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Business Travel Executive Q and A

Executive Q&A: Christopherson’s CTO Talks About The Role of AI in Business Travel

Next up in our Executive Q&A series is an interview with Christopherson’s Chief Technology Officer, JB Walsh. JB shared his expertise and insight on artificial intelligence (AI) and its place in business travel software.

 

JB Walsh, CTO at Christopherson Business Travel

Q: Before diving into the application of artificial intelligence in business travel, let’s just start with your thoughts on where things currently stand with AI. 

A: AI has been in the media for years now, but several factors have more recently allowed it to mature to a level where it is being used prevalently across multiple industries. Being comprised of multiple sub-disciplines, AI required advances in deep learning, machine learning, and even natural language processing to really take hold.

Q: For any of us non-tech people, can you explain a bit more about deep learning, machine learning, and natural language processing?  

A: Sure. Deep learning are the advances in hardware and cloud services that have allowed real-time analysis of much larger data sets than ever before. Machine learning is the result of the rapidly growing marketplace of off-the-shelf machine learning tools that have opened the doors to inexperienced users wanting to experiment. And natural language processing refers to the advances in natural language processing engines that have allowed developers to easily apply AI services in a variety of new platforms such as mobile devices, bots, etc.

Ultimately, all of these advances mean it’s much less expensive today to invest in AI than it was 5 years ago, so the adoption of AI is growing rapidly.

Q: So how do you see AI being used in the business travel industry?

A: Travel companies across all verticals in the industry have troves of anonymized data available to them for use in business travel-related AI applications and services. An example of this would be the personalization of products and services where anonymized business traveler data is being segmented into various profile types and is then used to predict everything from flight, room, and car preferences, to the best times to offer value added products and services.

Another example would be self-service offerings where AI is used to create bots that can interpret natural language input from business travelers to help them self-service their bookings and other travel needs.

Reputation management is another example. In this case, AI-based applications monitor social networking feeds to determine real-time customer sentiment and automatically intervene where appropriate to abate potentially negative situations.

As a travel management company with industry-leading proprietary software and an in-house development team, we are consistently evaluating where our technology can benefit from AI and in turn restructuring the data we store. Doing this allows us to provide clients with continually better tools that actually help them make informed decisions for their travel programs.

Q: What do you think are the most important benefits of AI for business travel managers?

A: One of the great benefits of AI is the ability to self-serve. Servicing individual traveler needs can be very time consuming for corporate travel managers and can create a work load that fluctuates dramatically. By using technology that employs AI to allow business travelers to self-service their bookings, travel managers can save a lot of time and help mitigate large fluctuations in workload.

Another benefit would be the ability to better evaluate their travel program more quickly. One key success metric for travel managers is to achieve cost savings while retaining high levels of service. While some changes to a travel program may be obvious, AI can uncover seasonal or other less obvious trends that could lead to big cost savings.

Q: From your perspective, do you have any predictions for AI progress or applications in the near future?

A: Today, AI requires large sets of data in order to find meaningful patterns. Additionally, the data still needs some level of intervention by people in order to identify what data is important and what data isn’t.  I think the focus over the next five to ten years will likely be to improve in these two key areas. Advances in these areas would allow AI applications and services to run on less powerful devices and make real-time decisions with less historical information. These advances would also help alleviate the growing issues around storing large amounts of personal data while also opening the doors for more advanced self-service bots, innovative disruption management services, and new fraud detection techniques.

Q: Do you have any tips or advice for business travel managers regarding AI?

A: The starting point for travel managers is to understand the data they have available to their organization. Then they need to identify how it can be used to drive additional revenues or lower expenditures. If they’re unsure of how to do this, Christopherson’s Account Managers work closely with our clients to do exactly this. I would also encourage travel managers to utilize our software integration with Domo, to better understand and visualize their data, so that they can in turn make data-driven decisions that benefit their travel program.

Read More Executive Q&As Here

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Business Travel Guides

Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: COVID-19 TRAVEL VENDOR HEALTH & SAFETY GUIDE

 

“COVID-19 will reinvent the travel process around safety, cleanliness, and virus transmission protection. Terms like social distancing, personal protection equipment (PPE), and antibody immunity testing are now part of our new travel vocabulary. We are up for the challenge, and we will reinvent ourselves to help you and the travelers for whom you have a duty of care responsibility.”

– Mike Cameron, CEO, Christopherson Business Travel

Cleanliness is Key to Safe Travel

Do I need to wear a mask at the Delta terminal? How crowded is United’s economy class? Is Marriott practicing social distancing? Has Hilton discontinued breakfast or housekeeping? Will National sanitize my rental car?

There is a lot of apprehension about the safety of travel during this coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, you need to know what steps travel providers are taking to keep their airline cabins, hotel rooms, and rental cars clean.

A Comprehensive Guide to Travel Vendor Cleanliness Standards

We want to help corporate travel managers make smart decisions with their business travelers. To that end, we created a COVID-19 Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide. This in-depth resource will be updated regularly. It provides relevant information about travel vendors’ health and safety standards. You may want to bookmark this page and share it with your business travelers.

Vendor Health & Safety Measures

In the COVID-19 Travel Vendor Health & Safety Guide, you’ll find a list of the steps travel providers are taking to keep travelers healthy. The guide begins with links to major sources of pandemic safety guidelines and TSA protocols. It then moves on to measures being implemented by major airline, ground transportation, and hotel brands.

If you have questions or concerns about cleanliness and health in regards to business travel, we invite you use this guide. Doing so will allow you to review and compare vendors’ overall efforts to provide a safe travel experience.

Guide last updated: April 22, 2020

Download Guide

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Business Travel

What is Corporate Travel Management?

Did you know that nearly 1.3 million business trips are taken in the U.S. every single day? According to the Global Business Travel Association that number is expected to rise. Yet, only 60% of companies have a corporate travel policy, the lack of which exposes their company to unnecessary risks like legal complications or overspending. Incorporating a corporate travel management plan can help a company realize a positive ROI on their travel, protect employees while on the road, and improve morale and employee retention rates.

So what is corporate travel management?

Corporate travel management is more than the simple act of booking flights and hotels. It is the integration of an organization’s travel program with a travel management company that can provide expertise in managing travel risks, logistics, budgets and reporting, company travel policies, VIP travel services, unused tickets, and more.

A well-run corporate travel management program empowers employees with industry-best technology, mobile access, and data-based decision making that increases the value of business travel.

What Does A Corporate Travel Management Company Do?

Corporations, non-profits, universities, government agencies, and private businesses of all sizes hire corporate travel management companies to facilitate their corporate travel program. For companies with large travel programs or extensive travel needs, an in-house, on-site travel team may be an ideal service set up, while smaller companies might rely on the corporate travel management company’s agents and online booking tool. Regardless of company size, all clients enjoy the convenience and cost-savings that are accessible through a corporate management company and prefer the peace of mind that comes from having experts handle their business travel needs.

Other benefits of hiring a corporate travel management company are:

  • Reduced costs—From booking airline tickets and hotels to car rentals and insurance, utilizing the leveraged negotiating power of a corporate travel management company helps organizations reduce overall travel expenses. Integrating travel policies and better managing unused airline tickets all lend to reduced costs. Plus, utilizing the expertise of a corporate travel agent means better planned business trips, access to low fare searches, and other money-saving/time-saving opportunities the most savvy business traveler may not be aware of.
  • Managed policies—Corporate travel policies protect your company from unnecessary risk and inform your business travelers of your expectations. These policies are in place to avoid legal problems, meet government and local regulations and requirements, and provide for your employee’s safety while traveling. A well-run corporate travel program that maintains strong risk management and enjoys greater cost savings is based upon travelers’ compliance with a well-written, well-communicated, and fully-integrated corporate travel policy.
  • Time management—Leaving business travelers on their own to plan their trips and find low fares across myriad internet sites with a plethora of options ultimately wastes time. By employing the expertise of experienced corporate travel agents who have the technology and know-how to quickly plan and execute on your travel plans means both time and money is saved with a corporate travel management company.
  • Integrated Online Booking—While there are multiple online booking websites as well as options to book directly with a vendor, doing so potentially means you’ve got reservations in multiple locations for one business trip. A better option is to provide corporate travelers with an online booking tool that is integrated with your program, policy, and negotiated rates so they can still have the autonomy of booking travel online, while keeping those bookings in a centralized location. This also allows the corporate travel manager to maintain duty of care standards and locate travelers in an emergency. A corporate travel management company can provide this technology and assist with full integration.
  • Data & Reporting—Measuring the success of your travel program is critical to justifying travel costs and prove the ROI. A corporate management company will provide the data you need to make informed decisions and deliver the right reporting tools to track spend, savings, traveler behavior, and more.
  • 24/7 365 Day Traveler Support—When your travelers are on the road, they may encounter situations that require support at any hour. By partnering with a corporate travel management company that delivers support 24/7 365 days a year, they can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having the assistance they need when they need it.
  • Mobile Technology—With mobile technology, your travelers can access their itineraries from anywhere in the world, receive alerts to breaking conditions, and immediately contact support. A mobile access point that has all the needed information at their fingertips is critical when searching for hotel confirmations, car rental locations, and flight information.

What Is The Difference Between a Corporate Travel Management Company and a Travel Agency?

If one word were used to explain the difference between a corporate travel management company and a travel agency, it would be “partnership.”

By partnering with a corporate travel management company you have a relationship you can rely on to help you create and implement travel policies, negotiate vendor agreements, access and integrate the latest trends and best practices, fulfill reporting requirements, and more.

While a travel agency may seem similar, travel agencies typically only manage the booking of travel and do not provide in-depth management, analysis, or expertise on how to build a thriving, cost-effective corporate travel program.

Ultimately, with a corporate travel management company, you get a high level of care and concern for the health and success of the entire corporate travel program as well as the experience to manage it with expertise.

What Tasks Will A Corporate Travel Management Company Perform?

A corporate travel management company ultimately provides the corporate travel software, services, and solutions that help manage business travel spend, traveler bookings, travel policy, unused tickets, vendor relationships, and more. Along with delivering support 24/7 365 days a year, a corporate travel management company also provides risk management tools and support so you know where your travelers are in real time in the event of an emergency.

A few of the tasks corporate travel management companies assist with include:

1 – Book travel and provide itineraries. Whether booking business travel online or with a corporate travel agent, the arrangement of your logisitcs—from flights to hotel to ground transportation—are organized for a seamless travel experience. All bookings are also integrated with corporate travel policies for cost-savings, compliance, and risk management.

2 – Expert vendor negotiations. A key benefit of corporate travel management companies is having the expertise of an Account Manager to assist you in vendor negotiations. Through their expert analysis of your travel program’s patterns and volume, they can leverage your spend with airlines, hoteliers, and car rental companies to get better rates and perks for your travelers.

3 – Traveler profile management. Today’s travelers are savvy. They want to maintain and enjoy their reward program status and be able to count on experiencing their travel preferences even when they’re on the road for work. A corporate travel management company can help you manage those individual and unique traveler profiles so every reservation is booked with those preferences and membership numbers integrated. Perks, rewards, and points are earned and travelers don’t have to enter their info every time they book. It’s a win-win.

4 – Arranging business meetings and events. Whether you are planning a small executive retreat or have a 50,000 person conference to arrange, a corporate travel management company often has a dedicated meetings and incentive trip team to help you handle the unique needs of planning a corporate event. From coordinating audio visual equipment to arranging the shipments of displays to managing attendee registration, a corporate travel management company can direct every detail of the experience you are trying to create.

5 – Integrating corporate travel policy. Having access to integrated corporate travel technology allows you manage a more sophisticated, streamlined, cost-saving travel program. One of the most important things to integrate when you begin working with a corporate travel management company is your travel policy. Doing so allows you to take advantage of your negotiated corporate rates, ensure that you aren’t overspending, maintain better duty of care, and more easily track and report on spend.

What Challenges Do Corporate Travel Management Companies Help Companies Overcome?

As mentioned previously, one of the greatest benefits of partnering with a corporate travel management company is being able to rely on their experience and expertise. This becomes particularly valuable when challenges arise for business travelers on the road. Here are just a few difficulties organizations may face and how a corporate travel management company can help.

Cancelled trips or delayed flights – On average, a cancelled business trip costs a company around $900. Corporate travel management companies help mitigate that cost by:

  • providing ‘round-the-clock service so travelers have rebooking assistance in the moment
  • providing technology to manage unused airline tickets if the trip is cancelled
  • providing assistance in working with vendors for refunds, vouchers, or any recourse available

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold, the partnership of a corporate travel management company proved to be essential with the flurry of cancelled business trips.

En route support – Any company with multiple travelers on the road in either domestic or international locations (or both) experiences the challenge of providing support to everyone at all times. A corporate travel management company with 24/7 365 day traveler support mitigates that challenge by delivering assistance to your travelers no matter where they are in the world. For example, if an employee is delayed due to weather conditions or misses a flight or forgot to book a hotel, support can be facilitated, flights can be rebooked, or accommodations quickly made.

En route safety – Duty of care should be a top priority for any company with business travelers. By employing comprehensive travel policies, communicating safety protocols and emergency plans, and utilizing risk management technology, companies can decrease the risks associated with business travel in measure. And if a safety or emergency situation does arise en route, corporate travel management companies can provide the support companies need to get their business travelers home safely.

The New Reality of Business Travel in A Post-COVID World

Managing traveler safety, wellness, and the overall experience throughout the next decade is going to be a top priority for corporate travel managers. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the necessity of better managing risk, increasing policy compliance, and implementing strong communication plans.

As we move farther into 2021 with the rollout of vaccines and a return to more normal life, business travel has already begun to resume. Companies are eager to make up lost ground in developing business relationships. After all, nearly ? of business travelers believe that it is difficult to build working business relationships via Zoom calls.

But business travel will certainly look different and any employee hesitation to travel will need to be addressed. Companies need to communicate how their preferred travel vendors are complying with COVID-19 regulations for safety and cleanliness. Companies will also need to take into account border restrictions or required quarantines on either end of a business trip.

A corporate travel management company can provide the resources travel managers need to keep travelers well-informed and make smart, safe decisions for their travel program.

How To Choose A Corporate Travel Management Company

Whether you’ve supported your business travelers internally for two months or twenty years, contacting a corporate travel management company to learn how they can service your unique needs is an essential step to streamlining your travel program.

Here are a few things to look for in a corporate travel management company:

  • Innovative technology with mobile access for travelers
  • Online booking tools and experienced corporate travel agents
  • 24/7 365 customer support
  • Account management to guide your program
  • Extensive vendor networks and leveraged connections
  • Data analytics and reporting tools
  • Global travel expertise

Why Christopherson Is Your Corporate Travel Management Solution

Christopherson Business Travel delivers the industry-leading technology companies need to save money on business travel, achieve their corporate travel program goals, and meet their travelers needs. We also employ the expertise of Account Managers who develop unique travel management plans that help clients deliver an ROI on their business travel. And we provide an easy, integrated booking experience both through the online booking tool or with our corporate travel agents that leaves business travelers satisfied.

To schedule a demo of our program and tools, click here.

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Business Travel Travel Industry

The Ultimate Guide to REAL IDs for Business Travelers

Editor’s Note: Since the time of posting, the Department of Homeland Security announced a 19-month, pandemic-related delay of the deadline to obtain compliant Real IDs. The new deadline is May 3, 2023.

READY TO TRAVEL? YOU CAN’T TAKEOFF UNTIL YOU’RE REAL ID READY

Vaccinations, laptop, sunscreen – check. REAL ID. What? You might be ready to travel, but starting October 1, 2021, you’ll need a compliant REAL ID or another acceptable ID form for domestic travel. Here’s what you need to know before you take off.

A QUICK BACKGROUND OF THE REAL ID ACT

The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005 in response to 9/11 Commission recommendations to prevent terrorism, was designed to make our forms of personal identification more consistent and secure.

But enforcement of the Act has been a long time coming. According to the New York Times, “The rollout has been delayed many times over the years after some states complained that the original deadline of 2008 was unreasonable.”

Timing may not have been the only factor. The cost, about $3.9 billion, was largely footed by the states, as federal aid to implement the Act totaled only $225 million. States also had difficulty getting the databases used to verify residents’ paperwork to function correctly.

And just as states were lining up their ducks for the Act’s enforcement deadline in 2020, a global pandemic blew them out of the water.

Many states responded to the pandemic by closing their Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices, the agencies largely responsible for issuing REAL ID-compliant documentation.

State and federal agencies responded by granting grace periods for expiring driver’s licenses to minimize in-person contact and its inherent risk of infection to DMV employees and the general public.

THE CURRENT STATUS OF REAL IDs

In response to the pandemic, the National Governors Association sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in March 2020 requesting a minimal year-long extension of the REAL ID enforcement deadline.

That time is almost up: enforcement of the REAL ID Act begins on October 1, 2021.

Source: Department of Homeland Security

According to the Federal Register, “Beginning on that date, federal agencies may not accept a state-issued driver’s license or identification card for official purposes from any individual unless such license or card is a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that DHS has determined is in full compliance.”

Without a REAL ID, you will be unable to travel within the United States by air—or enter certain federal buildings, Department of Defense installations, and nuclear power plants.

To prepare for Act enforcement, the DHS maintains a map showing state compliance. If your state is compliant, and your driver’s license or non-driver identification card is due to expire before the October 1, 2021, deadline, the new ID issued to you will have a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip, indicated by a star symbol, or will be “enhanced,” depending on your location.

A compliant license will be marked with one of the star symbols shown below, and an enhanced license will be marked “enhanced.”

Source: Department of Homeland Security

Since many driver’s licenses lapsed during the pandemic and resultant REAL ID-enforcement grace period, travelers should ascertain the status of their documentation and act quickly. The DMV lines are likely to be long—and we all want to get back in the air.

To help you become compliant, questions regarding REAL ID enforcement are addressed in the following FAQ section. Additional information can be obtained from your state or local DMV office and the DHS.

REAL ID FAQS FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS

When is the Real ID deadline?

  • All driver’s licenses will be accepted until October 1, 2021. On that date, TSA will only accept compliant state-issued IDs.
  • Passengers without a compliant form of ID will not be allowed through TSA security checkpoints beginning October 1, 2021.

Who needs a REAL ID?

  • All U.S. travelers flying domestically need a REAL ID or other acceptable form of ID unless they are minors traveling with a REAL ID-compliant adult.
  • TSA PreCheck flyers need a REAL ID or another acceptable ID form.
  • Passengers using and enrolled in CLEAR need a REAL ID.

How do I tell if I have a REAL ID?

  • State compliance doesn’t guarantee that your ID is compliant. If your ID isn’t marked with a star, check with your state driver license division.
  • Most compliant driver’s licenses are marked with a star at the top of the card. Check with your state DMV if you are unsure of compliance.
  • Some states—New York, Michigan, Minnesota, and Vermont—issue both “enhanced” driver’s licenses and REAL ID-compliant licenses; both of these forms are acceptable.
  • Washington State issues only enhanced licenses, which are also compliant with the REAL ID Act.

How do I get a REAL ID?

  • To get a REAL ID, present acceptable identity verification documents in person at your DMV office.
  • You can use the interactive map on the DHS’s website to make a plan with your local DMV to be REAL ID ready.

What kinds of documents are acceptable?

  • At a minimum, you must have documentation of:
    • your full legal name
    • date of birth
    • Social Security number
    • two proofs of principal residence address
    • lawful status

Some states may have additional requirements, so check with your DMV before visiting in person.

Are other forms of identification acceptable?

  • If you don’t have a REAL ID, other forms of identification are also acceptable:
    • A federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID is also an acceptable form of identification.
    • A valid passport can be used as identification for international travel instead of your driver’s license.

What forms of identification are not acceptable?

  • The TSA currently doesn’t accept mobile driver’s licenses.
  • Paper temporary/interim driver’s licenses are not an acceptable form of ID.
Source: Department of Homeland Security
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Business Travel Business Travel News Roundup

Business Travel News Roundup: April 2021

A monthly roundup of business travel news, featuring important technology updates, helpful links and resources, and the latest from the industry.

Christopherson Connections: A Virtual Event SUCCESS! 

Thank you to everyone who attended our first-ever Christopherson Connections virtual event! Here’s what a few attendees had to say:  

  • “Thank you! Great sessions filled with helpful information.” -Jennifer B.  
  • “This conference has been wonderful! Great job! Love the DJ!” -Amy M. 
  • “This is the most fun I’ve had all year!” -Teri S. 

If you were unable to attend or would like to watch the keynote or breakout sessions again, please reach out to your Christopherson Account Manager for the event links. Each session provides key information about purposefully returning to travel and what our vendor partners are doing to support and protect your travelers.    

CDC Says: Vaccinated People Can Travel 

The CDC has said that fully-vaccinated people can resume domestic travel and do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.

As for international travel, they said fully vaccinated people do not need to get tested before leaving the United States (unless required by the destination) or self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States. Although you do still need a negative test to board an international flight to the U.S.

Read more about the announcement here. 

Executive Q&A: Christopherson’s CCO Talks About the Era of Purposeful Travel  

We continued our Executive Q&A series last month by interviewing Christopherson’s new Chief Consulting Officer, Matt Cameron. We sat down with Matt to get his thoughts on the travel industry entering “The Era of Purposeful Travel.” What is it and how do organizations implement it? Read the interview here 

5 Major Pains Travel Managers Face as Travel Resumes In 2021 (& How To Overcome Them)  

To help smooth your transition back into traveling, we reached out to several travel managers and asked what major pain points they face as they contemplate getting employees back on the road. Here’s what they said + solutions for each challenge 

Strong Customer Authentication: All your Questions Answered  

Paying for travel in Europe has become more complicated following the introduction of mandatory cardholder verification known as Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). SCA is straightforward for consumers but, when it comes to corporate travel, an authentication step makes matters messy because third parties are often involved in the reservation and payment process. Read this Q&A to learn what you need to know.  

Back to Travel Guide: 2021 Updates on Vaccine Programs, Digital Health Passes & More  

This Back to Travel Guide, created by our global affiliate BCD Travel, helps travel stakeholders lead their companies and travelers to safe, efficient and necessary travel decisions. These What You Need to Know reports are also helpful, timely resources.  

Good News Break 

Here are a few non-travel-related stories our team members enjoyed and wanted to share.  

Click here to review more of our Business Travel News Roundups.