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Airplus chairman Patrick Diemer said travel companies should accept “trial and error” when investing in technology.
Speaking at a CEO panel session at the GBTA conference in Frankfurt, Diemer cited Airplus’s current pilot trial of a restaurant payment tool.
The mobile app allows the user to order from a restaurant menu, and then pay the bill, without any cash, cards or receipts changing hands. The payment is then automatically entered into a digital expense management process.
“I have no idea if this is going to work or not,” said Diemer. “If not, we need to quickly drop the ball and pick up something else.”
He also pointed out that the main app stores currently offer 65,000 travel-related apps and 32,000 finance apps, which have effectively become the competitors to operators in managed travel.
“We need to do a major mind shift,” he said. “Powerful technology is in the hands of the travellers – we need to create user experiences to make them use the technology the way we want. We need to sell it too them.” Alan Rich, CEO of expenses software firm Chrome River, said there would be more investment in APIs (application programme interfaces) to enable low-cost communication and data flow in the supply chain.
He also predicted more electronic validation of expense receipts as employers place less value on printed receipts that can be altered in image editing software such as Photoshop – and an increase in formal pre-trip approvals. Airplus’s Diemer added that he is “optimistic” about the rise of sharing economy providers, comparing them to low-cost airlines who were previously purely consumer-facing but have now “opened up to the corporate world”.
He said: “I can see this from Uber and Airbnb, now they’re facing same issues.”
Diemer added that these providers will need to comply with the rules if want to engage with corporate managed travel programmes. “The problem will sort itself out,” he said. Chrome River’s Rich advised buyers to “negotiate upfront in your supplier agreements” over availability and delivery of data.
He also said a current challenge is the shortage of business analysts to look at the vast quantity of data available.
“The information is useless if no one has time to sift through it”, he said. Rich added that “machine learning” plays a key part of getting meaningful information from data.