Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
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3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
Buying Business Travel talks to Catalin Ciobanu, CWT’s director of global product innovation, about the potential impact of big data on travel management
NOT ALL CORPORATE TRAVEL players are steering clear of using the term ‘big data’. Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), for example, readily acknowledged that big data helped drive the findings for its recently-updated Travel Stress Index tool.
The headline findings are impressive – CWT claiming “traveller-focused policies, taking into account the impact of trip-related stress, could help companies improve traveller wellbeing at the same time as improving corporate productivity by up to 32 per cent”. The big data angle of the study is not only the volume of information sourced, but the way in which that data is used.
Why is business travel ripe for big data expertise? Business trips are complex and include many different elements – today, it is possible to focus on areas such as the average ticket price for the top ten destinations, but with the sheer number of trip possibilities, it is difficult to have a comprehensive, big-picture view of everything. With big data there are no limitations to the number of activities and routes – all the elements of a trip can be broken down and analysed.
Increasingly, today’s travellers want to make their own choices in planning and booking a trip, which requires a more customised approach. This can only be done if there is a more in-depth understanding of a traveller’s profile and behaviour, which can be achieved through a big data method.
How was big data used to create the CWT Travel Stress Index?CWT has developed a technique called ‘trip reconstruction’, which allows fast analysis of large amounts of data, across multiple trip elements. This technique relies on building a comprehensive trip record which includes all available information about the trip.
The first application of this technique is the Travel Stress Index, developed to estimate the hidden costs of business travel. The trip reconstruction framework applied to the Travel Stress Index included analysing 15 million air trips from 8,000 companies, and 11 million room nights.
Will you use this approach in the future?Trip reconstruction will be able to be applied to other topics, such as predicting the movement of travellers based on past trip patterns. Anticipating future trips will allow CWT to proactively take steps to further optimise the trips we deliver to clients.
Is big data changing the relationships between TMCs, the corporate buyer and the supplier?In terms of these relationships, big data has the capacity to be a real game-changer. Suppliers could be assessed by the value that they provide along multiple dimensions of the travel experience – be it cost, safety and security, traveller well-being or quality of service – all of these areas could be considered simultaneously, which is not the case today.
Furthermore, big data will offer the capability to match up suppliers to individual travellers in almost real-time: suppliers could be recommended depending on the relevance of their services for the specific trip, either at the time of booking or in case of trip disruptions. Conversely, crowd/social preferences will begin to play a larger role in selecting the right supplier for the trip.
Last but not least, these capabilities may also trigger an increase in policy effectiveness – be it through policy design or policy compliance. The future will see a shift from travel policy to traveller policy. Sub-optimal choices could be rapidly identified and corrected, and travellers could be contacted in real-time incase of non-compliance.