The future of business travel apps

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Travel apps could help companies strike the right balance between using limited suppliers and providing a broad range of options to staff.

According to the World Travel Market’s Meridian Club think-tank, several blue-chip companies are considering moving away from managed travel altogether. New proposals would see employees make their own travel arrangements within a predetermined budget. Although this approach allows employees a high degree of freedom, the risk is that companies will lose control over travel spend and end up missing out on substantial savings.

In an attempt to find a compromise, Tetra Laval has become one of the first companies to develop a mobile application for its own travellers. The Switzerland-based multinational liquid food processing and packaging group has developed an iPhone app which includes a searchable directory of 620 preferred hotels, car rental information, preferred taxi operators, Tetra Laval office locations and emergency contact numbers. Travel Management Companies (TMCs) are well placed to provide a similar service to their clients.

Applying the Technology 

Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a TMC, recently took home the Global Business Travel Association award for innovation of the year, in the category of “Outstanding Apps”. The company devised an app which enables the automatic synchronization of offline and online bookings, flight notifications and access to relevant trip-related information. There is no doubt that the potential demand for similar apps is huge.

Despite this, a survey carried out by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives has revealed that 86 per cent of buyers think mobile technology will help boost compliance in the long term, but not just yet. A similar study, conducted by AirPlus International, found that 84 per cent of corporate travel managers believe their travellers use mobile apps to access information such as weather and travel updates. However, currently only a small number of business travellers use apps to perform travel functions that typically fall under the umbrella of corporate travel policy.

A Golden Opportunity

It remains to be seen whether or not developments in mobile technology will benefit travellers and travel managers. However, with 60 per cent of travel managers saying their organisation’s top priority is cutting costs, this is certainly an area where innovation would be welcome. It is too early to predict whether apps represent the next revolution in business travel, but if aligned with travel policy the possibilities for savings are huge.

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