by WEX Travel
For an industry dedicated to taking people from one physical location to the next—in providing in-person, culturally immersive, tangible experiences—there’s an awful lot of technology driving its momentum. In their report, Travel Distribution: The End of the World as We Know It?, London School of Economics notes, “the travel distribution industry is rapidly becoming a technology industry. Business models will need a more strategic approach that recognizes the value creation of different technologies across the industry.” Let’s take a look at why this rings true—from the consumer and industry player perspectives.
Travelers: Engaging with Digital Touch Points
So many of a traveler’s activities revolve around technology, the most prominent being web-based tools and resources that help them get from point A to point Z and everywhere in-between. Here’s an overview of the role technology may play in a traveler’s experience:
- Researching – Trip planners seek inspiration and information online via brand or travel agency sites, review sites and social media conversations.
- Booking – More holidaymakers are making arrangements online (from PCs or mobile devices) from supplier sites, OTAs and even through traditional travel agency websites and apps.
- Getting There – When it’s time to leave for the airport or catch a ride to dinner, travelers can purchase rail tickets online or order an Uber from their smartphone. At the airport or on the airplane, they can continue their online planning activities thanks to WiFi.
- Reviewing – During and after the trip, many travelers are eager to share their experiences with other travelers on review sites and social media.
Travelers are taking advantage of technology before, during and after trips. They expect their travel partners/suppliers to accommodate their preferences for mobile sites, apps, WiFi and more. And this demand comes from both the leisure and corporate markets around the globe.
Travel Companies: Boosting Organizational Capabilities
It’s simply imperative that industry players—agencies, suppliers and even corporate travel managers—invest in their internal technology infrastructures to support their increasingly tech-based operations. They also need to put resources into providing in-demand consumer offerings, especially those enabling travel shoppers to perform self-service tasks online and through apps.
These technology requirements impact the talent travel companies are attracting and developing, as they need people with the skills and expertise to build, develop and implement new systems and software programs. This is the case even if they work with third parties to introduce new workflows and deploy customer-facing technologies. In either case, the travel company’s rank and file looks more and more like that of a technology company—filled with programmers, data analysts and highly skilled network administrators.
Let’s not forget big data. Travel companies are called upon to provide customers with “end-to-end” technology that fits seamlessly into nearly every step of the experience. Their ability to do this lies, in part, to their ability to know their customers and understand how they make decisions. The data generated by website and app behavior are helping travel organizations segment their customers and deliver highly personalized offerings. For more on this topic, read Big Opportunities for Big Data in the Travel Industry and Big Data Becomes Real for Online Travel Agents.
Payments Go Virtual
The AP departments of travel companies are also leveraging the latest technology, which includes single-use virtual card numbers. Among the greatest advantages of digitizing their supply chain and payments operations are the improved cash flow and enhanced process data. It also helps reduce costs. According to the Global Business Travel Association, Travel managers spend 442,000 hours in staff time ($22.7 million) per year to manually reconcile and clean travel data and 82% have to manage multiple data sources to answer questions from management about travel spending.
As discussed in Travel Payment Analytics and the Power of Virtual Card Numbers (VCNs), payments professionals who use digital payments provide better service to suppliers and have ready access to data that helps streamline their processes and provide insight into company’s spending.
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