In so many aspects of our lives, mobile has taken over—and for good reason. Our app-driven mobile devices put an arsenal of tools and a wealth of information at our fingertips. Even when it comes to planning travel, mobile booking has continued its steady rise towards being travelers’ preferred method. According to eMarketer estimates, during 2016, mobile booking from smartphones and tablets will in fact account for the majority of digital travel bookings.
However, as mobile booking continues to take off in the leisure travel space, the business travel industry has largely lagged behind. According to Evan Konwiser, VP Digital Traveler at American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), there are some pretty straightforward reasons for corporate travel’s slower pace of innovation. “For one,” Konwiser says, “it’s just harder. There are more barriers in the corporate space.”
But these difficulties won’t stop travel management companies like GBT from turning out innovative tools for today’s travelers. Instead, according to Konwiser, the goal is to take all of these institutional barriers and turn them into advantages for mobile booking. A goal, it turns out, that is not too far in the offing.
While mobile booking apps for leisure travelers can be quickly built out and launched straight to consumers, it’s not quite so simple in the corporate travel space. “A managed travel program at a corporation by definition has to involve a myriad of stakeholders and different systems to be deployed and be effective,” says Konwiser. “And those systems create barriers to quickly launching technology, and they mean that leisure has been able to outpace the speed of innovation in corporate travel.”
On top of this, in the corporate environment, there are typically multiple technology providers, and this can create a lot of friction. While a travel management company provides fulfillment, they might also juggle the delivery of inventory from GDS partners, online booking from a tech partner, travel and expense software from another, and so on. To deliver all that in one app? Well, that will take some time.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom—not at all. While for a long time corporate travel providers have placed a large emphasis on browser-based desktop booking platforms, things are starting to change as the power of mobile is more deeply felt. Travel management companies, including GBT, have recognized the added simplicity and speed that can come with self-service mobile booking. As technology catches up, the future of mobile booking is looking brighter.
Turning Disadvantages into Strengths
The complexity of a corporate travel system will translate into some seriously innovative technology—tools that will be well worth the wait. “If you can integrate into corporate travel systems and if you go through the hurdles, the kind of products you can build are fundamentally more powerful,” notes Konwiser. What are now seen by many as institutional barriers will ultimately be advantages for corporate travel technology—and that’s our goal. “I think that’s our philosophy: to take the compliant integration of all these systems and use them to create world-class products that can fundamentally do more than what you can get on the leisure market.”
The end result of that philosophy? A truly personalized traveler experience paired with the person-to-person service you need, when you need it.
As Evan Konwiser puts it: “If you are tapping in to a managed travel system, and you understand the context of somebody’s trip or their history, and the policy and negotiated rates and preferred suppliers of that corporation, the kind of tool that you can produce to give to a traveler is going to just be so much more powerful.”
The added bonus though is that when this technology comes from a travel management company like American Express GBT, its power isn’t solely in the technology. American Express GBT aims to deliver a self-service tool that includes mobile booking capabilities and more, but it will seek to embed the necessary human support system for when you need it. This powerful pairing only makes sense from our perspective.
“Service has always been in our DNA,” says Konwiser. “It’s 8,000 travel counselors around the world that are human beings, that understand travel, and that know how to get people where they need to go. Finding that handshake between human service and technology is a delicate balance in any service organization, and we’re on a path to find that balance and deliver on both sides of that coin.”
With the mobile booking tools of tomorrow, travelers will be able to better focus on what it is they do best: moving your business forward.