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Business Travel Digital Services Monitourism

The Business Traveler’s Online Kaleidoscope: Glitter vs. Mirror.

Today’s online marketplace for travel services has become a fragmented picture, full of shiny, new digital tools. Anyone can enjoy the variety of offers, prices, and media to discover, compare, and – ultimately – execute his or her travel opportunities. But, is it really possible for corporate travel service offices to satisfy all of their companies’ travel needs and wants in the digital travel community? Are consumer-oriented solutions emphasizing flexibility over efficiency a viable option for companies too? The MoniTourism Editorial Team analyzes a list of travel services that are answering businesses’ most common requests in the hopes of bringing the business traveler’s online kaleidoscope into focus.

Think of today’s online marketplace for travel services as a jar full of shiny, glittery pieces.

Anyone can enjoy the variety of offers, prices, and media to discover, compare, and – ultimately – execute his or her travel opportunities. Internet-savvy travelers can use a multitude of digital services to ensure that they are getting the most affordable solution under optimal conditions while, at the other end of the spectrum, travelers with limited digital proficiency can easily jump into the app-sphere to get the most convenient solution when the need arises. That is the beauty of our modern, digital world: every taste for every palate.

But, is it really possible for businesses – and, specifically, corporate travel service offices – to satisfy all of their companies’ travel needs and wants in the digital travel community? Are consumer-oriented solutions emphasizing flexibility over efficiency a viable option for companies too? To better understand how businesses are reacting to this paradigm shift from centralized travel offices to the do-it-yourself model of self-organized business travel – as well as how the business travel market is re-organizing itself - The MoniTourism Editorial Team analyzes a list of travel services that are answering businesses’ most common requests:

1. Tools for Booking Travel Within Company Policy

• Ovantage is a loyalty-reward program – from Ovation Corporate Travel - in which business travelers who adhere to their company’s cost-saving policies score points that can be redeemed for merchandise from digital stores. By bolstering employee compliance with corporate stipulations without costing companies time or resources administrating the service, Ovantage is a win-win for employees and companies alike.

• Similarly, Rocketrip encourages employees to cut costs by rewarding travelers who stay within their company’s budget with a piece of the savings. Aligning corporate policy with the do-it-yourself attitude of today’s self-organizing business traveler, Rocketrip allows employees to walk away with cold hard cash and businesses to protect their bottom line without costing them any additional time or resources.

2. Tools for Booking Travel Outside Company Policy

• While certainly not new to the travel and tourism industry, Airbnb, an online marketplace where people rent homes or rooms to short-term visitors, is now becoming an increasingly viable option for business travelers. Whereas business travelers would normally search for travel accommodations (like hotels) first and a place to work second, the cost-effectiveness of Airbnb allows travelers to search for larger travel accommodations (like entire floors or houses) which can double as office spaces. As a result, Airbnb is flipping the script on business travel: increasing business travelers’ productivity while, simultaneously, cutting costs on hospitality.

Concur is an automated expense and travel management system that currently processes $50 billion worth of expense reports a year for 20,000 corporations. While Concur® Expense and Concur® Invoice allow business travelers to streamline their expenses and invoices, respectively, through paperless technology, Concur® Travel allows travelers to book and manage their business trips as well as align their travel with company policies, helping employees track their expenses and making it easier for businesses to keep an eye on their bottom line.

• As the line between private vehicles and public transportation continues to become increasingly blurred, Uber, a ride-sharing startup, is taking a big leap: expanding insurance coverage for drivers that use its service. By providing coverage for drivers using the service without any passengers and expanding coverage for drivers using the service with passengers, Uber is cutting costs for business travelers’ transportation as well as decreasing liability for companies whose employees opt for ride-sharing on business trips over public transportation.

• Owned by Concur, TripIt is a travel organizing app that not only makes organizing business travel easy, accessible, and free but lets business travelers automatically share their itineraries through social media outlets like LinkedIn in order to connect with potential business partners in their network as well as get advice from residents and fellow travelers. As a result, TripIt helps employees and companies alike maximize their business trips’ commercial and social appeal.

In addition to answering businesses’ most common requests, these tools also highlight the top strategies guiding success in the business travel industry today:

  • cost-saving measures through cheap alternatives for business travel, accommodation, and transportation and gamified incentive programs;
  • efficiency and productivity boosters for both businesses (such as expense and travel tracking) and their employees (travel booking with increased ease of use, accessibility, and flexibility and less risk);
  • and, maximizing business potential by increasing networking opportunities and generating contacts with shared services.

When taken one by one, the above strategies and tools are certainly powerful - with great potential for travel businesses and business travelers alike. But, it cannot be understated that, for most companies, business travel is a complex combination of opportunities and costs, either companies allow their employees the flexibility to seize business opportunities that suit their travel style at the cost of time, resources, and efficiency or they tighten their policies, saving time and resources on travel, administration, and expenses at the cost of potential business opportunities. At least, that has been the paradigm so far.

But, the model for the business travel industry is changing. With the advent of these new, digital tools, a discussion of the trade-off between opportunity and cost sheds light on the possibility of more comprehensive solutions. One such solution is what we here at MoniTourism are calling Digital Travel Tools Integration, a corporate infrastructure composed of a technical platform and new skilled resources. Where the platform connects hand-picked company tools – because no two companies are alike when it comes to organizing and operationalizing their travel – to the resources to manage such a system, we see an industry professional fond of digital services, travel management, and human resources: a Digital Travel Tools Manager.

What we see as a trend, then, is the rise of Digital Travel Tools Management in post-iPhone era companies, people who can select the best tools in a fast-paced, ever-changing online marketplace and piece them together using out-of-the-box or custom-made digital platforms. With a multifaceted set of skills, a Digital Travel Tools Manager can pursue both efficiency and flexibility by connecting travel services that would otherwise just be glittery pieces of bigger picture.

When looking through the business traveler’s online kaleidoscope, the glitter means nothing without the mirror, something to piece the glitter together and form the beautiful kaleidoscopic image.

The MoniTourism Editorial and Analytical Teams are organizing a “wardroom roundtable” on the opportunities of this emerging trend. If you would like to participate, e-mail us at pr@monitourism.com.

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