Is mobile the biggest technology challenge facing the travel industry?
Walking the floor of last week’s Business Travel Show threw up a number of interesting developments which were less about innovation and more about services to help travellers on the go.
A few of the developments are worth mentioning as they demonstrate the different approaches companies are currently following while attempting to take into account the data and insight needs of the corporate.
They also highlight some of the issues for those wanting to add mobile to the offering.
The TMC unveiled an application which is essentially an itinerary management tool. The service is based around a timeline of everything a traveller has planned in terms flights, hotels, train journeys etc and itineraries can be broken down to an hour by hour level.
The company says it’s what travel managers are asking for, although things have changed from a year ago when it launched its first app because security teams are now involved and, in many cases, travellers are not allowed to download any apps.
A big positive for the app is that it is part of HRGs iSuite stable and powered by the same database as the TMC’s online booking tool and agent environment.
The rail booking specialist, unveiled a mobile booking app during the show launched in conjunction with its new evolvi ng (new generation) reservation platform.
The app is available for the corporate travellers of TMCs that use the Evolvi solution and takes into account policy compliance, cost centre and management information and reporting issues.
The company launched its mobile platform, CWT Market, in April 2011 providing travellers with a range of apps to help them on the go. Now, with a few months of user data under its belt, the company is pondering the next step.
The itinerary management side of its tool is accessed an average of six times during a trip while elements such as maps, flight schedules and even dining reservations have also be used quite a lot.
CWTs president of suppliers, products and technology, Andrew Winterton, says he feels the company has got the balance of features and functionality about right and adds that it has to be careful about not adding too much complexity.
He has also been surprised by the lack of demand for additional functionality from users.
Noise versus value
As can be seen from the examples, much of the noise was centred on mobile and the various issues facing companies, below are just a few.
- What services to provide the business travel community that add value
- How to get around the complexities of air
- Linking to online check-in – CWT says it’s in discussion with various airlines on this
- How to ensure a seamless path for the traveller and the organisation between mobile device, reservation and finance systems and management information
During an interview with Sabre Travel Network on the eve of the show, EMEA boss Harald Eisenaecher, reflected on how mobile is probably the biggest technology challenge facing the travel industry and how companies deal with the transition from online to mobile.
He says travellers just want connectivity and that includes the ability to shop for and book airfares via mobile and for Sabre it’s about ‘empowering its customers to service their customers’.
Eisenaecher says between 50 and 60 apps have been developed and that the initiative will also help the mobile cause.
Whether mobile is the biggest technology challenge facing the industry is debatable because there are many but what is clear is that there is a shift in developments driven by travellers to more practical apps with the company at the forefront.
Linda Fox is deputy editor for Tnooz. For the past six years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.
In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.
Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.