TRAVEL MARKETING REPORT | MARCH 28, 2018
Digital Customer Service is Becoming the Travel Industry Standard
Digital Customer Service is Becoming the Travel Industry Standard
We’re living during a time when technological innovation is easing practically every area of our lives. You can pre-order your Starbucks latte before even leaving the house. You can buy and ship groceries to your house, just by talking to your smart home device. And it’s easy to see how business travel is being simplified too. Ride sharing apps are now acceptable forms of transportation for most businesses. Checking in to flights has never been easier. And managing expenses is a breeze. Even with these changes that seem so simple now, it’s eye-opening to think of what is likely on the horizon of business travel technology.
I recently attended a presentation by Johnny Thorsen from Mezi, an artificial intelligence-powered tech startup. As the Vice President of Travel Strategy & Partnerships, his perspective on the future of the business travel industry was surprising, exciting, and even a little mind-boggling.
Many wonderful advancements are currently on the scene and in action for business travelers.
I was surprised to find that many ideas that seem so futuristic are much closer to reality. Some, are even in action now without most of us realizing it.
Only time will tell if these advancements will come to fruition. We will be watching the horizon closely for new and innovative ways business travel technology is evolving. Check back on our blog for industry updates or to learn how our preparatory technology, AirPortal, is advancing business travel management.
Business travel is an advancing, multi-faceted, and frankly, a pretty complicated industry. That’s why we’ll be breaking down some of the most confusing issues, terms, or functions within the industry in our definition blog series. We’ll identify specific business travel terms and explore its importance for companies, both big and small. We’ll also examine important tips or pain points to consider in your business travel management program. To start off, we will define the ‘GDS’ and how it is used in the business travel industry.
Called the Global Distribution System, or GDS for short, it is essentially the brain of the travel industry. A computerized network system, it provides real-time information to companies; including airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and travel agencies. Each of these industries use the GDS to see real-time inventory of other services in the travel industry. For example, a travel agency can find the number of hotel rooms available, number of flight seats available or cars available on behalf of a client. One distinction is that the GDS is not a reservation system, but instead provides the information and a link to the services.
Travel management companies use GDS systems to locate the best airline ticket, car rental, hotel room, etc., for their clients. They can customize information based on the traveler’s preferences, itinerary, etc. To further complicate things, there are different types of GDS systems available such as Worldspan, Sabre, or Galileo.
When a traveler requests travel from a travel agent, or travel management company, the agent will access the GDS to find the most accurate and cost effective itinerary for their traveler. The TMC is charged each time they access the GDS, but this is typically waved to the client. There is no way for the average person to access the GDS without help through a travel agency or other vendor.
Here’s the thing, they regularly don’t! Have you ever found an out-of-this-world low price on a ticket while using an online travel site? But when you get to the final booking page, the ticket is ‘suddenly’ gone? You have every right to be annoyed, because it likely wasn’t available when you found it in the first place! Due to the cost of accessing the GDS, most online travel sites only look for prices once a day. Through a process called ‘screen scraping’, they take inventory of prices and seats available at one time and continually use that information until the next time they access the GDS. That means that most of their inventory is immediately out of date and typically more expensive.
As with anything in life, there are a few quirks. For example, Southwest Airlines does not work with the GDS company, WorldSpan. Agents who use WorldSpan either do not book with Southwest or must look for pricing directly with Southwest Airlines. Something else that is newsworthy, is the content agreement in which airlines sign to work with GDSs, is up for renewal. Many in the industry are wondering if airlines will be renewing their relationship with certain GDSs. And if not, what does that mean for booking air for the travel agents and their clients?
We hope you learned something new about the business travel industry today. Check back as we dismantle the confusing world of business travel management in the next blog of our definition series. Christopherson Business Travel is an award-winning corporate travel management company. We’ve spent the last 60 years developing our unique approach to integrated technology and dedicated support. Learn more about us and our travel management services on our contact page.
In our digital age, keeping personal information protected and secure is a new normal. Not only do individuals need to be vigilant about security, but also the companies that handle their private information. New regulations from the European Union will inevitably enhance these protections; affecting not just EU residents but potentially globally. With something on this scale, it is certain to affect many other areas, including business travel, even in the U.S.
Starting May 25, 2018, The European Union will be introducing a regulation that fundamentally reshapes how private data is collected and used for EU residents. Called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this change will affect how the E.U., and potentially globally, handles and secures the private information of its users. The EU, like most other nations, already has regulations about data security. Replacing the Data Protection Directive, the GDPR is extensive and more thoroughly defines data security. One of the biggest changes is that the Directive was implemented by each EU member state. The GDPR is a regulation, meaning it must be followed by the entirety of the EU.
The entirety of the EU is updating their standards and practices of data collection. Any organizations based in an EU country will have to comply with these changes. But more extensively, any company involved in processing data of individuals from the EU, regardless of the location of their organization, will also be responsible for updating their data privacy to comply with the GDPR. Meaning, the GDPR will likely alter how the world processes and protects user data.
The GDPR will impact any company that stores or sells personal information about E.U. citizens. For example, let’s think about a hotel in the U.S. books a room for a business traveler from France. This hotel has the liability of observing to the GDPR’s regulations on data security for this European citizen, or potentially be fined. Basically, any company that requires gathering personal information to use at a later time, like name, birth date, credit card information, etc., will need to comply with the GDPR. This will affect not just business travel, but many other areas of industry as well.
Additionally, companies will need to find ways to protect user’s data and information, while also providing easy-to-use and accessible products. Our society is accustomed to immediate gratification and convenience. Keeping needed material like travel itineraries, preferences, and user information readily available, while also keeping it secure may also pose as a challenge.
At Christopherson, we take the issue of GDPR and data protection very seriously. We are currently working with an outside consulting firm to ensure we’re compliant with all new upcoming GDPR regulations. If you have any questions, thoughts, or concerns about our data security, please contact your account manager.