Today, travellers want choice, price transparency and personalisation. At the same time, corporations want better value from travel spend. Business travel agencies must adapt to this evolving environment, delivering a service that helps their customers and travellers get the most out of business travel. Business travel agencies need to help corporations by looking at two priorities: the needs of the corporations themselves and the needs of the business traveller.
To succeed, business travel agencies must have a strong technology backbone, be at the forefront of innovation, understand the changing needs of their customers, and move quickly to meet them.
Customising business travel
Just like personal travel, business travellers want personalised journeys as part of their overall package.
Business travel agencies must equip travellers with access to the information and tools that help them enjoy stress-free and efficient journeys, from booking and beyond. As content is aggregated, business travel agencies will be able to offer more choice to the individual travellers’ profile and allow corporations to control what the traveller sees. This will create a tailored experience right from booking, through to trip, and manage costs for the corporation.
Transparency at every touch point
The travel industry will start to embrace a ‘blockchain principle’, showing every single transaction in business travel (eg. buyer, fleet operator, vehicle, driver, rider, location, routes, feedback, pricing, etc). This will mean business travel agencies will have insight into corporate travellers’ complete journeys – this data will be vital in creating a tailored experience. It also means that corporations will have a record of every journey and be able to use this data for reporting, forecasting and identifying trends.
“It’s starting to happen now”
Michael Chase-Smith, executive director at Orbit World Travel, commented: “Some of the booking platforms that we use through the global distribution system and traditional online booking tools will change over time, it’s starting to happen now. How it’s going to look in five years’ time, I’m not exactly sure, but I do know there will be a travel environment of more open booking channels. The trick will be managing the access to these new booking channels and the change in workflow processes in a way that ensures how travellers shop, book and play is streamlined and simplified.”
Millennials capitalise on the b-leisure trip
Expedia Group Media Solutions predicts that 60% of business trips morph into ‘b-leisure’ (business with leisure) trips and with millennials making up a growing share of the workforce, a lot of the b-leisure travel spend will be done by this demographic. Agencies that make b-leisure a possibility for this generation will be harnessing this pool of potential profit by understanding and accommodating their needs.
To remain competitive, business travel agencies need to work with corporations on creating business travel trips that appeal to a wide range of traveller expectations eg. flexibility on dates and travel preferences.
Mobile technology is important in all types of travel agencies, but even more so for business travel. With hectic and time-sensitive schedules, travellers want to be able to communicate issues and manage travel plans at the touch of their fingertips. This requires the business travel agencies’ mobile platform to be fully optimized and connected. Mobile makes personalization easier through mobile apps, gathering and using data, and sending targeted information.
“Technology is the only pill that will save business travel agencies from extinction”
Jitender Arora, co-founder, MindYourFleet, added: “Technology is the only pill that will save business travel agencies from extinction. Technology brings in both cost efficiencies (discovery and operating costs) and opportunities to enhance revenues. Business travel agencies need to foster the culture of innovation and accept technology before their competitor does.”
Greater aggregation across the industry
As travel content becomes aggregated and centralised, business travel agencies will be able to access content more efficiently, without changing platforms. This ability will increase further with NDC, because it will give business travel agencies access to the individual’s profile (including needs and preferences), and allow them to control what the traveller sees, creating a tailored experience from inspiration to trip.
“It will transform how business travel agencies work”
Renaud Nicolle, VP Business Travel in APAC, Travel Channels, Amadeus, said: “At the moment business travel agencies have to navigate their way through mountains of fragmented content across several platforms. But as part of Amadeus’ evolution from a global distribution system to a Live Travel Space, we’ll be able to offer one platform of choice with huge amounts of content for travel distributors and providers.
“It will transform how business travel agencies work and allow comparisons and bookings to happen in a uniform and transparent way.”