Exploring the future of travel management

man mobile phone
Travel News 01 Dec 2016

New travel programmes and modern strategies

The continuing evolution of technology has had a considerable impact on the business travel industry which has undergone a deep transformation over the last decade. It’s now a priority for TMCs to keep up with time and stay relevant to the needs of travel bookers and travellers. In order to analyse how quickly technology permeates the travel world and start defining new travel strategies accordingly, yesterday morning we attended the Business Travel IQ workshop on the future of travel management at the Amba Hotel Marble Arch (London).

The purpose of the workshop was delivering a truly personalised session to attendees as well as a high level conversation on the workshop theme – The Future of Travel Management. Innovation technology was one of the main areas of discussion and Graham Ross, FCM’s Head of Sales, gave attendees a comprehensive overview of the overall elements that will be changing the travel industry over the next five years. We got to know how artificial intelligence, machine learning and robots will probably re-shape business travel, how the 5G, the ultrafast mobile broadband, will create waves of innovation that disrupt every industry and how the Internet of Things will affect (positively or negatively) the way we travel.

The Internet of Things is the internetworking of physical items which allows everyday object to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure.This means that our items, from a vehicle to a bag, will have network connectivity allowing them to collect, send and receive data without any human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. What does it mean to business travel? 

This technology development carries several benefits in the travel industry in terms of data capturing and direct integration as the interaction of the physical world and computer based system would result in improved efficiency and accuracy. It will also improve the travel experience from a practical point of view as we’ll be able, for instance, to track our items anywhere and the nightmare of “lost luggage” will finally be a bad memory.

Besides those advantages, connectivity of physical items also has its own disadvantages: what about privacy control and security in a connected world?
We left this question unanswered for the moment, as IoT has still to solve many issues in order to reach mass adoption, but technology revolution is also about the online booking tools which are really changing the modern travel management:

The user base of instant messaging platforms is growing at an incredibly fast rate. Instant messaging offer people a substantial upgrade on the normal way of doing things. Texting, faxing and writing letters became obsolete, email is decreasing, as group messages and instantaneous conversations offer many welcome advantages. The web chat seems to be the future and it will potentially change the world of travel. Web chat and impressive tools like Meet SAM, the “chatbot” app apparently able to behave as a real travel manager, will re-shape the future of travel by 2020.

Sam, the anticipatory, travel-savvy “chatbot” is highly interactive and will assist with all aspects of travel and also speaks to clients how and on which chat platform they prefer.  With the ability to communicate across numerous supported platforms (Facebook Messenger, SMS and more) Sam picks up on cues, such as travel patterns and preferences, and updates travellers accordingly. 

FCM is currently the unique travel management company offering such advanced tool like Sam (it has been launched in the US), designed to simplify life for corporate travellers and deliver the winning combination by merging a travel-intelligent “chatbot” with the expertise of a highly skilled FCM consultant.
Travellers are moving quickly, they hop from app to app and expect a personalised booking experience on all of them, that’s why TMCs need to implement a cross-device strategy.

Regarding personalised travel experiences we also got the chance to listen to Rachel Newns, Hotel Product Manager at FCM travel Solutions, who highlighted the necessity to build long lasting relationships with hotels and suppliers to maximise the benefits, get better value of the overall cost of travel and ensure an outstanding highly personalised travel experience. Engaging with hotels to support preferred strategies and get extra benefits for travellers is fundamental for a TMC committed to adding extra value to traveller experience. Thanks to travel managers’ negotiating strengths, travellers who book through a TMC can really receive additional benefits and better treatments.

The same trend can be observed in the Airline industry as Rory Egan-Thomson, TMC Account Manager at Virgin Atlantic, confirmed yesterday. He drew attention to the necessity to increase the interaction between TMCs and airlines to deliver extra value to cutomers and travellers. Creating productive partnerships with suppliers and TMCs is a priority for airlines, as it would drive benefit for all partners and travellers booking through travel companies instead of OTAs.

During The Half-day workshop on the future of travel management we extensively analysed how customer expectations, data organisation and evolving merger dynamics are changing travel and hospitality, and how a strong mobile strategy can keep us competitive for the future: since technology is growing, developing new trends and challenging the industry, it’s now essential to improve travel strategies to take a mature programme to the next level, but the role of travel manager seems to be clearly irreplaceable as the human contact is still too important for travel bookers and travellers.
The travel-savvy “chatbot” Sam, for instance, will assist with all aspects of travel (itineraries, gate changes, driving directions, weather, restaurant recommendations and reservations), but the “call or SMS my consultant” option gets users to a live FCM consultant 24 hours a day for live assistance on the go, so that they can require to talk to a travel manager any time by simply clicking a button at the bottom of their screen.

During the three-hour Business Travel iQ workshop on the future of travel management we identified new challenges and trends in the travel industry and we began to define new strategies and innovative model to let companies stay current and relevant to the needs of their business and travellers in a world where technology innovations, increased travel risk, personalised experiences and next-gen sharing economy suppliers challenge the established order and impact travel programmes.