Technology applications in travel programmes, events are top concerns among Chinese travel managers: CWT survey

THE adoption of technology in corporate travel and meetings and events continues to be a key focus among Chinese travel managers, found a recent Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) survey.

Conducted among 113 travel managers in China between February and March this year, initial results of the survey revealed that data security, big data and mobile technology are seen to have a big impact on corporate travel programmes in 2016, while the utilisation of technology in meetings and events has gained in importance among a larger percentage of respondents.

Seventy-six per cent of respondents ranked data security as having a very high impact on travel programmes this year, compared to 61 per cent last year. Seventy-one per cent thought big data was most important, compared to 45.7% last year. The use of mobile technology was deemed a top concern among 68.2% of respondents, compared to 48.6% last year.

Akshay Kapoor, Asia Pacific head of CWT Solutions Group, said findings from a 2015 study on data security by the Ponemon Institute support the CWT survey outcomes.

“(The study) estimated that the average cost incurred for each lost or stolen record containing sensitive and confidential information is US$154, and the average total cost of a data breach for the 350 companies participating in the study was estimated at US$3.79 million. New, unknown threats are constantly emerging (and) security risk is being consistently ranked among the top concerns of travel managers and travellers,” said Kapoor.

The need to leverage big data to support travel policy and buying decisions also stems from rapid improvements in the collection and availability of data.

“Travel managers now have access to multiple sources of data including travel management companies, credit cards, expense reports and supplier data, and the formats in which we capture data have also evolved and are now more diverse. Additionally, and very importantly, the speed at which data is generated and processed will define the agility with which travel managers are able to respond. Real-time is the new expectation, and the evolution of social media has played a big part in this as well,” Kapoor added.

Commenting on the rise in importance placed on mobile technology, Kapoor said a 2015 study by Trefis had projected the number of monthly active smartphone users in China to increase to 705 million by 2018 and retail e-commerce sales in China to cross US$1,500 billion by 2018.

“It comes as no surprise that business travellers are relying on their smartphones and tablets to provide them with the information they need (for their trips). Nine out of 10 respondents to (our) survey want to be able to book hotels on their phones, while 88.6% of them want to be able to book flights,” he said.

Kapoor pointed out that CWT has responded to these concerns as they emerged, putting in place various policies and corresponding procedures aimed at protecting client information to tackle rising concerns surrounding data security; launching CWT AnalytIQs in October 2015, a tool that uses the power of big data to create a complete picture of clients’ travel programme in real time; and becaming the first travel management company to launch a smartphone app version of its online booking tool, CWT Online, in China back in 2013.

Other key findings on transient corporate travel are:

40% believe that using social media to communicate with travellers is not top priority

In 2015, 66% (the highest) felt that CSR, duty of care, risk management is the key responsibilities of travel managers in the future, but in 2016, only 21% felt the same way

Top priority in 2016 for hotel programme is consolidation, while in 2015 it was negotiating for amenities

For air travel, the top priority in 2016 is to implement advance booking; in 2015 it was striking a balance between negotiated and restricted fare usage

For air strategic assistance, traveller behaviour review concerns have dropped from first to fourth in ranking of importance; airline contract competitiveness takes first place in 2016

For hotel strategic assistance, hotel rate benchmark is the top concern this year

Analysis of hotel and air spend are named the most urgent needs among travel managers

In the meetings and events space, consolidation of meeting spend (65.7% of respondents, up from 58% last year), economic conditions (59.2%, a new entrant to the chart) and utilisation of technology (57.8%, up from 36% last year) are seen as having the biggest impact on meetings and events this year.

When asked how technology will change the way the Chinese meet, Michael Chiay, senior director, Asia Pacific with CWT Meetings & Events, said apps are now available to feed content to delegates and gather feedback for event organisers.

“A number of apps now allow delegates to instantly “talk back”, comment and participate in creating further content during an event. In a country where mobile penetration is among the highest in the world, the Chinese will be among the world’s most innovative consumers of meetings and events technology.”

Chiay added that many leading venues today are ready to support this evolution, as they “have world-class infrastructure, including high-speed wireless Internet access that supports the deployment of mobile technology”.

The CWT survey has reported greater use of telecommunications and video conferencing – from 12.4% to 27.6% of respondents.

Chiay does not think that this trend will hurt travel business, as “it is no longer who attends an event that is important, but rather who participates”.

“Face to face meetings will always have relevance in a world where personal connections and relationships are important in business,” he explained, adding that “the adoption of video conferencing creates opportunities for hybrid meetings where organisers bring content to a much wider participant base”.

Other key findings on meetings and events are:

60% of respondents (the highest) believe that the key responsibility of travel managers is managing meetings and events

Two in five say meetings and events requirements will remain unchanged in 2016

The need to centralise meetings and events management has dropped from first to fourth place in terms of importance

More results and detailed analysis of the findings from the survey will be released later this year.

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