Business travel is often thought of as solely a necessity for getting from one meeting to another, yet it drives the success of every business in the world.
A recent report from the World Travel and Tourism Council and Travelport revealed that business travel accounts for $1.3 trillion of global travel spending annually, and is set to rise at 3.7% per annum over the next ten years. One key reason for this impressive growth has been the industry’s adoption of pioneering technology.
Consumers today have become used to using a host of apps and increasingly smart devices to enhance their daily lives.
While the travel industry has been one of the biggest creators of apps – there are over two million apps in Apple’s app store of which around 5% are travel related – only a very small number of them are regularly used. The biggest challenge facing those in the business travel industry is not only to introduce fast and responsive services through technology, but also continue to maintain a personal face of the brand.
In the UK, 80% of the population owns a smartphone and, with this figure set to rise, more people will be relying on mobile technology to improve their travel experiences.
Mobile software offers business travel companies a wealth of areas for expansion as people search for alternative ways to check in, skip queues and locate key services such as currency exchanges and cash machines.
Research from Travelport Digital found that 77% of business travellers mainly relied on their phone to alert them to flight disruptions, feeling that having instant access to this information alleviated stress and helped streamline their journey. By designing a platform that provides real time information on flights and other travel arrangements, companies can help business travellers ensure no time is wasted.
XL travel group has led the way in this field by deploying XLGO which creates a personalised digital travel concierge service featuring smart itinerary management, day of travel assistance and real time alterations, all within a single app.
Concierge services such as this will allow the business traveller to make the most of the trip and maintain a work life balance, using some free time to explore the area they are visiting.
However, apps are only one small aspect of the technological opportunities that the business travel industry can jump on. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is slowly being introduced into the tourism industry, with the creation of feedback loops allowing travellers to comment and rate every stage of their trip, helping to improve future experiences.
Business travel companies, such as Carlson Wagonlit Travel and FCM Travel Solutions are already experimenting with chatbots, which will help travellers through their journey by giving them the ability to ask a question at any point throughout their trip. While these chatbots are limited in their functionality, sometimes requiring a human operator to step in, they provide a snapshot of what the future of travel could be like.
Alongside AI, the Internet of Things is also on the rise. For instance, KLM Airlines have developed smart seats in collaboration with the Delft University of Technology.
These collect live data on the passenger’s heart rate, tiredness, hydration levels and body temperature, giving the airline a unique insight into the needs of their passengers so they can then improve their services. IoT can also be introduced into airports to help track hold luggage and guide passengers through airport terminals, advising them of any gate changes or delays.
As today’s business traveller demands a personalised, seamless, smooth and hassle-free experience, the travel industry should be stepping up and looking to create ‘experience first’ strategies.
Five years ago, travellers were not used to the connected experience they now take for granted, and this is a huge opportunity for the business travel. From personalised and suggestion-based itineraries to an app that allows you to monitor your travel details in real time, the possibilities are truly endless.
Sourced by Simon Ferguson, managing director, Northern Europe at Travelport
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