Corporate travellers seek easier booking process, but industry adoption is slow


Speakers and buyers at the ACTE Summit in Singapore on Tuesday shared that corporate travellers are growing to expect the business travel booking experience to rival that of consumer travel booking.

Lena Khoo, regional travel manager APAC, Credit Suisse, observed: “Travellers want the same booking experience between their personal travel and business travel.”

E-commerce is the next step in the business travel sector

The consumer booking experience features a highly customisable and personalised booking experience, which can be achieved and tracked via artificial intelligence and data. The use of such data would enable business travellers to automatically access their preferred travel options – from add-on baggage and extra leg room on flights to breakfast options and room type for accommodation – that are within company travel policy.

To this effect, suppliers implored TMCs and travel managers to be more receptive to technological innovations, such as IATA’S new distribution capability (NDC) certification.

NDC enables airlines and GDS to store data on each customer’s booking preferences. The system would allow the corporate travel booking experience to parallel the regular e-commerce experience.

To date, some 50 airlines have achieved NDC certification, but no TMC has adopted it.

“Current corporate airline booking systems don’t allow for consumer-driven booking experiences. It’s dumb technology that cannot be customised to take into account each product and customer,” lamented Campbell Wilson, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Singapore Airlines.

Todd Arthur, regional head, vice-president, Sabre, recommended that popular regional routes for corporate travellers, such as Singapore-Hong Kong and Hong Kong-Sydney, be personalised using “all the data that airlines have”. In turn, TMCs can take charge of customer service in dealing with travel disruptions.

He cautioned: “We need to unlock (ourselves from) the way things have been done in the past. If your travel policy is too locked down, people will find a way to get around it. TMCs and travel managers that don’t get on board may be completely bypassed because the airlines are already there.”

Ramesh Daryanani, VP global sales APAC (ex-China), Marriott International, said: “Whoever can own the whole customer journey – from the flight to the stay and post-stay – will win in the end. It can alleviate the travel experience and capture data to better serve the traveller.”

Adoption does not come easily for travel managers however, lamented Khoo, who revealed that it can take some two years for new technology to be implemented in the finance industry.

“What’s missing now is that technological advances are not taking off as fast as we hoped. But we have already implemented a travel expense mobile app, and it’s the start of things to come,” she said.

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