Let’s face it. We live in a world of hyper-effective, powerful technology that is permeating into our lives at every point of the day, even when we travel for business. Business travellers constantly receive tempting new flight and hotel offers on their phones through specialised apps, sharing economy providers and social media. It is no surprise that these offers often fall outside policy and, more often than not, are booked by travellers regardless. Managed travel programmes who ignore the influence technology has on traveller purchasing decisions soon find they have no control over any traveller activity – making their travel programme not as “managed” as they would like.
The key choice travel managers now face is to either clamp down on enforcing policy, or perhaps change travel management procedures to better accommodate what lies at the very heart of a travel programme – the travellers themselves.
“Modern business travellers want flexibility, predictability and, above all, productivity when they’re on the road. In these uncertain times, they also need reassurance about their personal safety,” said ACTE Executive Director, Greeley Koch.
Maybe it is time travel managers met the modern business traveller and discover how to respond to them proactively by keeping control of their spend, complying with duty of care and instilling a policy that caters to their unique needs.
Introducing the modern business traveller.
Modern business travellers choose convenience over class.
Most business professionals no longer have personal assistants and secretaries to make bookings for them and, if the booking process is not fast and does not include enough quality options, travellers are often put off by it altogether and go maverick – using convenient consumer apps to book on the go.
Consumer travel apps like Lola and Skyscanner are assisting travellers throughout their trip by making booking easier and delivering real-time information and activity suggestions. They are introducing these services to business travellers as, unsurprisingly, business travellers want something convenient to help them through their trip.
Another factor to consider is the “time through the airport” where ease, convenience and speed at which a business traveller can get on a plane is more attractive than a higher class on a short trip.
Travel managers need to start integrating consumer booking tools and assistants into their programme or, perhaps create their own so all spend activity can be tracked.
Modern business travellers are worried about their safety
Travel managers are receiving 65% more enquiries about safety since 2016. Terrorism, globalisation and the information age are some of the possible reasons for a growing concern amongst travellers: “will I be safe throughout my trip?” is a question on many travellers’ lips.
We all know travel managers have a moral and legal obligation to ensure the safety of their travellers, or duty of care, yet this task is becoming larger in the diary of any travel manager. Travel managers are not only receiving more questions on safety, they are also experiencing greater difficulty in tracking their travellers in the event of risky situations.
When travellers book through non-approved consumer booking engines and/or sharing economy providers with a credit card at the last minute, most data management systems do not have visibility into this spend, especially if a company does not use an analytics solution, but relies on a TMC. How are travel managers supposed to know where their travellers are, let alone the risk involved on each trip?
Even if they have this data available, more often than not, it is delivered days or weeks after the trip happened, giving travel managers no opportunity to proactively intervene when it comes to policy, risk, tax or duty of care issues.
Modern business travellers want a work-life balance
The work-life balance is becoming paramount to employee satisfaction in the workplace as businesses strive to “work smarter, not harder.”
Business travel, one of the most disruptive forces to a work-life balance, is increasingly challenged. Even though they are on the road, employees still want to embrace their time off from work, resulting in the rise of the newest form of travel: “bleisure”.
Bleisure is when travellers combine business and leisure – requesting a few days off on a business trip for leisure activities in another country. 30% of travel managers receive increased requests to add leisure to a trip, with 17% reporting an increase of requests to bring a family member with them.
While adding leisure is possible, it changes the way travellers book. They may want to book through non-approved accommodation suppliers they want for leisure purposes. The static annual Hotel RFP process does not offer much flexibility to travellers and this practice may have to change.
Modern travellers are embracing sharing economy options
Ridesharing services like Uber and accommodation sharing services like Airbnb are catching on. In 2017, 50% more travellers used ride-sharing services. In 2018, our internal study of $2.2 billion of spend discovered usage has risen by a further 40%. Accommodation sharing with Airbnb was found to rise by 58% in 2018 alone.
Travel programmes that do not integrate sharing economy data may fall behind in keeping track of these transactions.
Embracing the modern business traveller challenge
Travellers book travel in a way which makes it difficult to track where they are going, yet they want travel managers to keep a closer look-out for them in the face of increased global threats. Most travel managers face a catch-22 situation where they need more visibility yet the traveller’s booking behaviours are shutting them out of the picture.
We certainly agree that this is challenging, yet PredictX, and much of the managed travel industry is embracing the challenge. While technology has created a different traveller, it can also create a different kind of travel programme.
Assistance is on its way
New methods like data analytics can combine and consolidate travel data from multiple sources, not just the TMC. Advanced cloud and API integration are able to combine spend and activity made using booking tools and sharing economy providers into the equation.
Analytics and machine learning are also giving us the unique ability to automatically integrate and munch through spend – delivering the data on a pre-trip basis as opposed to reports delivered long after the trip took place. New technology has allowed us to predict situations before they occur – creating a new form of data intelligence known as predictive analytics. Combine this with intelligent chatbots and next time a traveller has a safety question, the travel manager will have a data-driven answer in seconds or, better yet, will not even have to answer at all. A bot can take care of that!
PredictX uses artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and API integration to analyse ALL spend – delivering data-driven insight in seconds before, during and after a trip. New travel programmes for new travellers just need a better use of data to facilitate the change.