How Automation is Changing the Business Travel Landscape
Since 2014, there are more mobile devices in the world than people. Based on this, it’s no wonder that modern business travel relies so heavily on technology when planning, organising and managing work trips.
In particular, a whitepaper by Euromonitor International offers two telling statistics about smartphone dependency amongst business travellers:
- 64% of global business travellers check their travel itinerary via their smartphones while on the move (the figure rises to 77% for millennials).
- Not having access to Wi-Fi while travelling is considered the biggest frustration.
This reliance on ever-present personal devices and internet connectivity has changed the business travel landscape. But what does that mean, both now and in the future?
A coherent, natural booking experience
As technology partners continue to integrate search, booking, payments and loyalty, we’re moving towards a singular system that will make trip planning a far more joined-up experience for travellers. With multiple systems talking to one another, business travellers will be able to manage every stage of their booking journey from one platform, without having to log into separate systems and websites.
The way we interact with such services is also changing. For example, Google confirmed last year that 20% of mobile queries were carried out via voice search – a clear indication that we’re beginning to treat our devices as personal assistants rather than dumb terminals.
As automation technology develops further and increasingly relies on AI, it stands to reason that we should be able to talk naturally to services, rather than type precise search queries and choose from pre-populated forms.
Hello, Travel Bot!
Big data plays a significant role in automation. Past buying habits, stored payment preferences and browsing history provide automated systems with the information they need to deliver a personalised service.
This has given rise to the chatbot. By leveraging machine learning technology, chatbots are capable of delivering a human-like customer service experience, and when granted access to big data, they can react quickly to traveller queries, delivering arrangements that cater for their every need.
Will this lack of human interaction dent traveller confidence? Possibly not. A report by Travelzoo, suggests that over three-quarters of its respondents believe chatbots will be better than their human counterparts at handling the very large volumes data.
Automation and expense management
If there’s one area where automation is likely to make the biggest and most welcome impact, it’s expense management. Travel remains a significant overhead for most businesses, accounting for 7% of a company’s annual budget, on average. Unfortunately, expense management usually relies on manual reporting and requires both travellers and HR staff to remember specific tasks that need performing regularly.
With automation, expense management systems can take on the onerous task of filing receipts and provide travel managers with accurate reports that don’t require the employees to sit for hours in front of spreadsheets.
Should automation be feared?
Automation and artificial intelligence are exciting and controversial in equal measure. Many worry about their impact on workforces, older generations and society in general, but for the business travel industry, these technologies are changing our landscape.