Our experts discuss the key issues facing business travel this year and what you can do to mitigate them
Industrial strikes. Brexit. The US presidential election. Terrorist incidents. Saying that 2016 was an eventful year is something of an understatement. If we learned anything last year, it is that we are living in very unpredictable times. How can we navigate our way in a rapidly changing world? We asked some of our travel, meetings and events experts what the key issues for 2017 will be, and what you can do to mitigate them.
Managing safety and security has become a vital part of travel and meetings programmes. Event planners and clients see security as their “number one priority”. On a more positive note, although awareness of security threats has risen, most high profile destinations are open for business as usual.
To address these issues, CWT’s business travel and meetings and events (M&E) teams have developed robust crisis management and business continuity programmes, and partner with International SOS to ensure that we are always aware of and prepared for the latest developments around the globe.
As safety has moved to the top of the agenda, with more prominence expected this year, Jo Dobson, senior director sales at CWT has seen security and traveller wellbeing become a core decision making factor. To counter the impact of travel on stress levels and support business travellers on the road, CWT Solutions Group has devised a unique 33 step process to combat traveller stress.
Technology – Giving the people what they want
‘As the deluge of consumer apps continues to arrive on the market, business travellers’ expectations are increasing and demand for consumer-standard user experience is changing the game. We want apps that seamlessly steer and aid our experience throughout the entire travel cycle.
Whether it’s virtual payments, getting alerts based on your likes and location, or instantly messaging colleagues on the other side of the world; we demand more information and amenities from our smartphones, all delivered at the right time and in the right way.
Personalisation will become the norm and tailored to individual travellers. To help make this a reality, CWT has developed traveller segments. Jo Dobson, predicts that sending pre-trip emails geared towards traveller types is the next logical step.
Social media still has a huge influence while providing wider audiences and exposure for events. With this large-scale media sharing comes more user data which creates the potential for positive personalisation. Virtual reality is becoming commonplace, often used to boost delegate participation, and has the potential to be used more commonly in the business travel industry. Artificial intelligence such as chatbots are already being used in travel and we expect this to become more prevalent.
Challenges of driving compliance
With more choice in the consumer market comes greater autonomy and further opportunity to book outside of approved channels. Non-compliant bookings are a regular problem for travel managers, leading to supplier agreements, reduced costs and secure traveller tracking being ignored. Senior director of programme management UK & I, Nigel Turner, recommends ‘behavioural economics’ is used to influence traveller. Using a process of incentives such as department competitions or prize winning for booking compliantly are just a couple of examples of how this can work.
Bridging the gap
As online adoption increases, retaining control and taking responsibility for travellers is essential. Loyalty programmes could give a personal touch and encourage compliance.
CWT account management director Phil Brook thinks there is a real opportunity for travel management companies to develop exceptional services for business travellers.
“This is the rationale behind our new digital difference strategy. By bridging the gap between a high touch service and maximising our technological capabilities, the approach will be more customer and user centric rather than being stakeholder based.”