Report: Business travel must be mobile and predict user needs

Companies book travel systems and companies that use them pay attention: the expectations of travelers evolve along with the technology.

5 tips for safety while traveling
Gone are the days when we have to fight for connectivity while on the road or even in the air. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Travel commerce platform Travelport has issued a report that travel management companies (TMCs) and their customers pay close attention.

The report, which focuses on trends in mobile travel apps and software, makes a number of trend and survey-based predictions about the future of travel apps in 2020 and beyond. What it thinks is that business travelers increasingly expect a mobile, self-service, AI-enabled, personalized experience.

SEE: How to stay cyber secure while traveling for business: 6 tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

These trends are an important consideration for companies in the business travel world, but they are also important for companies that use TMCs or other commercial booking platforms: two-thirds of technical professionals say they are considering finding another job due to insufficient technology in the workplace.

Here are three major views from the report for both TMCs and TMC customers.

1. Treat business customers as normal consumers

“It’s time to reinvent the business travel experience,” says Travel Oands Head of Digital Business Travel Julie O’Sullivan. “It is difficult to maintain an effective travel program to prevent travelers from using unapproved channels, and next-generation solutions need to be committed.

Everyone who has used a business travel platform knows what a headache he can have. Unfriendly user interfaces and the unnecessary hoop jump needed to complete a booking mean that 68% of travelers say they use unapproved channels to book trips.

This is bad news for TMCs and organizations that want to manage business trips tightly. The solution, O’Sullivan said, is to treat business customers as regular consumers, giving them self-service platforms that are always available when they need them.

2. Invest in artificial intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming an important part of successful software, and the travel world is no different.

“We now want technology to anticipate our needs and not wait to be asked,” said Mike Wake, technology vice president at Travelport. Machine learning, the report concludes, can shorten the average booking time from 60 minutes to just six: That is a huge difference that can eliminate headaches, save money, and make unexpected changes to a travel itinerary without problems.

According to the report, only 38% of travel brands plan to invest in machine learning and AI in 2020. That is good news for TMCs who have not decided where they are going in 2020: investing in emerging machine learning technology can give them a competitive edge by offering something that the majority is not.

3. Go mobile

About a third of travelers, according to the report, booked and paid for their journeys using only a mobile device. That number may seem low, but Travelport thinks it will rise.

According to the report, “87% of respondents downloaded more travel apps than last year, showing that apps offer travel brands unprecedented opportunities to maintain continuous contact with customers through a device that they take with them on their journey.”

Push notifications are also popular with mobile app users: they can provide up-to-the-minute information, help save money when flight costs change, remind users to complete a booking and more.

“Mobile has become the only item travelers don’t leave home, and a good mobile experience has become a central element on which they now rate your brand,” the report concludes.

For TMCs and their customers, the latest technology is crucial for success. Without the latest tools, business travelers will avoid booking at TMCs and their employers can look for other travel sellers.

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