By Ilona Kierstead
Government Accounts Director, Sabre
Travel Managers today are increasingly challenged with addressing consumerization and new traveler technology to achieve travel program goals and deliver a positive experience for their travelers. To better understand the key trends and forces impacting the industry, Sabre and the GBTA partnered on the study “Travel Manager 2020.” Here’s what we found:
The study uncovered that 80 percent of travel managers consider mobile strategy a top priority. Mobile capabilities such as booking, itinerary management, payment, and data capture have become must-have tools for today’s business traveler.
Mobile technology will play a larger role in the near future as the business traveler population grows younger and more Millennials move into the work force. Millennials have the highest rate of adoption of technology, with the majority of their business being done on smart phones and other mobile devices.
Travel Managers surveyed frequently responded that solutions related to mobility, especially apps for booking on mobile devices, to become a higher priority in the future. With the prevalence of smart devices and other consumer-oriented technologies, today’s travelers expect more choices and more information while they are on the go.
For the business traveler, technology is not just about the capabilities it delivers, but also about being connected and able to consistently access information.
A few years ago, when the U.S. government approved the use of iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones, they factored the user’s perspective into their decision, which is a trend that continues today.
According to the Forrester report, “Predictions 2016: The Government’s Slow Progress,” the biggest changes in government IT to expect in 2016 are in areas of customer experience, mobility, big data, and digital government.
The report notes that government agencies have experienced success adding to their customer experience toolkits, rolling out new mobile apps, and embracing data transparency and agile interagency collaboration for digital government.
But it’s not all about smartphone and app technology.
According to the Sabre and GBTA survey, 78 percent of respondents ranked traveler safety and security as a top priority.
Duty of care for both civilian and government travelers has become an integral part of travel management programs with an increased awareness of traveler well-being. The global nature of business in today’s world creates additional health, safety, and security risks that require a proactive duty of care program if and when an incident occurs.
To leverage the dependency on smart devices for keeping travelers informed and updated on the go, mobile technology is poised to play a greater role in duty of care, especially where mobile technology can help with communications and traveler tracking.
In addition to traveler security, data security is also a top priority. The E-Gov Travel Services 2 (ETS2) program requires that vendors meet high level security standards that include data encryption, multi-layered authentication controls and network segregation to control access to sensitive data.
Data security and traveler security can extend beyond booking platforms when independent booking through charge cards is introduced. According to the Sabre and GBTA survey, 66 percent of respondents ranked adopting a virtual payment solution a high priority. As travel managers seek to meet their program objectives while still delivering a positive traveler experience, virtual payments is one technology that is well-positioned to do both by simplifying the experience for travelers while giving travel managers more visibility and control.
Data Collection & Reporting
Travel Managers also report that they place a great deal of value on having access to travel data, for contract negotiations with suppliers, monitoring compliance and identifying hard dollar savings. Access to data helps them to more easily demonstrate the value their program brings to the company.
Mobile technologies empower today’s self-sufficient travelers and, for the travel manager, they can also provide a means to track travel behaviors, which can be used to identify trends and optimize travel policies and programs. Balancing these two perspectives can produce a more effective travel program that better supports overall revenue and profit goals.
Nearly 84 percent of travel managers who responded to the survey mentioned that technology is the driving force behind their expectations of taking a more strategic role over the next few years. They believe mobile technology, virtual payments, and traveler security will be their highest priorities in the near future. More flexible and accessible mobile solutions will increase business traveler satisfaction and play a greater role in duty of care by enabling traveler communications and tracking, while virtual payments solutions can help ensure policy enforcement and data security.
We have reached a tipping point in managed travel as a result of travelers’ rising expectations and other factors driving up the costs and complexities of running an efficient travel program. The travel industry has embraced consumerization of travel technologies by focusing on the traveler experience and incorporating smart technology trends within their travel programs to increase adoption and compliance, while providing a means to track travel behaviors for enhancing future travel policies and programs. As the travel industry continues to evolve, technology providers are tasked with bridging the gap between traveler flexibility and how travel managers use technology to manage their operations.
Sabre is a Gold Sponsor at GovTravels, the NDTA symposium on government travel & passenger services March 29-31. All information represents the viewpoint of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of NDTA.