Here is part three of our 12-section bonanza – the corporate travel (r)evolution.
Vincent Lebunetel, the Paris-based VP, corporate innovation, at Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT)
2015 has been an exciting year for corporate travel. One word which encapsulates the year’s activities is disruption, and disruptors came in many forms.
Critical technology costs keep declining while investment in travel is abundant, with $6.4bn raised by online travel startups in 2014 (many of which, are new disruptive businesses) and the pace is not slowing down.
Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, and Didi, to name a few, are disrupting the traditional travel supply chain, and we’ve also seen legacy industry players, such as Expedia and Lufthansa, bring their fair share of disruption, too.
2015 saw yet more technology advancements; we now have even more ways we meet and interact (Skype, Lynx, Facetime etc), and with these new ways to interact comes the perceived value of face-to-face business travel.
The role of the travel management company (TMC) is changing in a really exciting way, and we’ve already eagerly embraced the evolving industry with the launch of our first internal innovation platform and our role as founding member of the Welcome City Lab – the world’s first incubator dedicated to travel (and which has just opened for its next round of applications).
Looking ahead to next year, travelers can expect new tools, better service, and a focus on safety and security in 2016.
There are a few key topics that I believe will be relevant for 2016:
There is a move away from telepresence rooms to free, virtual presence at your fingertips (such as Skype, Lync, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts), and I think there are huge opportunities for these communications platforms to be integrated into the TMC offering.
The way we book meetings
We’ve also expect closer monitoring of additional trip elements – for example, taking the pain of finding and booking a meeting room and turning it into a new, entrepreneurial experience. Companies such as Bird Office, Breather, and Splacer are all businesses looking at innovating and developing new ideas around meeting space offerings.
Interactions with travel counselors
The role of the travel counselor is going to transform, from virtual support and click-to-call through to the more demanding trip disruption services in times of crisis. I believe there is a huge opportunity around creating a more concierge-like service which delivers real-time, personalized products, information and offers to travelers.
My wild card for 2016 is Wi-Fi connectivity
I’m fascinated by Li-Fi and its potential industrialization in 2016 (basically, connectivity through lightening systems, including ceiling, street and flood lights). Li-Fi has the potential to completely revolutionize the way we connect while we’re traveling.
Ethan Laub is director of product management and Donna Wilczek is VP of strategy and product marketing at Coupa, which sells cloud-based spend management solutions.
2015 saw a continued trend in corporate travel: the rise of “traveler-centric” programs.
Historically companies have relied on top-down mandates to force employees to adopt corporate travel programs.
But increasingly employers have sought to gain user adoption and control costs by offering greater choice, embracing mobility, and engaging employees with consolidated applications that touch all of the ways employees spend money.
Houston, we have a user adoption problem
In 2015, studies continued to show employee dissatisfaction with their travel programs. Business travelers voted with their feet, enticed by a better user experience and content on consumer websites and apps.
This trend created significant blind spots in business spending, making it difficult for companies to gain full spend visibility and drive cost savings.
Shift from expense point solutions to multi-channel spend management
Throughout 2015, shifts away from expense point solutions to multi-channel spend management platforms were clear and evident; with SAP’s acquisition of Concur one year ago for $8.3B to add to their business network offerings and Coupa’s acquisition of TripScanner in July to add open booking capabilities to their full spend management suite.
More change to come in 2016
In 2016, economic concerns will have businesses tightening their belts. Travel managers will work closely with their accounts payables and procurement colleagues to get spend visibility, contract compliance, and control costs.
System evaluations will focus on optimizing all spending surrounding an employee from expense to invoices and purchase orders — versus simply making it easy to create an expense report.
CIOs will partner with the business to deliver measurable results. Employees will see innovative mobile capabilities and system personalization to make traveling and purchasing processes easier.
Most dramatically, the “walls” of traditional travel programs will keep eroding. Increasingly, businesses will adopt programs from Uber, Airbnb, and similar suppliers to embed into their spend management platform. Open booking solutions will gain traction, as suppliers offer incentives to drive direct bookings.
These changes are healthy. They will offer more spend visibility to businesses and more choice for business travelers.
Instead of fragmented applications with poor user experiences, companies will be able to offer consolidated travel and purchasing programs that employees want to use, resulting in savings for the business.
Christine Ourmières-Widener, chief global sales officer at American Express Global Business Travel
There have most certainly been some big changes in the industry over the past year, and one of the main shifts has been the increased focus on individual traveller experience in terms of behaviour, wellbeing and, most importantly, duty of care.
From my perspective, in 2016 we’ll likely see a range of initiatives introduced to improve traveller experience and shift traveller behaviour. Things like pre and in-trip messaging and mobile booking, which already have a foothold, will begin to gather greater traction.
I believe we’re also going to see a greater focus on traveller feedback as well as data-driven insights into traveller behavior, productivity and wellbeing.
Currently, many corporate travel managers may not have formal mechanisms in place to gather traveller feedback, so I think there will be an increase in the use of systems to allow richer two-way communication and engagement with travellers.
We’ll also be seeing more sophisticated techniques and metrics for monitoring traveller stress.
Given recent events and the increased diversity of business travel destinations, what will likely be one of the key industry topics of 2016 will be duty of care.
In a report we commissioned from ACTE several months ago, 55 percent of corporate travel managers said they educate their travellers about their employer’s obligations to them, whilst 47 percent call in third party experts to educate their travellers about higher risk destinations.
I’d expect these figures to be even higher by this time next year.
With that in mind, 2016 will almost certainly see a shift in the delivery of traveller safety solutions. Historically, the technology supporting the business travel industry has been structured regionally. However, as companies globalise, there will be an opportunity for the industry to deliver technology solutions that are global in nature.
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