Tech – and the people behind it – boosts traveller confidence

Tech – and the people behind it – boosts traveller confidence

Business Travel

Tech – and the people behind it – boosts traveller confidence

There is little doubt that COVID-19 has fast-tracked the advancement and adoption of new technology. From work-from-home tools, e-learning platforms, and innovations in healthcare (including screening apps, rapid diagnostic tools, vaccine development and 3D-printed nasal swabs) businesses are innovating and digitising at a rapid rate.

As Kate Smaje, Senior Partner at McKinsey explains: “COVID-19 has launched the greatest behavioural change in our lifetime. We vaulted five years in the adoption of digital in just eight weeks. This great digital migration has forced every company into a massive experiment in how to be more nimble, flexible and fast.”

The travel industry is no exception. Travellers are now moving along their travel journey with online booking tools, contactless check-in and digital wallets. Soon we’ll see biometrics used in airport security (for example, facial recognition and iris scanning) and practical digital health passports.

Significantly, tech also has a massive role to play in traveller confidence. A recent survey commissioned by travel tech company, Amadeus, shows that 84% of the 6,000 travellers interviewed said that technology would boost their confidence to travel in the next 12 months. When asked to be more specific about what type of technology would provide the reassurance needed, the majority responded by saying that mobile applications offering on-trip notifications and alerts are at the top of the list, closely followed by contactless mobile payment options.

Information at your fingertips

For Bonnie Smith, general manager of FCM Travel Solutions, the power of tech lies in its ability to get information to travellers quickly and easily.

“We know that uncertainty fuels traveller anxiety, and TMCs are using apps like FCM’s Sam to communicate directly with clients on the road. Sam is available across all our digital platforms and keeps travellers updated with destination weather reports, flight times and changes, confirmation of departure gates and where to collect your baggage. Real-time information and important alerts are sent to clients immediately – leaving zero room for doubt.”

But more importantly, explains Smith, dedicated travel managers are on hand to provide information, advice and moral support.

“If COVID has taught us anything,” says Smith, “Is that travellers want a real human on the other side of a telephone.

“Once you’ve got your first post-COVID business trip under your belt, travel will feel pretty straightforward. But in the beginning, everything from online check-in to parking and drop-off protocols and lounge access can seem daunting. Not to mention if flights get changed or new restrictions come into play. Sam can connect travellers to an expert at the touch of a button, providing support 24/7/365.”

Safe, seamless travel

Top priority for the foreseeable future remains duty of care. Smith says that companies today – more so than ever before – want to be able to track their travellers while they’re on the road.

“In the past,” says Smith, “risk management was predominantly about looking after travellers posted on international assignments or working in remote areas on rotation. Think natural disasters or civil unrest. Today, duty of care also means being up to speed on COVID hotspots, changing protocols, government directives and border closures. Tech allows us to track  travellers with ease, meaning clients know exactly where their travellers are – and if we need to bring them back.”

A smoother user experience

Over the last few year TMCs have increasingly turned to tech to remain competitive and relevant – with ‘frictionless travel’ as the ultimate goal. For the traveller this means ensuring that each step of the journey is as smooth – and enjoyable – as possible by eliminating the everyday pain points associated with business travel (think delays, missed connections and communication on the road).

For travel managers and bookers though, automation is the name of the game. Automated booking tools are improving and streamlining tasks such as travel requisition and approvals, policy compliance, cost management and reporting.

Smith believes that the days of slow, clunky systems are over. “New platforms, like the new FCM Platform, need to use intuitive, AI-enhanced technology to improve the user experience – applying the clients’ preferences to suggest product, design digital itineraries and make smart recommendations.”

Technology will be at the heart of business travel’s recovery as companies demand fast, smart solutions for their travel programmes. But while tech is important, the people behind it remain key.

“Clients require the right advice around their post-COVID travel policies, and they’re feeling a tremendous responsibility as they send teams out on the road,” says Smith. “For most multi-nationals in the mining or oil and gas industries, for example, travel has had to continue. Yes, travel booking needs to be fast and agile in this ever-changing climate, but it also needs to be safe and considered. Clients are looking for new solutions – backed by the experience and support of travel experts.”

Preparing for travel picking up at your company? Let's talk