Corporate travel is often hailed as the B2B segment that embraces technology and innovation the most. Mobile solutions have disrupted the space, enabling employees to track their expenses and build out expense reports, while automated digital tools help managers eye employee spend and ensure accurate and secure transactions.
Recent analysis of the business travel technology and solutions space suggests this adoption of disruptive tools is far from waning.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Foundation and Sabre Corporation published new research on the use of mobile technology among corporate travelers and concluded mobile solutions are not only gaining further traction, they’re proving beneficial to those adopters.
Researchers found that 78 percent of business travelers in the U.S. prefer to use self-service tools — like those they can access on their mobile devices — to manage their travel and expenses. It marked the highest percentage of any other market, ahead of Italy (77 percent) and Canada (74 percent).
As mobile tool adoption spreads, however, there may be a challenge among the developers of these solutions, as well as employers and managers, to balance personalization and privacy.
“In North America and Europe, the vast majority of business travelers also want to receive personalized travel options,” TravelDailyNews reported on the research. “However, even though business travelers want personalized options, they are hesitant to share too much personal information to obtain them.”
The GBTA Foundation and Sabre found that travelers are often willing to share information like frequent flyer numbers, hotel loyalty numbers, preferred brands for travel and seat preferences. Less common, they found, is a willingness to share travel history, leisure activity preferences, social media account names or business calendars.
“Technological innovation has given business travelers greater control over their own travel, but that doesn’t need to mean trouble for a managed travel program,” stated GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick. “Travel buyers can recommend apps for their travelers to help drive compliance and can also take advantage of technology to track and more easily assist their travelers in case of emergency, helping fulfill their duty of care requirements.”
In some ways, researchers said, mobile app adoption among corporate travelers may have grown too large.
The combination of travel supplier, travel management, itinerary management and expense management apps provides a dizzying array of options for the traveler. GBTA and Sabre found that travel supplier apps are most commonly used; in North America, travelers want mobile apps to check in for their flights, generate digital boarding passes and book flights and hotels.
Further, corporate travelers are often left to their own devices, so to speak, when choosing which apps to use. The majority of companies surveyed said they don’t recommend travel apps, or require certain apps, for their employees. Just one-fifth said their business requires certain mobile apps for business travel usage.
Areas of Potential
According to Sabre Senior Vice President of Strategy and Traveler Experience Clinton Anderson, a saturated mobile app market for corporate travelers can be a problem — but can also present an opportunity.
“This report … reflects a crowded and fragmented technology landscape, where travelers have to use multiple apps and services to manage their trip,” he explained. “We see an opportunity to integrate critical technologies into a single platform to help business travelers throughout their entire trip.”
“This will dramatically increase traveler satisfaction, while improving program compliance and reducing costs for corporations,” he added.
While solutions developers may want to focus on consolidated, streamlined tools that incorporate multiple services on one mobile interface, there is one more major area that could present an opportunity for the corporate travel and expense management space: mobile payments.
GBTA and Sabre found that a significant portion of corporate travelers would be interested in using a mobile wallet or mobile payment tool while on their trips; 79 percent of U.S. corporate travelers that are millennials (aged 18 to 34) said they would be interested. The majority of Gen X (aged 35 to 54) in the U.S. said the same.