CTMs go offline, allowing TMCs to better manage Covid-19 complexities

Although technology has been a great driver in past years, the pandemic has changed that

While travel technology can help to simplify corporate travel programmes, complexities created by the Covid-19 pandemic in the last year or so have forced corporate travel managers (CTMs) to go low-tech.

Florence Robert, regional senior travel and operations manager, Asia-Pacific, Ericsson, said it was “a slight setback for a lot of travel managers who were pushing for online adoption”, adding that the technology is only “starting to come, but it was not there”.

Although technology has been a great driver in past years, the pandemic has changed that

Like other CTMs who made the move, Ericsson blocked its online booking tool because it was “not able to cope to the level of security and checks that we needed to have in place” during the pandemic, according to Robert who spoke at the April CAPA Live CTC Master Class.

Robert acknowledged TMCs have started to provide tools to address corporate pandemic needs, but they were “still a work in progress”, explaining that booking a PCR test was still being managed offline by the TMC.

SAP Concur’s TripIt constantly updates information on Covid-19 travel requirements, while Egencia Travel Advisor was created to provide a list of detailed restrictions and requirements to help employees and their travel managers decide if a trip should go ahead.

Dionne Yuen, senior global sales manager, added Egencia had also launched a live chatbot mobile app for travellers to contact an agent round the clock “to cover any gap” in a manual booking as “we can never eliminate the human touch because it does provide a different possibility”.

Moderator Kurt Knackstedt, CEO, Troovo, opined one part of the argument in managing a complex situation was to make the channels simpler and to “take away multiple channels online, offline, email, mobile, etc, and just go offline “back to calling an agent and getting advice”.

However, SAP Concur’s Paul Dear, senior director supplier management (EMEA), countered that even though complexity in the current environment and fragmentation of channels and travel restrictions had increased substantially over the last 12 to 18 months, it remained necessary to maintain all booking channels – instead of reducing them – to enable CTMs to capture data for a clear understanding of their solutions.

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