Innovation in Government Travel in 2020 and Beyond
Technology and innovation are changing the government traveler’s experience—and will continue to do so in the future. Just how technology is doing this was the subject of the Innovation in Government Travel in 2020 and Beyond panel presentation during the NDTA-DTMO GovTravels Symposium, held February 24-26, 2020, in Alexandria, Virginia.
The panel was moderated by Tony D’Astolfo, Senior VP North America, Serko, Ltd. Panel members included Jeff Register, Deputy Director of the Defense Human Resources Activity; Marques Tibbs-Brewer, Senior Sales Director at SAP Concur; Rob Connors, Vice President Business Development at Enterprise Holdings; Steve Croft, Head of Global Online Booking Tool Partnerships at Travelport; and Nick Vournakis, President, Military & Government Markets CWTSatoTravel.
Panelists provided a cross-section of opinions on topics, which began with a discussion on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Panel members agreed AI shows promise for government travel. AI presents opportunities in predictive analytics, and in reducing friction and the need for human intervention throughout the travel process. In these instances, AI would allow service providers to be proactive, rather than reactive, to issues such as travel disruptions and to eliminate some of the more repetitive or mundane tasks associated with booking and managing travel.
Omnichannel engagement is on the rise. According to the panel, this is already a standard expectation and way of operating for most people. Providing a seamless connection and experience between channels and platforms is vital and requires a tremendous amount of cooperation in the travel ecosystem.
“We work really closely with our TMC [Transportation Management Company] partners to make sure that we are able to engage the customers the way they want to be engaged,” said Mr. Tibbs-Brewer. “So if they want to call great, but with the demographics changing and the workforce changing, text, chat—that is the key to communicating.”
Content fragmentation and New Distribution Capability (NDC) are already in use within the travel industry and appear primed to expand. The retailing of airline products in which booking a trip now includes a menu of options such as baggage, seat selections, and other add-on features is an example with which most people are familiar. To Mr. Register, this runs the risk of complicating policy and compliance for the government.
Options such as bundling services may mitigate some of these challenges for the government, “to the extent that GSA starts to negotiate things other than airfares, then industry needs to be ready for that, and that’s a very distinct possibility in the near future,” said Mr. Vournakis. He added that “one of the things you potentially lose as a result of NDC is transparency and comparison shopping.”
Changes to demographics, including an influx of Millennials and Gen Z-ers into the workforce, are driving many of the technology changes discussed by the panel. Understanding and evolving with this trend is especially important for the Department of Defense, where 46 percent of service members are under the age of 25. As the government travel space develops to meet ever-changing expectations, those involved will face the challenge of balancing compliance, policy, and security with customer experience.