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Travel 20th August 2019 - 8 min read

GBTA the PredictX way 2019

By Joni Lindes

The 51st annual GBTA convention did not disappoint. Over 7000 travel industry leaders and professionals attended to talk about business travel industry concerns.

This year’s GBTA theme was “Evolve” – aptly depicting the change we have seen in the business travel marketplace. At PredictX, we are excited to contribute towards this change.

If you happened to miss this year’s GBTA Chicago conference, worry not! Read more for the latest news and updates…

4 things to remember from GBTA 2019

1. Delegates got active

On Sunday, delegates got off to an early start at the GBTA and American Airlines 5K awareness run or walk that went all around the Chicago Burnham Harbour. All proceeds from the run went to ECPAT-USA. ECPAT-USA is the leading anti-child trafficking organisation in the United States. They use awareness, advocacy, policy and legislation to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

2. New industry trends emerged

At this year’s GBTA, there was a plethora of new ideas, innovation and trends. All delegates had the same question on their lips: what is next for business travel? Here are just a few of the trends that came out:

Business Travel in Asia expands

If you haven’t already done so, investing in the APAC region is bound to bring high returns. In 2019, according to the GBTA Global BTI study shared in GBTA session titled Outlook for Global Business Travel 2019-2022, North America accounted for just 25% of business travel spend, while Asia Pacific accounted for 42%. The largest individual country market is China, valued at $401 billion.

Debates arose on a global recession for corporate travel

As a US-China trade war becomes more and more likely and Brexit causes uncertainty in Europe, the growth of business travel is predicted to shrink. A general slowing of economic growth and multiple unstable geopolitical situations are causing a lag in global travel air demand and stunted growth in hotel demand reported by STR Hotels and Amadeus in a Company Dime article by David Jonas.

Other reports contradict this. The Global Travel Trends Forecast by CWT and GBTA reported that global trade has now recovered to a pre-2008 state. The report highlighted that factors like US corporate tax cuts and overall fewer restrictions on trade will drive increased business travel in the next few years.

What will actually happen? The verdict is still out.

AI shifts from buzzword to drive real change

At GBTA, the benefits of AI technology became all the more apparent. Delegates discussed applying AI to booking processes to drive greater personalisation for travellers. An online survey of more than 600 travel buyers and 2500 business travellers in March and April 2019 revealed that 74% of travellers and around 80% of millennial travellers reported that personalisation is important to them. If buyers want to make their programme more attractive, especially to a millennial workforce, factoring this in may prove useful.

For data management, AI models have the unique ability to intelligently analyse more data than ever before. Dealing with multiple supplier data formats is easier to handle when this technology cleanses and audits the data for you. The added benefit is that the data is delivered fast enough for positive action both pre, post and during trip.

AI is also enhancing our ability to look to the future. Predictive analytics is evolving from early stage development to something that is becoming a reality. Instead of looking at travel spend in the past, companies can start looking at what the outcomes will be for the decisions they make today.

Investing in startups and technology that makes use of this technology is guaranteed to save costs from forward-planning while creating booking procedures that travellers enjoy.

NDC is changing the marketplace

At GBTA, it was announced that Amex GBT can now book American Airlines NDC fares through Amadeus. This shows how NDC is becoming less talk and more reality in the business travel marketplace.

One of the main-stage panels, the ABCs of NDC, involved a discussion amongst IATA, airlines, technology providers and buyers themselves about the journey of NDC and where we are on it.

According to Yanik Hoyles, Director of the Industry Distribution Programme for IATA, it’s all about collaboration.

“I think in this journey to NDC, the most critical part of this journey is that we all need to collaborate to make it happen. It’s not just about airlines. Of course airlines want to move to a world of value creation, where they provide value and are not just selling a commodity but, ultimately, it’s all about airlines wanting to sell more through the travel agent channel. And, to make that happen it has to work for everybody so we have to work together to unlock those opportunities,” said Hoyles.

Buyers were urged to speak up and also communicate within their organisations to see what their travellers really want from NDC.

“This is the most transformative initiative that has happened in the industry since e-ticketing. This is the first time that this collaborative environment has existed in this industry in which the buyer actually has a voice,” said Global Corporate Travel & Meetings Operations and Procurement Leader for S&P Global, Ann Dery.

Both Dery and Hoyles urged buyers to join the Travel Manager Advisory Group, or TMAG for short, to help advise the air community on what buyers want from NDC. Dery is currently chairing this group.

Compliance goes mobile

Mobile booking systems will become a huge ally in maintaining compliance and loyalty of the business traveller. Now, suppliers and buyers are looking at refining the mobile method for the best way to engage with the traveller.

One session – How Corporate Travel Technology Is Adapting to the Continued Rise of Mobile discussed how travellers feel confused when choosing between apps provided by the TMC, airline, hotel and the expense system. This process needs to be simplified into a single app.

The number one set of advice to corporates is to know your travellers and what they prefer. If they prefer chatbots to apps, then communicate and book travel through that. If they prefer an app, an app is the answer. In a diverse workplace there are often several alternatives so this can be challenging. Make sure the majority of your travellers are receiving the booking method they prefer.

The ultimate system would be a single platform with all traveller information including loyalty programmes. The all-in-one approach is also ultimately very helpful when it comes to managing risk and duty of care as all the need-to-know information is in one place.

Travel gets more inclusive and traveller-friendly

Within all this technical talk it is easy to forget about the people the programme aims to serve and how to be inclusive towards every single traveller. Engaging with the wider workforce to develop a culture built on trust and transparency was highlighted at GBTA.

Travel managers are, essentially, part-time people managers as well. From panels on welcoming LGBTQ+ travellers to new products like Riskline’s Female Traveller Safety Reports, travel programmes and services are aiming to become more inclusive and people-friendly every year.

3. Creative booths and epic parties

The travel industry is not just about business, we also love to get creative and, most importantly, have fun.

Airbnb truly wowed us with their booth that looked like a mini apartment block. In fact, all companies looked fantastic on the buzzing trade show floor.

TripActions, Lyft, United Airlines and Sabre threw a memorable rooftop party on the Monday night of the conference. Later on, Business Travel News announced Suzanne Booyen as Travel Manager of the Year at their cocktail reception and delegates partied way into the night at parties sponsored by Egencia and many other suppliers.

4. PredictX dove deep into the data that matters

We had a great time at the convention. Read more for a sneak peek on what was on our minds:

Data quality matters

It is so easy to be overwhelmed by data simply because there is so much of it. Added to this, the data is often murky with inaccuracies, duplicates and inconsistencies. Our Director of Product, Simon Carmouche educated delegates on how they can sort through the garbage in their own data to find value.

“We observe that a lot of people don’t use data to drive their decision making as much as they could,” said Simon Carmouche, Director of Product at PredictX. “What happens when we don’t use data for rational decision-making? People tend to make decisions on assumptions or emotions.”

Ensuring your data management can provide you data you can trust is an often-overlooked, yet absolutely vital part of any travel programme. If you want to know more on how to do this, read our blog.

Data measures the cost of flight disruptions

Something that often ends up becoming quite emotional and is not quantified is the cost of flight disruptions. Our Tuesday morning session The Financial Impact of Flight Disruptions described the result of our study where we used programme data from oil and gas company, Haliburton and combined it with flight operational data from analytics company Cirium to put a price tag on flight disruption. Flight disruptions tallied up a total estimated cost (including both hard and soft costs) of over $3 million a year for Haliburton’s travel programme.

Data to reinvent air supplier management

For us, the most exciting part of GBTA was when we announced our new solution that will improve the air supplier management process. We launched PredictX Navigator, an NDC-ready solution that compares multiple proposals and contracts against each other while using predictive analytics to predict future air market rates and demand.

“Normally, what people do is they try and plan for future activity using past data. Using predictive capabilities in Navigator they can start to plan better and use next years’ volume to contract for next year, “ said PredictX Director of Product Simon Carmouche when he announced our new tool at GBTA Media Day.

Evidently, the travel industry is changing and so are we. We look forward to what new discussion and innovation will come from the next GBTA conference.

Joni Lindes
By Joni Lindes
8 min read

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