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Posted by Debbie Iannaci (Director, Public Relations, North America, Amadeus IT Group)
Technology and travel have always been close bedfellows. And how one enables and influences the other continues to advance and evolve. This was the premise for an insightful panel where Scott Gutz, CEO of Amadeus North America, joined other travel executives for a “Tech Builders” discussion at The Beat Liveconference in Nashville, Tennessee earlier this month.
Moderated by The BTN Group Editorial Director Jay Campbell, panelists Gutz, Rearden Commerce CEO Patrick Grady, Travelport Chief Commercial Officer Kurt Ekert, and TRX President and CEO Shane Hammond discussed the most important technology developments for corporate travel, including social, mobile, location-based and big data, among others.
Many of the panelists felt that the next five years of customer experience management will be driven by the convergence of these technologies, as a consistent cross-channel experience is necessary to cater to the demands of today’s corporate traveler.
According to Gutz, there will be a “fundamental shift” in the way solutions are being developed. Historically, the development process started with the traditional e-commerce experience and rolled out to other platforms, including social and mobile. “Moving forward, all of the different devices and platforms will have the technology solutions available in a similar time period, not rolled out in stage development phases, which is typically what happens in large-scale development shops,” Gutz added.
Panelists also discussed one of the most “buzzed” about issues across many industries today: big data. The panel agreed that the travel industry is only just beginning to scratch the surface of how to capitalize on data to improve the end user experience, and the possibilities for big data in business travel are infinite.
Although there is always an initial reluctance to the use of personal information, today’s corporate traveler is recognizing the advantages provided under a structured corporate program. Certainly the business travelers of tomorrow, who grew up in the sharing society dominated by Facebook, have already grown accustomed to sharing more information about themselves in exchange for a better, more personalized service experience. This next-generation corporate traveler will demand a tailored experience and capturing and capitalizing on big data makes it possible.
According to Gutz, travel technology providers like Amadeus are currently working “to utilize all data they have on behalf of their customers and to give them ways to apply the data, bring it into different channels, and socialize it to determine the best ways to attach it to different segments of their customer base. It is our responsibility to develop and test solutions and tools that capitalize on data.”
Location-based services will also be a key factor in enhancing the corporate travel experience. By connecting location-based information, personal identification, and context data, companies will be able to partner with merchants to provide hyper-local offers to restaurants, spas or even entertainment tickets that are contextually relevant to the traveler. In the corporate travel space, location-based technologies, of course, have considerations in terms of compliance, HR and legal issues, but nonetheless, it is an exciting new turf.
The panel also voiced that with the commitment of the travel industry to capture and understand data, corporate travelers will soon be able to take recommendations from their colleagues on hotels, car rentals, and restaurants, which could offer more relevant information than what could be found on today’s popular online trip resources.
Information on a variety of experiences can and should be captured and travel technology providers need to package it in a way that makes sense for corporations and employees.
User-generated content (i.e. a hotel with a great gym or a restaurant that is perfect for a client dinner) and third-party data will join forces to create a data set that is actionable and meaningful, but corporations will need to set parameters on what information is important and relevant to their business and their employees.
The panel concluded that while it is important to invest in the technologies of tomorrow, it is just as important for travel technology companies to balance it with investments into the technology and services that their customers need today. It will be an ongoing development process, but no doubt an exciting one.