SINGAPORE, 24 August 2022: Business travel and the travel manager’s role changed significantly during the pandemic due to uncertainties and travel disruptions, according to the latest research released by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), supported by FCM.
“The Evolution of Travel Programme Technology” survey explores how technology has impacted the travel manager’s role, the traveller experience, and the travel management company (TMC) business.
During the pandemic, digitalisation and the use of technology accelerated as travellers were driven online, experiencing contactless and touchless travel. But surprisingly, this research now shows 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. As companies return to travel and update their travel policies, many use this opportunity to reassess supplier relationships and technology requirements for the post-Covid environment.
“The corporate travel manager’s role changed significantly due to 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 GBTA CEO Suzanne Neufang. “Keeping updated and communicating with travellers has renewed urgency for companies and travel managers looking to their TMCs to advise on innovative ways to manage travel programmes effectively while keeping travellers safe.”
“The rapid pace of technological innovation presents tremendous opportunities for travel managers and managed travel programs as we return to business travel. Travel managers cite technology as the most important factor when selecting a TMC,” said Marcus Eklund, Global Managing Director, FCM.
“The study also showed that on average, nine in 10 global travel managers say a consistent technology experience is of utmost importance. It’s essential TMCs be at the forefront of technological advancements to advise travel managers and help solve corporate global travel challenges.”
- Technology is the most critical factor when travel managers select a TMC, ahead of costs/fees and account management quality and support. Three in five (59%) travel managers include technology as one of the most important factors when selecting a TMC. However, two in five respondents (42%) include technology as one of the top pain points of their primary TMC.
- Online booking tools have a dominant role. Almost all travel programmes (96%) use an online booking tool (OBT), the most popular technology component. However, other technology solutions are less frequent, including reporting dashboards, TMC mobile apps, re-shopping tools and single-use virtual payments, to name a few. This suggests many travel managers might primarily associate travel technology almost exclusively with OBTs and thus, might be unaware of other solutions that can create efficiencies and streamline travel programme components.
- Sustainability and OBT tools. 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%). The score for sustainability messaging was just 4%, excluding less sustainable options from search results 2%. However, many travel managers are interested in configuring their OBT to do these things.
- Widespread interest in chatbots. Seven in 10 travel managers are interested in artificial intelligence-enabled chat. These chatbots can answer travellers’ questions or help them make bookings. Despite the strong interest, chatbots are largely not a reality for most travel programs. Fewer than half say their TMC app includes a chatbot that can answer traveller questions (44%) or help travellers make bookings (29%).
- Artificial intelligence (AI) transforms reporting. Travel Managers are widely interested in using AI to enhance reporting (87%), data cleansing (82%), personalisation of search results (78%), and auditing of expense reports (62%).
- Mixed NDC understanding. Travel managers’ understanding of the New Distribution Capability (NDC)is mixed, with many being largely uninitiated with the XML-based data transmission standard. One-third (30 per cent) say they know “some but have more to learn,” while one in five say they know “virtually nothing” or only “a little” about NDC (20% each). While one in five (21%) travel managers report their programme offers NDC content through their TMC/OBT, a third (34%) are unaware if their TMC/OBT offers NDC content – suggesting NDC is not top of mind among many travel managers.
GBTA surveyed from 14 February to 21 March 2022 with responses from 309 travel managers based in the US, Canada, Europe, and the Asia Pacific.