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Friday, December 23, 2011

The End of corporate Travel as we knew it!

2011 Time person of the year in is "The Protester". People fighting for their freedom, mainly using CAR (Computer Assisted Revolution).

The corporate world, especially in country where the economic recession will put pressures on jobs and projects, will obviously be changed by this tidal wave. Transparency will become number one request by travelers in their companies, but guess what, it's not the number one for Travel managers. The more you dehumanize your travel policy (rules created and published without any explanations) the more the risk to have "protesters" in your company.

I want to choose my tools and devices

Travelers, travel arrangers will ask for using the tools they want on the device they want. They know how to perform and will not accept anymore choices made by others without being asked. They use tools like the ones created by Google, HipMunk, and Superfly with great user interface, and easy way to find what they need. We have to admit, corporate Online Booking Tools are still far away from their counterpart in the B2C world (even if recent improvements were done). 

I also have the feeling that B2C online services in travel will kill (or force morphing) in the mid term pure B2B suppliers: Concur bought TripIt, Rearden moving to Deem and Traveldoo being bough by Egencia, (what will be the future for KDS?). Corporate Travel policy are so stringent and their revenue model so tight that Corporate Online Booking Tool can not survive alone in the B2B world.

Trip lifecycle needs to be humanized and customized to each traveler

Online adoption is linked to booking tool user experience, but also to the processes pit in place. Online is not always the best way to interact.  More and more, travelers will prefers to talk to humans as some point in their journey.

Some, could not afford anymore, to spend hours on a tool to see all possible biased (by the travel policy) choices they have. They want to go straight to the point ... In the coming months, new solutions will be launched to ease corporate booking being done on B2C tools, reinforcing then the role of travel agents as "travel advisers and facilitators".

Travelers need travel agent answering their call in a reasonable time, speaking well their native language and able to answer timely and effectively all demands. Some road warriors will do everything themselves, but others will request help.

Revolution in Trip Planning and shopping

Trip planning and shopping will be done more and more with existing B2C web sites (Kayak, Orbitz, Google, etc.). Trip planning tools will be able to give travelers a CAP of their trip cost and propose some great tips based on how they want to optimize their trip (fare, time, agony, etc.).

So B2C tools will be used to find preferred flights or hotels. Then, their choices will be sent to an online (or offline) "travel policy compliance service" configured to implement the corporate travel policy. It could be a tool or a real human behind a computer or a phone. Then, in the next 15 minutes, travelers will get back a proposal compliant to the travel policy (preferred suppliers) and  the corporate rates.

Booking will be eased, and  ordering a trip will be only a click (or screen tap) away. Each trip segment will be then checked and validated in real time against compliance rules (and you got a sort of automated approval rule). Safety and security rules, plus warning information about visa and money currencies could be set immediately.

Booking direct or Booking through Travel Agents (aka through GDS)

At that moment, a new disruption is then possible. You can book directly to the airline or Hotel web site or use a travel agent (TMCs, OTA). Ideally, this should be defined in your travel policy. The next step being, of course, the capability to send this booking to the expense management tool, to avoid data entry.

Companies, due to hard economic time and talent retention needs, will not be spending time and money anymore on building a specific travel booking platform for their company. They will try to go with the flow and benefit from others. The Saas (software as a service) model is here to stay. This SaaS model will be then applied on the whole travel lifecycle to enable Business Process Outsourcing and best of breeds solutions adoption.

Impact of Mobile of the travel lifecycle

The travel industry is being transformed by Steve Jobs vision "there's an app for that". Every micro-need could be served by a dedicated app and a dedicated supplier. The travel industry being very fragmented, this is a great opportunity for local "champions" to emerge (like Uber for "black cars", high speed train apps, etc.). That's why new marketplace will emerge in the travel 2.0 industry ... That's also why B2B On line booking tools have no future. Power of the crowd is here to stay.

Corporate travel tools needs to move from a monolithic view where only one tool does all (the OBT), to a marketplace of micro-trip services offer (based on mobile app for example) across the travel lifecycle where the traveler can buy what he/she needs when he/she needs it with the device he/she wants and at the negotiated price (compliant to the policy).

And what about:
  • Global Itinerary? Well depending on the travel policy a company could rely on a travel agent for all bookings and in that case, it will be offered. If not, then the travel policy compliance service offered could be used for building the itinerary. Finally, tools like TripIT (most pervasive) or Wipolo (most social with its great Facebook integration) could do it.
  • Duty of care? Again, based on the travel policy, the duty of care service could be feed by the travel agent, the travel policy compliance service or could be done manually by the travelers. Most of the time these services are offered by third party companies (like Ijet or Myassist).
  • Expense Mgt. Expense capture will be done more and more on Mobile. Expense tracking could be done via credit card data transfer to dedicated tools. So Global New Entrants like Expensify or dedicated credit card tools will do the job.
Corporate Protesters and Transparency 

Travel Policy is the cornerstone of the "Corporate travel", make it pervasive in the travel 2.0 world (best tools at the best moment on the travel lifecycle), explain the objectives behind the main rules of the policy (track and report on them internally to see if objectives are met), educate your travelers (preferred suppliers, tips and tricks, etc.).

Travelers needs to understand why the corporate travel policy was created, and what benefits for them and the company you are looking for. They also want transparency, to ensure that exceptions to the rules are not the golden rule. The rules should be the same for everybody, even if several travelers types could be defined (VIP, Frequent traveler, occasional traveler).

Exceptions should be created to make the corporate world more human. A travel policy, should take into account travelers age, health, travel/rest ratio (number of trips per month), average length of your travels, ancillary services they could benefit from, type of flights (domestic or intercontinental), etc.

The travel policy going hand and hand with duty of care, it should be clear to both parties what the company must do for its employees and what employees must do when then book and travel. For example:

  •  frequent traveler should have a better Health / safety
  •  security insurance while occasional traveler should be better supported at time of booking and trip planning
  • Better car should be rent in winter i certain zones
  • etc.
Some predictions to conclude

  • Social network will be used to document best practices and engage discussions. But also to document the ones not following the policy. Exceptions to the policy need to be tracked and reporting should be shared. Transparency is good, but you need to create some limits, for sure. Instead of reporting on people not following policies, you can report on teams (and reduce their travel budget for the next quarter), or comments on non compliant behaviors. 

  • Gamification will be key to create fun around the travel policy and to reward the ones that "play the game"
  • Mobile and API will be used for and more for on the go, on demand travel policy compliance. Request for spend request could be created easily and approved more or less automatically. Best price or trip options will be found more easily. Travelers will use more and more mobile immediacy to request corporate Big Mother, and move away from their Big Brother fear.
Corporate Protesters will look for justice within their company since justice will be less and less visible and accessible outside. It is a great opportunity to engage the dialogue with employees to understand their needs and to use the travel policy as a way to define "the rules" and make them understood and applied by all.

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