Report: Business travel should be mobile and predict users' needs

Businesses travel booking systems, and businesses that use them pay attention: Travelers' expectations are evolving along with technology.

5 tips for security while traveling Gone are the days of having to struggle for connectivity while on the road or even in the air. But that doesn't mean it's easy.

Travel commerce platform Travelport released a report that travel management companies (TMCs), and their customers should pay close attention to.

The report, which focuses on trends in mobile travel apps and software, makes a number of trend and survey-based predictions about the future of travel apps in 2020 and beyond. What it finds is that business travelers increasingly expect a mobile, self-service, AI-enabled, personalized experience.

SEE: How to stay cybersecure while traveling for business: 6 tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

These trends are an important consideration for companies in the business travel world, but they're also important for businesses that use TMCs or other commercial booking platforms: Two-thirds of tech professionals say they would consider finding another job due to subpar tech in the workplace. 

Here are three big standouts from the report for both TMCs and TMC customers.

1. Treat business customers like regular consumers

"It's time to reimagine the business travel experience," Travelport's head of digital business travel Julie O'Sullivan said. "Maintaining an effective travel program to reduce travelers from using non-approved channels is difficult, and next-generation agency solutions need to commit to fixing this."

Anyone who has used a corporate travel platform knows the headaches they can present. Unfriendly user interfaces, and the unnecessary hoop-jumping required to complete a booking lead to 68% of travelers saying they use unapproved channels to book trips. 

This is bad news for TMCs and organizations looking to tightly manage company travel. The solution, O'Sullivan said, is to treat business customers just like regular consumers, giving them self-service platforms that are always available when they need them.

2. Invest in artificial intelligence  (AI)

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming a key part of successful software, and the travel world is no different. 

"We now want technology to anticipate our needs and not wait to be asked," said Mike Wake, VP of technology at Travelport. Machine learning, the report concludes, can reduce the average booking time from 60 minutes to just six: That's a massive difference that can eliminate headaches, save money, and make unexpected changes in a travel itinerary hassle-free. 

According to the report, only 38% of travel brands plan to invest in machine learning and AI in 2020. That's good news for TMCs that haven't decided where to head in 2020: Investing in emerging machine learning tech could give them a leg up on the competition by offering something the majority aren't.

3. Go mobile

Around a third of travelers, the report states, booked and paid for their trips using only a mobile device. That number may seem low, but Travelport thinks it will rise. 

According to the report, "87% of respondents have downloaded more travel apps than last year, proving that apps are providing travel brands with unparalleled opportunity to continuously engage with customers through a device they carry on their journey."

Push notifications are popular with mobile app users as well--they can provide up-to-the-minute information, help save money when flight costs change, remind users to complete a booking, and more. 

"Mobile has become the one item travelers won't leave home without, and a good mobile experience has become a central element on which they are now judging your brand," the report concludes. 

For TMCs and their customers alike, the latest tech is paramount to success. Without the latest tools business travelers will avoid booking with TMCs, and their employers could end up looking for other travel vendors. 

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