Today’s travel manager is a great deal more tech-savvy than his or her predecessors. Technology and innovation now rank fourth behind duty of care, traveller well-being and data security in travel managers’ biggest challenges for 2019. 
Business travellers are more reliant on technology than ever before. The always-on millennial generation now dominates the global workplace. For them, technology is indispensable; try separating one of them from their smartphones!
So, what are the essential technology tools in a travel management programme? They each fall under one of four category headings:
- travel planning and sourcing;
- travel booking;
- risk management;
- expense management and post-trip evaluation.
The challenge lies in making sure each tool designed to simplify the booking experience and control company costs is integrated into one – preferable mobile – solution.
In 2018, the number of smartphone users worldwide surpassed the 3 billion mark, with the Asia-Pacific region accounting for more than half of that number. By 2021, the number of smartphone users will pass 3.8 billion. 
Most business travellers say the success of a travel programme hinges on it having an effective mobile platform, so a well-thought-out travel application, or app, is a 'MUST' for any organisation serious about achieving compliance and consistency in its travel programme.
Having virtually saturated the leisure travel market, technology providers are now targeting the business traveller, so there’s a slew of new products becoming available. Travel managers need to be careful when they select these tools; make sure you involve your travel management company in this process; they know the pitfalls to look for and can help you to make the right choices.
Professional TMCs like FCM combine personal service with innovative technologies to support every aspect of business travel. From applications that enable travellers to view itineraries, to traveller tracking tools, to providing information around travel delays and disruption, smart technology gives travellers access to the information they need to make sure every trip goes smoothly.
Smartphones will become even more integral to business travel. During 2018, 74% of airline passengers boarded planes using smartphone-based electronic passes, whilst the same devices are increasingly being used for keyless entry to hotel rooms.
72% of organizations have now adopted self-booking tools, so the choice of online booking platform is critical. In fact, an online booking tool can make or break a travel programme. The right one will increase compliance, make your travel policy more visible, help you to keep track of travellers and deliver your organization’s duty of care to its workforce.
Your online tools will centralize your programme, save travellers and arrangers time and make spend visible. However, the wrong choice of solution can have the opposite effect.
To make sure you make the right choice, discuss with your team (and travellers) what they and the organisation need. Above all the goals you set from your travel tools should reflect the goals of your organisation.
The essential components are cloud-based solution; payment options, inventory management, real-time booking, a user-friendly interface, dashboard reporting, 24/7 customer support and the ability to integrate with other internal systems. But be careful; unless you set a budget for your online booking tools, the costs can easily run out of control.
When you think about it, technology has transformed business travel, and the next generation of technology will have a similar impact. API technology enables travel policies, budget and approval systems to be built into TMC online booking tools, so the options available to travellers are in budget, support preferred partners and mitigate the risk of travellers going off-programme.
Over the next few years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will make processes slicker, travel choices better informed and the overall business travel experience more personalized. In the meantime, the tools are out there to help you build stronger relationships with travellers and suppliers alike.