives that travel managers need to consider balancing the trilemma of cost control, enhanced compliance and meeting the business traveller expectations.

Self-Booking Tool (SBT) is the primary tool used for end-to-end travel management - right from booking to claims settlement. Globally, SBT is being increasingly used by businesses as the primary business travel management tool.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another area which can enhance business travellers’ experience. While chatbots (a computer system powered by AI that can carry on a conversation with a human) can be in-built as part of SBT, they can also be programmed to be “virtual private assistants” (VPA) guiding the business traveller towards a smoother, safer and hassle-free journey. They can provide assistance in areas as simple as booking a flight, issuing reminders/alerts, navigation assistance, upgrading a hotel room, guiding on travel options etc.

The emergence of service providers such as Uber, Airbnb, Ola, etc. have brought about an emerging service provider in business travel - Sharing Economy Services. These service providers provide travel services through a web-based platform with travellers experiencing human interaction only at the point of using the services. Sharing economy provides twin advantages of lower costs (compared to incumbent travel service providers) and an online interactive user-friendly travel management platform.

Travel Analytics is an emerging technology that aims to address the issue of analysing travel spends and behaviour to enable greater visibility over individual traveller and overall travel spends. Analytics aims to address the primary issue faced by travel managers i.e. accurately track savings and clearly evaluate the value of the travel programme in an environment of rising costs and detecting potential leakages. With travel budgets constantly under pressure, analytics provides travel managers with a smart tool to enhance cost visibility and the organisation’s travel programme effectiveness.

Blockchain is another emerging technology that enables all stakeholders to map their individual processes as a block, thus allowing all stakeholders to create a chain that maps a traveller’s journey from starting point (i.e., travel booking) to the end point (expense claims settlement). This blockchain is mapped on a cloud platform accessible to all stakeholders (with access for each stakeholder restricted to their respective processes or blocks). Besides, each block within the travel journey can also be a blockchain comprising multiple sub-processes. Blockchain enhances transparency and helps identify potential disruptions in a traveller’s journey whether flight disruptions/delays, safety, payments etc.

While there are other technological solutions being developed to enhance the quality and experience of business travellers (e.g. NFC and e-tags), the above five technologies are relevant for the Indian business travel market given the growing awareness for these systems and their potential in enhancing the quality, expectations and transparency for the key stakeholders i.e. business travel managers, travellers and TMCs.

The current digital ecosystem and promise of future innovation has created a conducive environment for the travel industry to grow rapidly. We live in a dynamic world where consumer data is easily accessible, and strategies should be continuously devised basis their behaviour patterns. While constant engagement with the clients, travellers and other stakeholders on technology solutions is imperative, service providers also face the perennial challenge of differentiating themselves to meet the evolving technology needs of the growing breed of the new age travellers. The objective lies in making this information more relevant and actionable for travellers in India. At the end, consumer is looking for services that are personal, seamless and could be experienced over and over again. To download the complete whitepaper click here.
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