Person on airplane looking at cell phone. Your travel policy should include booking technologies your travelers like & will actually use.

Today’s traveler has a huge assortment of apps, websites and tools available to research, book and track business travel. According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), most business users are going directly to the airline and hotel apps on their itinerary with some use of third-party booking tools. Some of the newest technologies in the industry - Lyft, Uber and Airbnb for Business - are quickly establishing themselves as major players.

Although your employees may be tempted to bypass the company travel portal and book directly, the cost to travel managers who need to track spending and monitor adherence to the travel policy is too high. When your staff books travel directly with a provider, your company loses the opportunity to leverage your travel budget into bargaining power, gain visibility into which suppliers they’re using, and track their locations for your Duty of Care obligations.

6% of all business travel transactions in 2016 were with Uber, making the ridesharing company the most common expense.

The Latest Trends in the Business Travel Technology Space

Are you offering tools that your employees like to use that also track expenses and monitor which suppliers are booked, all while consistently offering quality customer service? Let’s take a look at the latest trends to find out.

Sharing Economy

The advent of the ‘sharing economy’ has skyrocketed Uber, Airbnb for Business and other on-demand services to unforeseen ubiquity. A 2017 study by Certify, a provider of travel and expense (T&E) software for companies, found that 6% of all business travel transactions in 2016 were with Uber, making the ridesharing company the most common expense, in terms of transactions. Uber’s top competitor, Lyft, is making inroads into the business travel marketplace. Lyft is challenging Uber’s auto-expense feature by partnering with expense management firms to send your receipt directly to your personal T&E report. The Airbnb for Business program promises to “make it easy to travel for work without sacrificing the comforts of home.” The Airbnb business travel product offers customers quality Wi-Fi, 24-hour check-in and direct expensing to your company. Does your company have a policy or guidelines for using these tools? If not, it may be time to re-evaluate the travel policy.

Virtual Payments

Virtual payments are another cutting-edge technology being quickly adopted by business travelers. Although corporate cards remain prevalent, the availability and usage of virtual payments are on a steep increase. An important consideration is that today’s millennials may not have access to credit due to huge student loan burdens and no rental history. For this sector of employees, virtual payments offer ease and convenience and no awkward conversations with their travel manager about how soon the expense report will be paid.

Mobile Tools

For Millennials, as well as many Gen Xers and Boomers, the mobile phone is their single most important possession - they spend an average of 174 minutes a day on the device! For international business travelers, their mobile device functions as both a booking tool solving the logistical issues of itinerary changes, while also providing opt-in travel alert texts. Generally, most travelers would benefit from a mobile solution with the ability to identify weather or other factors that would affect their trip and then offer real-time rebooking. In the near term, many companies are exploring the use of a GPS tracking tool to locate employees on a business trip in case of unexpected complications.

Travelers would benefit from a mobile solution with the ability to identify weather or other factors that would affect their trip and then offer real-time rebooking. 

Technology Fuels Soft Dollar Program Success

When all of your travelers use the travel management booking system it’s easy to track expenditures, target savings and deliver real ROI on your travel spend. Many of the airlines’ soft dollar programs provide in-kind benefits in exchange for your company’s airfare spending. Soft dollar incentives may include airline tickets, upgrades, status match and club passes. It’s important that all eligible travelers use the airlines in which your company has enrolled in soft dollar programs. The purchases need to be made through your travel management partner to ensure your company gets credit.

Putting it all Together

Bringing your travel spending under a single umbrella has a number of advantages, but implementing a new technology can be fraught with complications. If your booking tool isn’t helpful and intuitive, your travelers won’t use it. Unless your staff understands the overall benefit, it can be a tough adjustment. Training sessions and a walk-through video to introduce advantages can help with the rollout. The idea is to reinforce that employees using a booking portal is not only good for the company, but also it’s helpful for them personally. Be sure to emphasize that traveling employees will still be able to get the benefits of loyalty and rewards programs and accrue frequent flyer miles while using the new booking tool.

Traveling employees will still be able to get the benefits of loyalty and rewards programs and accrue frequent flyer miles while using the new booking tool.

Making Technology Work for Travelers AND Your Company

Many business travelers prefer an easy shortcut or a familiar tool instead of using the official travel booking portal. Although many corporate booking tools don’t offer the personalization and efficient experience of top travel apps and websites, the benefits of consolidated bookings outweigh the value of a preferable user experience. Booking with a corporate portal provides the same end result, especially when they need to go back and make adjustments like a seat change, upgrade with points, etc.

Intuitive Technology and Corporate Savings Are Possible

If your managed travel partner isn’t providing the right technology and implementation guidance, it may be time to find one who will. Travel Leaders Group offers technology solutions that combine the ease of use that your travelers want with the management tools you need in order to monitor bookings and achieve cost savings. You get the best of both worlds – easy and intuitive technology with the hidden ability to watch travel spending and track compliance.

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