Embracing technology as a tool for transformation

Aki Kettunen

Global Head of Commercial Operations, Business Travel, Amadeus

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Business travelers expect consumer-grade user experiences and are keen to live like a local while away on business. Corporations understand that travel is a means to attract and retain talent. New entrants – whether online travel management companies (online TMCs), metasearches or start-ups – are pushing into corporate travel, bringing with them both technology, such as chatbots and artificial intelligence, and business model innovation.

Technology for transformation

However, these types of challenges are not unique to corporate travel. We live in a world where practically every business has to become a technology company, regardless of whether they are a bank or a fast food chain. There’s great opportunity for those who are successful in this transformation.

McDonald’s: a study in successful transformation

The first cornerstone of McDonald’s success was being, at the same time, very clear about its core activity, but also ambitious to stay ahead of the technology curve. The mission of McDonald’s remained “to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink”. At the same time McDonald’s incorporated transformation into its vision: “Become a modern, progressive burger company delivering a contemporary customer experience.”

The second success factor was that McDonald’s used technology as an amplifier, a means rather than an end. McDonald’s value proposition remained fundamentally unchanged, but it applied technology to improve the customer experience significantly. Customers can now walk up to a touchscreen, browse the menu, place their order, pay by card and pick up their order. And yes – almost as a side benefit – McDonald’s improved throughput, increased sales and reduced costs.

The third element was finding its own way to becoming a technology company. This transformation doesn’t have to mean developing technology from scratch. Rather it can simply mean applying technology to significantly improve the value you deliver to your customers. The technology itself could be developed internally, acquired or developed by a third party.

Applying the recipe in Business Travel Agencies

Business Travel Agencies (BTAs) can also apply the same recipe for success. The first step is to affirm core activity and value proposition, while simultaneously setting the ambition to take that to the next level through technology. Here, different BTAs are likely to come up with different answers: some leaning more to service, some opting for the online TMC route, and others choosing vertical specialization.

The lesson is clear. Once value proposition is well-defined, then decide how technology can amplify it best. Perhaps it’s by offering a personalized search and book experience powered by artificial intelligence; a mobile application that supports and guides travelers while on trip; or an automated disruption management system that helps travelers avoid queuing at the airport.

Finally, BTAs need to find their own way to become a technology company. It is important that it is defined what they are going to do themselves, and how they secure those capabilities, whether through hiring, acquisition or outsourcing. So, on top of all the changes in the travel industry, the challenge is to become a technology company. If the transformation is right – like McDonald’s – BTAs can secure future relevance, sell better, sell more and reduce costs.

Download our report, Better Business, Smarter Travel: Perspectives on the future of Managed Travel 3.0 for more.


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