Over the past few years technology developments in the managed travel sector has accelerated and companies are starting to see the potential of targeting business travellers. From new innovations to large consumer operators moving into this sector, 2015 could be a big year for the following:
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2014 saw Amadeus showcase various innovations, including piloting a search-and booking-integration with Microsoft’s personal information manager, Outlook. When a user accepts or creates an event in Outlook, the system immediately displays bookable travel options, with pre-filled search details, linked to the booker’s profile of history, preferences and company policy. Once a booking is made, the calendar is automatically updated with itinerary details. Itineraries can be shared with meeting participants. The technology giant also unveiled its enhanced Business Intelligence solution for the booking process, using algorithms relating to traveller and community histories and preferences. As one of our online forum users put it, key for 2015 will be booking tech that makes steps forward in universal profiles, sequential usage on multiple devices, single-user sign-on and incorporating fragmented data – and Amadeus reflects this.
Pitting itself against the dozens of metasearch sites that find the best airline fares from A-to-B, Go Euro has focused on a point-of-difference: aiming to help travellers achieve end-to-end travel. It does so by encouraging users to state their departure point and destination, then combining the results from airline sites with coach and rail results for a complete itinerary. As the website puts it: ‘Air, rail and bus travel in a single search’. The site launched in 2013, and offers transport data for trains, planes and buses in the UK, and countries including Germany, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. In August last year, Go Euro received US$27 million in venture capital investment. You can’t book on Go Euro (it searches other sites) but, though a consumer site, it points the way travel-search is going: more precise and local – and the impact of consumer trends on corporate travel will remain a hot topic in 2015.
Formed in 2009, Uber currently operates its taxi booking service in more than 50 countries and 200 cities. Uber has been quick to tap into the corporate market with the launch of Uber for Business: travel managers can link all employees to one payment-source so each ride is directly billed to one account. Using real-time data, a buyer is able to make decisions about travel costs, including an overview of what’s being spent, by who and where.
Uber has also teamed up with Concur, so travellers’ taxi payments are automatically added to their expense reports. However, it’s not all been plain sailing: there have been protests by ‘traditional’ taxi drivers in cities across Europe including Madrid, London and Rome; and traveller safety issues leading to bans in Berlin and New Delhi. So, with the company (recently valued at US$40 billion) planning further expansion into Asia, don’t expect the controversy to die down just yet.
Changes in the car rental sector are reflected in Sixt’s latest initiative. Its Drive Now club builds on public appetite for car sharing, as evidenced by the Avis-owned Zipcar, and City Car Club. Sixt’s model sees customers pay a one-off registration fee of £29 and then a by-the-minute rate for the car from 32p, and 19p when parked. Drivers can log into the Drive Now app or website to pre-book a car, or see whether a vehicle is available. Sixt has already launched the scheme in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Vienna and San Francisco.
It is now available in London, for drivers within the boroughs of Haringey, Hackney and Islington (defined by Drive Now as being the “business area”), where parking is predominantly free. Sixt says the scheme, with its fleet of BMWs and Minis, will expand from this initial area as deals are made on parking charges with other London boroughs.
British Airways App
This nomination came from one of our readers on the BBT forum, who said: “It’s good to celebrate new companies, but innovation is also coming from existing players, particularly in terms of technology, such as the new BA app.” BA said the number of its customers booking via mobile devices has increased by 290 per cent in two years since the launch of the latest version of its app in May, it has added new features, such as push-notifications that inform passengers at Heathrow T3 and T5 when their gate is open and when their aircraft is boarding. BA’s app is one of the first to take advantage of a new feature in Apple’s iOS 8 mobile operating system: customers can now find their flight status in the iPhone Notification Centre without opening the app. BA is also the first UK airline to use iBeacon technology in its lounges, to show notifications based on location.
The rail technology firm was set up in 2009 with the aim to aggregate global rail content into a single, unified system through direct supplier connections. The firm consolidates content across multiple rail carrier systems, and creates a global marketplace for online booking sites and travel agents using its distribution platform, Silvercore.
It currently operates in North America and Europe but, with a recent investment of US$40 million, it’s looking to move into Asia, with the goal of having all major global rail carriers integrated “over the coming years”. The new funding will also be invested in reservation systems, seating management, reporting and analytics. “We want to be the Rosetta Stone of rail travel”, said Silverrail co-founder Aaron Gowell. “By upgrading the interactions among users, operators and travel agents, Silverrail is making train travel easier than air.