Corporate TravelThe pain and the pleasure of dealing with the evolving corporate travel landscape.

Technology and the travel manager: The times they are a ‘changing

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Two in five travel managers cite technology as one of their top pain points.
Two in five travel managers cite technology as one of their top pain points. Photo Credit: Paul Bradbury/iStock/GettyImagesPlus

Business travel and the role of the travel manager has changed significantly during the pandemic.

Now the question is: how can travel managers best serve their companies and business travellers as corporate travel returns?

A new study explains how the industry will continue to evolve to navigate new headwinds including inflation, COVID-19 infection spikes, and the threat of further travel disruptions.  

The research study released by the Global Business Travel Association(GBTA) and made possible by FCM — “The Evolution of Travel Program Technology” shows - surprisingly perhaps - that two in five travel managers cite technology as one of their top pain points, highlighting that there is still work to be done in achieving the right balance.

The survey also notes that as companies return to travel and update their travel policies, many are using this opportunity to reassess supplier relationships and technology requirements for the post-COVID environment.

“The role of the corporate travel manager changed significantly because of the pandemic, elevating the position as companies navigated unprecedented challenges. Given the fast pace of change, technology has played a vital role in ensuring the efficiency of travel programmes,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO, GBTA.

Added Marcus Eklund, global managing director, FCM. “Keeping updated and communicating with travellers has taken on renewed urgency for companies, and for travel managers looking to their TMCs to advise on innovative ways to manage travel programmes effectively while keeping travellers safe.

“It’s essential TMCs be at the forefront of technological advancements to advise travel managers and help solve corporate global travel challenges.” 

Key highlights from the study:

  • Technology is the most important factor when travel managers select a TMC, ahead of costs/fees and account management quality and support.
  • Almost all travel programmes (96%) use an online booking tool (OBT), and as such, is the most popular technology component of a travel programme. However, other technology solutions are less frequently used, suggesting many travel managers might largely associate travel technology almost exclusively with OBTs and thus, might be unaware of other solutions that can create efficiencies and streamline travel programme components.
  • Few travel programmes use their online booking tool to promote sustainability. Fewer than half say their OBT shows carbon emissions in search results (44%) or displays lower emission flights higher in search results (10%), provides sustainability messaging (four per cent) or is configured to exclude less sustainable options from search results(two per cent). 
  • There is widespread interest in chatbots. Seven in 10 travel managers are interested in artificial intelligence-enabled chat.
  • Travel managers’ understanding of the New Distribution Capability (NDC) is mixed, with many being largely uninitiated with the XML-based data transmission standard, suggesting NDC is not top of mind among many travel managers. 

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