Corporate travel is finally starting to learn lessons from the consumer travel space, mostly because business travelers have been trained by their leisure travel to expect robust booking tools and more control over their trips. The travel management companies that focus the most on improving their traveler-facing technology will win this battle, and improve their clients’ travel experience in the process.
This month we released our annual travel industry trends forecast, Skift Megatrends 2017. You can read about each of the trends on Skift, or download a copy of our magazine here.
While the corporate travel ecosystem is resistant to change, shifting traveler behavior and the primacy of mobile as a booking channel are compelling travel management companies to refine and retool their technology.
Experts expect further consolidation in the space, as major industry players look to pivot to a more technology-focused strategy instead of the traditional service-based model.
Corporate travel companies are learning from consumer technology giants how to improve their digital booking experiences — and therefore better control the business traveler’s journey from beginning to end.
Traveler expectations don’t merely reflect what they’re used to in business travel anymore. Leisure travel has trained business travelers to expect intuitive booking tools and trip management options.
“If your mobile newsfeed [on Facebook] is out of sync with what’s on the desktop, that’s unheard of,” Egencia President Rob Greyber told Skift in July 2016. “In [corporate] travel, it’s totally fine for you to book something through an online booking tool at a top one or two travel management company, and then have an agent be totally unaware of that booking. In what world is that totally fine?”
Concur’s acquisition of consumer metasearch site Hipmunk was an extremely telling strategic move in this context; as a business travel booking and expense provider, Concur can create a much more user-friendly experience with Hipmunk technology. Business travelers are more likely to use a simple and empowering booking tool than a complicated or limiting option.
American Express Global Business Travel’s acquisition of booking technology provider KDS, as well, underscores the importance of technology to the competitive balance in corporate travel.
Expect more consolidation and talent acquisition in corporate travel as companies attempt to shore up their technology shortcomings and appeal to the new generation of mobile-connected business travelers.
A look at business travel behavior shows why technology tools have become an important factor for travel managers. Data from MMGY Global show that 69 percent of the business travelers they polled book their own travel. This means that less than one-third of business travelers today book a trip using call centers, travel agents, or a dedicated corporate travel department. It’s hard to make sure your travelers are booking in policy when you have no idea what they’re doing, so online and mobile booking tools are essential.
For travel providers themselves, particularly ascendant sharing economy services, getting integrated into corporate travel management tools is the next step in moving business travel toward the mainstream.
Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and others have all invested in creating business travel programs with enhanced tracking tools and data connectivity with existing corporate booking tools.
“One thing that I’m excited about is we have a vision of transportation that is delivered as a service, so one of the critical underpinnings of that is our tech platform being developed to be really accessible for a variety of different use cases,” Lyft Chief Business Officer David Baga told Skift.
Better technology will also ease airline ancillaries into the corporate travel mainstream, which will be a boon for airlines and flyers alike; imagine if your corporate travel management tool could allow you to pre-purchase the policy-approved amenities you want ahead of time, greatly reducing tension related to expenses.
The future of corporate travel may finally have arrived.
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