The world of business travel innovation is developing fast. We take a look at some of the most impressive developments
We often think of technology as something that runs counter to real life, face-to-face interaction. But when it comes to the world of business travel, it can work in both directions.
While technology may have made it easier to do business remotely, for instance by improving video conferencing, it has also improved the IRL experience of meeting face-to-face by making travel simpler, safer and less stressful.
After all, remember the first time you downloaded a boarding pass on to your smartphone and magically breezed through the departure gates? Or when you first ordered a taxi with a few taps on your touchscreen? Connected business travellers now increasingly expect experiences that are seamless, reliable, secure and personal. Meanwhile, businesses need systems that make managing the process – from booking tickets to filing expenses – as streamlined as possible. So here’s the lowdown on the incoming tech trends that will be upgrading more and more of our journeys.
Travel gets personal and integrated with AI
From centralised itineraries accessible from apps and desktop, integration with third-party services such as Uber and Airbnb, right through to streamlined expense management and smartphone alerts for cancellations and delays, it’s becoming much easier to manage everything a business trip can throw at you, in one place.
Increasingly intelligent, ever-more-integrated and automated systems such as Concur Travel and Concur TripLink, are already taking away plenty of the traditional pain of business travel. Artificial intelligence makes these kinds of integrated systems smarter too, using data, including information from previous trips, to anticipate future travel preferences and take a much more active role in the booking process.
For example, they can learn whether you prefer a city-centre hotel with breakfast included, to be somewhere close to your client meeting or in a favourite part of town.
These systems also seek to eliminate the stress points during booking and checking in. For example, an automated check-in that knows your seat preferences, and passport details. In the face of delays or cancellations, these systems will use your preferences to automatically offer tailored alternative solutions to minimise delays and even make the bookings for you, with biometric mobile payments.
While all of this will make life on the road easier for the individual traveller, at the same time, businesses will have more control, too. For example, SAP Concur already enables businesses to gain greater oversight of employee trips regardless of where travel is booked. Booking details can be pulled through using machine learning in order to easily generate expense claims, while company travel and expense policies are automatically applied, ensuring any bookings match budgets. Any trip receipts and invoices are digitally captured and validated for HMRC and VAT reclaim purposes, which can free up a lot of time spent on admin.
Rise of the booking bots
The face of these automated AI systems will increasingly be intelligent chatbots. Virtual agents, such as Sam, Flight Centre’s AI mobile travel assistant, can already research and book flights and hotels, and provide local information such as driving directions, restaurant recommendations, weather advice and even visa support.
The more you interact with these bots, the smarter they get, using your data to offer ever more tailored recommendations and solutions. Train cancelled? No problem, they’ll know your preferred plan B and make alternative arrangements, leaving you free to focus on final tweaks to that all-important presentation.
Building a better safety net
Of course, for these virtual assistants, chatbots and AI-powered systems to work well, we’ll be asked to share more and more personal data. This will inevitably create challenges around digital privacy and security and it will be crucial for businesses to provide systems that ensure employee data is fully protected as they travel for work.
Making sure employees are safe while travelling is a big responsibility for businesses too. Integrated systems such as Concur Locate, will make it easier than ever to spot when employees on the move may be at risk and for business managers to react rapidly to resolve any problems that arise.
With a centralised dashboard, managers can already see on Concur Locate where their travelling employees are, receive smartphone and desktop alerts when risks arise, get instant access to full itineraries and message quickly to a range of platforms from one tool.
Upgrading train travel
Not all businesses can afford to treat employees to first-class train travel, but the benefits of extra space and a better working environment are obvious. Enter clever new apps such as SeatFrog, that let travellers bid last-minute for unfilled first-class seats on certain train lines, paying as little as £5.
Each auction opens approximately two and a half hours in advance and closes about half an hour before the train departs and users simply put in their booking reference and start bidding. The service is currently limited to LNER trains in the UK, but with millions of empty first-class seats across Europe each year, connected services like this offer an attractive solution for companies looking to maximise their capacity and offer great value to customers.
Local knowledge for everyone
Of course, it isn’t just about getting from A to B. Technology is changing how we’ll make the most of our time once we reach B too.
The web has long been full of travel tips. One new app-based community, Cool Cousin, is empowering locals to turn their knowledge into cash by helping travellers with insider tips on everything from the best restaurants to how much you should be paying for a cab to the airport.
One more thing … flying taxis
Looking further into the future, it may sound like the stuff of sci-fi, but flying taxis are fast becoming a potentially serious idea. So-called eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft are being developed by companies such as Rolls-Royce, paving the way for a new ultra short-haul marketplace that could help time-strapped business travellers take to the skies to avoid traffic congestion. Uber, via its Uber Air and Elevate programme, is already working with partners to create an aerial ride-sharing network based on electric flying taxis.
SAP Concur provides intelligent solutions to help you better manage your business’s travel needs – for instance, by bringing your travel and expense data together in one place, giving you better visibility into travel plans and helping you to manage travel risk. For more information go to: concur.co.uk/triplink