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Digital Customer Service is Becoming the Travel Industry Standard

TRAVEL MARKETING REPORT | MARCH 28, 2018

Digital Customer Service is Becoming the Travel Industry Standard

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Business Travel Travel News

Business Travel Technology – Cryptocurrency, Chatbots, and Apps, Oh My!

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.

Innovative travel apps currently available to business travelers

Many wonderful advancements are currently on the scene and in action for business travelers.  

  • Dufl– This luggage delivery app has been around for a few years now. This service provides busy travelers with a solution for luggage and clothing. Acting like a virtual closet that cleans, stores, and sends your garments to the traveler when they need it. Easily have the luggage sent to your hotel, and ship it back to Dufl when you leave. 
  • Seateroo– This app allows passengers to sell premium airline seats to another passenger once boarding has completed. Anyone looking to make a little extra cash can post their seat of the app for a desired price and see if anyone is willing to switch spots. 
  • Roomer– A solution for hotel guests who wish to cancel non-refundable hotel reservations. This app allows users to sell their reservation, rather than eat the cost of the room. Others looking for a room could use Roomer to find a good deal at typically discounted prices on hotel bookings.  
  • Turo– A peer to peer car sharing app and website which allows people to rent out their personal vehicle to others needing a car for a day or even weeks at a time. 

 

Innovative business travel technology on the rise:

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.

  • Chatbots for travel- If you’ve used a chat feature on a website, you’ve likely communicated with a chatbot at some point. This artificial intelligence technology is a computer program that conducts messaging and conversation like a real human. Often an experienced agent stands by to intervene when the chatbot can no longer answer the questions. It is actually currently available, with about 60% automation. Chatbots and their capabilities are expected to increase and be used more seamlessly in the future.
  • Cryptocurrency will become more prominent- Without getting in too deep into defining cryptocurrencies and blockchain, this is a digital currency that is growing in popularity and acceptance. So much so that it is currently being used for business transactions in 29 countries. It is not controlled by banks, making transactions instant, with the flexibility to be used for public or private matters.
  • Smart Contract could replace hotel RFPs- Using the same block chain technology used in cryptocurrency, hotels may be able to benefit from its advanced security features. The idea is simple, Smart Contracts take out the middleman, the GDS, and replace it with transactions using cryptocurrency.  Implications could be interesting for Group, Meeting and Event contracts, as well as annual business travel contracts.
  • Self- driving cars- aside from changing traditional car rental, self- driving cars can potentially take the place of small meeting rooms. Why travel to one location, when you can meet, communicate and negotiate while already on the way to your errand? It could also serve as a more convenient mode of transportation for regional travel. It could be possible to travel by self-driving car, work and sleep in-route,  and wake up in your destination city. The need for a short flight and overnight in a hotel may be unnecessary.
  • TSA screening – TSA will change and become more profile-based; making the presence of the TSA screening that we know today almost invisible. Signs of this are already here, like advanced technology being tested in TSA Pre-Check lines in select airports. 

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.

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Business Travel Travel Industry

GDS & Business Travel: Definition Series

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.

What is the GDS?

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.

How do TMCs use the GDS?

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.

How do online travel sites use the GDS?

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.

Anything else I should know?

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.  

 

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Business Travel Travel Industry

How The European GDPR Will Affect Business Travel

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.

What’s going on?

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.

Why is this important?

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.

What are the specifics of the GDPR?

  • Regulation – Because this is a regulation and not a law that needs to be enacted at the country level, there should be a greater degree of harmonization of data protection, across the EU in all industries.
  • Increased protection of personal data – The definition of ‘personal data’, is widening, further protecting individuals. Online identifiers, like IP addresses, are now included as data that should be protected.
  • All organizations, regardless of location, will be under the GDPR’s requirements – If an organization is in the EU, offers goods or services to individuals in the EU, or monitors behavior of individuals in the EU, they will be required to abide by the same GDPR requirements and standards for their data security.
  • Increased fines – If any of these organizations does not comply, it can lead to fines up to 20 million EUR or up to 4% of total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year.
  • Consent requirements – The GDPR also creates a higher standard for consent for the individual, for collecting, using, storing, and processing their data. With clearer and less ambiguous language, consent protocol will be straightforward. Consent will be voluntary, without the use of pre-ticked boxes, silence, or inactivity not constituting as consent. It will also be easier to revoke consent.
  • Breach notification standards – If a company’s data is breached, they are required to report the data breach to the data protection authority without undue delay and, where feasible, within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach.
  • More thorough data protection in new products – Moving forward, data protection must be considered from the onset of new technologies and products. No longer will it be an afterthought, quickly solved post launch.

How will the GDPR influence business travel?

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.

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Business Travel Travel Tips

14 Safety Tips For Business Travelers

One of the amazing byproducts of travel is finding yourself in out-of-the-ordinary situations. In most cases, discovering a new food, meeting new people or experiencing a new culture is an exciting thing. But unfortunately, this travel byproduct can also lead to harmful situations; like natural disasters, burglary or worse. In a time that feels like danger is lurking behind every corner, most travelers are realizing more preparation is required to stay safe. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of safety tips for business travelers, We’ve also included a few recommended products to keep close while on your journeys.

14 safety tips for business travelers

Before you leave:

  • Research, research and more research. Know what to expect at your destination city, around your hotel, and which neighborhoods to explore.
    • Try different news and information sources than you typically check before travel or planning a trip. You might be surprised by the additional information you can find this way.
    • If you are traveling internationally, always check the U.S. Department of State travel and individual country information. Find best practices for traveling, as well as travel advisories you may not have been aware of for different regions of countries.
    • Check foreign news sources, like BBC, which can provide insights not highlighted in U.S. news sources.
    • Reading the travel advisories on the Canadian or Australian Department of Foreign Affairs websites may provide additional insight as well.
  • Participate in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Register and provide your travel details, so the U.S. embassy will know that you’re in the area. Download the Smart Traveler App to stay informed and in contact.
  • Always find medical clinics nearby when you’re traveling by registering with the International Association on Medical Assistance for Travelers.
  • Splurge for the international phone plan. It will be worth it in an emergency. And reap the benefits by staying in touch while you’re out of the country.
  • Take photos of important documents and information, like passport, driver’s license, and a credit card. Keep a copy with a family member or friend at home, or in a locked site like DropBox.
  • Always have a support system in place before leaving. We, of course, recommend a trusted travel management company or agency, who will always be available should something arise. But travel insurance or a family member with your itinerary and information is always a good idea too.

While traveling:

  • Try to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb and dress like a local.
  • Stay in groups if you are planning on going somewhere a little risky. By staying with a pack, you will likely avoid pickpockets, theft and even kidnapping. Even in light of the Las Vegas and Paris events of 2017, the most common threat to travelers will be pickpocketing or other petty crimes.
  • Don’t unplug. Unfortunately major events can happen at any time, even if you’re on vacation. Bring your phone, keep it on, and subscribe to major alerts in your area. Our favorite is our SecurityLogic® Travel Alerts, which automatically alerts users of events, weather, and emergencies depending on their location.
  • Travel light and cheap.  Avoid designer luggage that may draw attention and keep expensive items at home.

Products to keep with you while traveling:

  • Personal emergency alarm – This lightweight device sounds a high-pitched alarm if you find yourself in an uneasy situation.  It’s perfect to take while sightseeing or if going for a run in an unfamiliar area.
  • Alarmed door stop – Feel 100% safe in your hotel room with a door stop alarm. Take it with you when you travel, and simply place next to any door that may need extra security. Should someone try to enter unexpectedly, the door stop will be engaged and sound an alarm.

Business travel can expose travelers to new situations and locations. To take full advantage of these opportunities, it’s best to be prepared and aware of potential risks. We hope this post helped plan your future trips. If you are interested in learning more about how our business travel management services supports your employee’s travel risk, please contact us.

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